The Lighthill Report was commissioned by the science research Council in Britain in the 1970s to help the council make funding decisions for work in AI.
Lighthill was chosen as a member of the scientific community who could make an unbiased assessment of the field. His report is said to have had devastating effects on the AI funding in Britain during the 70s.
The report identifies three kinds of work in AI:
A: Advanced automation
: the use of computers to replace human beings in various military industrial and scientific tasks.
C: Computer-based study of the central nervous system
. The use of computers in the study of the brain, as a way of testing hypotheses about the cerebellum, visual cortex, and so forth.
B: Bridge Activity
: The use of computers to study phenomena that fall between categories A & C; in particular the building of robots as a way of studying general intelligence.
The report concluded that work in Categories A & C. is legitimate. But work in Category B was plagued by a variety of problems (including combinatorial explosion, past failures, limited worlds, and poor performance) and therefore seemed unlikely to succeed. Note
: also see past disappointments, Box 90.