Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz isn’t a household name—but he should be.
But for Leibniz, computation was just the beginning: He believed that all kinds of problems could be reduced to the manipulation of symbols and tackled just as though they were mathematical problems. He imagined a kind of alphabet of human thought, whose symbols could be manipulated according to precise, mechanical rules, the work carried out by devices. He called them “reasoning machines” and envisioned the pursuit we know today as artificial intelligence... he believed, humanity would have “a new kind of tool, a tool that will increase the power of the mind much more than optical lenses helped our eyes.. Linguistic barriers between nations would fall, and the new universal language would usher in an era of understanding, peace, and prosperity. (Leibniz was, needless to say, an optimist—he also had ambitions to reunify the Catholic and Protestant churches.)