Richard Wallace (1960- ) is one of the people who have ditched the organized hierarchy of Academia's studies in artificial intelligence. He has struck out to enter the trenches and attempt to simulate a consciousness on his own, using a specific set of rules, called AIML.
Dr. Wallace is the creator of AIML, and of A.L.I.C.E. (Alice), the bot that has won the Loebner Prize in both 2000 and 2001.
His belief on artificial intelligence is that the subset of human conversation is quite small, and can be simulated easily by remembering the last few exchanges of the conversation and the topic currently being discussed. Some recognized academic theoreticians disagree vehemently and ignore his work.
On the personal side, Dr. Wallace's life is unfortunately fraught with problems. He suffers from bipolar disorder, which caused him to lose his job at NYU in 1995. This was when Dr. Wallace truly started to work on A.L.I.C.E., and realized that the users talking to it obeyed the distribution predicted by Zipf's Law, giving him a solid hypothesis to build on. AIML was born.
After working at Lehigh University, he moved to California. He is currently embroiled in a legal battle over a restraining order issued against him by a professor at Berkeley. A.L.I.C.E. continues to be available on the web for conversation.