EURISKO (from Greek, I discover). A word with meaning! I loved it. It seemed to capture everything that I worked for in one simple word. “I Discover”.
Eurisko was an AI project by Douglas B. Lenat. It was made from self-modifying heuristics, making it one of the first recursively self-improving systems.
To test the system, he coded the rules and concepts of the role-playing game Traveller TCS into EURISKO. Lenat would leave EURISKO running each night, and check it in the morning. He would occasionally remove errors or unpromising heuristics from the system, or enter additional ones. Some discovered heuristics resembled viruses; one inserted its name as the creator of other useful heuristics, which would cause it to be used more often. EURISKO simulated many games with itself during this process.
Lenat and Eurisko gained notoriety by submitting the winning fleet (a large number of stationary, lightly-armored ships with many small weapons) to the United States Traveller TCS national championship in 1981, forcing extensive changes to the game’s rules. However, Eurisko won again in 1982 when the program discovered that the rules permitted the program to destroy its own ships, permitting it to continue to use much the same strategy. Tournament officials announced that if Eurisko won another championship the competition would be abolished; Lenat retired Eurisko from the game. The Traveller TCS wins brought Lenat to the attention of DARPA, which has funded much of his subsequent work.
There is a really great article on the Alicia Patterson Foundation website, by George Johnson that details Douglas B. Lenat’s story with Eurisko and the Traveller TCS competition.