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General Problem Solver (GPS) was a computer program created in 1957 by Herbert Simon and Allen Newell to build a universal problem solver machine. Any formalized symbolic problem can be solved, in principle, by GPS. For instance: theorems proof, geometric problems and chess playing. It was based on Simon and Newell's theoretical work on logic machines. GPS was the first computer program which separated its knowledge of problems from its strategy of how to solve problems. It was implemented in the low-level IPL programming language.

While GPS solved simple problems such as the Towers of Hanoi that could be sufficiently formalized, it could not solve any real-world problems.

The user defined objects and operations that could be done on the objects and GPS generated heuristics by Means-ends analysis in order to solve problems. It focused on the available operations, finding what inputs were acceptable and what outputs were generated. It then created subgoals to get closer and closer to the goal.

The GPS paradigm eventually evolved into Soar.


  • Newell, A.; Shaw, J.C.; Simon, H.A. (1959). Report on a general problem-solving program. Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Processing. pp. 256-264.
  • Newell, A. (1963). A guide to the general problem-solver program GPS-2-2. RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California. Technical Report No. RM-3337-PR.
  • Ernst, G.W. and Newell, A. (1969). GPS: a case study in generality and problem solving. Academic Press. (revised version of Ernst's 1966 dissertation, Carnegie Institute of Technology.)
  • Norvig, Peter. (1992). Paradigms of artificial intelligence programming: case studies in Common Lisp. pp 109-110.
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