Debugging the Declaration of Independence
The NYT has an article about two labs at Stanford, one founded in 1963 by John McCarthy working on artificial intelligence, the other by Douglas Engelbart on intelligence augmentation.
I don`t have anything of value to add to that debate, but it reminded me of something McCarthy once said. If he were debugging the Declaration of Independence, he would have pointed out to Jefferson that, in pulling a couple of all-nighters, he appears to have made a typo by leaving out the word “in” in his most famous sentence. The Declaration reads:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
From logical and empirical standpoints, this first sentence would make a lot more sense with McCarthy`s debugging:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, in that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. [emphasis added]
Think of how much more sensible American intellectual thought would be with that bit of proof-reading.