ICOHTEC’s article prize, the Maurice Daumas Prize, has been awarded for the third time. 35 articles
had been submitted for consideration. The committee decided to award the article “Is chess the
drosophila of artificial intelligence? A social history of an algorithm” written by Nathan Ensmenger as
this year’s winner of the Maurice Daumas Prize.
Nathan Ensmenger has been an Associate Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at
Indiana University in Bloomington since 2012. His article was published in the journal Social Studies
of Science in 2012. 'Is chess the drosophila of artificial intelligence?' attempts to fit the algorithms
developed to enable computers to play chess into a research paradigm defined by an organism used
for genetics research in a way parallel to that developed by Robert Kohler for twentieth-century
Nathan Ensmenger argues that the decision to focus on chess as a measure of both human and
computer “intelligence” had important and unintended consequences for research into artificial
intelligence (AI). The article is of high relevance to the history of technology in general and for the
history of AI in particular. It deals with a core problem with which AI still struggles today: the
imitation of human intelligence. Ensmenger shows how the decision to adopt chess as its drosophila
led to a dead-end. He attempts to link an internal history of software with cultural history (chess) and
to explain software as a cultural concept.
The Prize Committee consisted of Professor Susan Schmidt Horning, USA (chair), Dr. Andrew J. Butrica, USA, Hermione Giffard, Independent Scholar,
The Netherlands, and Professor Pierre Lamard, France.