Philipp Schmitt

Blueprints for Intelligence

A screenshot of a website showing a neural network diagram.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often illustrated with sci-fi characters. That's misleading. ‘Blueprints for Intelligence’ is a visual history of AI told through a collection of diagrams from machine learning research publications published between 1943 and 2020.

Looking at the history of AI through its diagrams lets us trace key tendencies in the technology’s evolution. Unconcerned with what these figures might tell a researcher, this project explores what they say about the researcher. It draws connections between the visual representations of neural networks and the researchers’ conception of cognition.


This project was supported in part by the Berggruen Institute ToftH Fellowship program.

I would like to thank to Yann LeCun and Jake Browning for their feedback and suggestions; Maya Indira Ganesh for working with me on the version of this project which, unfortunately, didn't make it to print; Mashinka Firunts Hakopian for her thoughtful editing; and Shannon Mattern for helping me navigate the publishing world.