One can even conjecture that Lisp owes its survival specifically to the fact that its programs are lists, which everyone, including me, has regarded as a disadvantage.
John McCarthy, "History of Lisp," 12 February 1979; republished at www-formal.stanford.edu.
In 1936 the notion of a computable function was clarified by Turing, and he showed the existence of universal computers that, with an appropriate program, could compute anything computed by any other computer. [...] In some subconscious sense even the sales departments of computer manufacturers are aware of this, and they do not advertise magic instructions that cannot be simulated on competitors machines, but only that their machines are faster, cheaper, have more memory, or are easier to program.John Mccarthy
[This] is or should be our main scientific activity — studying the structure of information and the structure of problem solving processes independently of applications and independently of its realization in animals or humans.John Mccarthy
LISP is now the second oldest programming language in present widespread use (after FORTRAN)... Its core occupies some kind of local optimum in the space of programming languages given that static friction discourages purely notational changes. Recursive use of conditional expressions, representation of symbolic information externally by lists and internally by list structure, and representation of program in the same way will probably have a very long life.John Mccarthy
When we program a computer to make choices intelligently after determining its options, examining their consequences, and deciding which is most favorable or most moral or whatever, we must program it to take an attitude towards its freedom of choice essentially isomorphic to that which a human must take to his own.John Mccarthy
When there's a will to fail, obstacles can be found.John Mccarthy
It's difficult to be rigorous about whether a machine really 'knows', 'thinks', etc., because we're hard put to define these things. We understand human mental processes only slightly better than a fish understands swimming.John Mccarthy
Program designers have a tendency to think of the users as idiots who need to be controlled. They should rather think of their program as a servant, whose master, the user, should be able to control it. If designers and programmers think about the apparent mental qualities that their programs will have, they'll create programs that are easier and pleasanter — more humane — to deal with.John Mccarthy
Whenever we write an axiom, a critic can say that the axiom is true only in a certain context. With a little ingenuity the critic can usually devise a more general context in which the precise form of the axiom doesn't hold. [...] There simply isn't a most general context.John Mccarthy
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.John Mccarthy