Marvin Lee Minsky

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Marvin Lee Minsky

Birthplace: New York, New York, NY, USA
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Henry Minsky and Fannie Minsky (Reiser)
Husband of <private> Minsky (Rudisch)
Father of Margaret Minsky; <private> Minsky and Juliana Minsky
Brother of <private> Amster (Minsky) and Charlotte Porson

Occupation: One of the world's leading authority in Artificial Intelligence, a philospher and scientist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Marvin Lee Minsky

Marvin Lee Minsky (born August 9, 1927) is an American cognitive scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, and author of several texts on AI and philosophy. Minsky is perhaps the foremost living expert on the theory of artificial intelligence. He designed the first neural network simulator in 1951, and the first confocal scanning microscope in 1956.

Isaac Asimov described Minsky as one of only two people he would admit were more intelligent than he was, the other being Carl Sagan.

With John McCarthy and others he founded what became the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1959. He designed and built early visual scanners, made key contributions to the development of robotics and computer-aided learning technologies, and he has studied cognitive psychology, mathematics, computational linguistics, and optics. He contributed to the development of Logic Oriented Graphic Oriented (LOGO) language, and with Seymour Papert built the first Logo "turtle" device in 1969.

Minsky has proposed a mechanistic theory to explain the workings of the mind, and explain how it might be modeled to create an artificial intelligence. He has described "consciousness" or "self-awareness" as a myth — a convenient but incorrect concept — and said that the key to artificial intelligence will be when computers are designed with common sense. He co-authored the 1992 science fiction novel The Turing Option with Harry Harrison, which envisions the construction of a super-intelligent machine.

Marvin Lee Minsky was born in New York City to a Jewish family, where he attended The Fieldston School and the Bronx High School of Science. He later attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He served in the US Navy from 1944 to 1945. He holds a BA in Mathematics from Harvard (1950) and a PhD in mathematics from Princeton (1954).

He has been on the MIT faculty since 1958. In 1959 he and John McCarthy founded what is now known as the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

He is currently the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Minsky's inventions include the first head-mounted graphical display (1963) and the confocal microscope(1957, a predecessor to today's widely used confocal laser scanning microscope). He developed, with Seymour Papert, the first Logo "turtle". Minsky also built, in 1951, the first randomly wired neural network learning machine, SNARC.

Minsky wrote the book Perceptrons (with Seymour Papert), which became the foundational work in the analysis of artificial neural networks. This book is the center of a controversy in the history of AI, as some claim it to have had great importance in driving research away from neural networks in the 1970s, and contributing to the so-called AI winter. That said, few of the mathematical proofs present in the book, which are still important and interesting to the study of perceptron networks, were ever countered.

He also founded several other famous AI models. His book "A framework for representing knowledge" created a new paradigm in programming. While his "Perceptrons" is now more a historical than practical book, the theory of frames is in wide use. Minsky was an adviser[6] on the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and is referred to in the movie and book.

Probably no one would ever know this; it did not matter. In the 1980s, Minsky and Good had shown how neural networks could be generated automatically—self replicated—in accordance with any arbitrary learning program. Artificial brains could be grown by a process strikingly analogous to the development of a human brain. In any given case, the precise details would never be known, and even if they were, they would be millions of times too complex for human understanding. —Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

In the early 1970s at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, Minsky and Seymour Papert started developing what came to be called The Society of Mind theory. The theory attempts to explain how what we call intelligence could be a product of the interaction of non-intelligent parts. Minsky says that the biggest source of ideas about the theory came from his work in trying to create a machine that uses a robotic arm, a video camera, and a computer to build with children's blocks. In 1986, Minsky published The Society of Mind, a comprehensive book on the theory which, unlike most of his previously published work, was written for a general audience.

In November 2006, Minsky published The Emotion Machine, a book that critiques many popular theories of how human minds work and suggests alternative theories, often replacing simple ideas with more complex ones. Recent drafts of the book are freely available from his webpage.

Awards and affiliations

Minsky won the Turing Award in 1969, the Japan Prize in 1990, the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence in 1991, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute in 2001.

In 2006, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. In 2011, Minsky was inducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems' AI's Hall of Fame for the "significant contributions to the field of AI and intelligent systems".

Marvin Minsky is affiliated with the following organizations:

▪ United States National Academy of Engineering ▪ United States National Academy of Sciences ▪ Extropy Institute's Council of Advisors ▪ Alcor Life Extension Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board ▪ kynamatrix Research Network's Board of Directors Minsky is a critic of the Loebner Prize.

The Minskytron or "Three Position Display" running on the Computer History Museum's PDP-1, 2007 Minsky is an actor in an artificial intelligence koan (attributed to his student, Danny Hillis) from the Jargon file: In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.

"What are you doing?" asked Minsky.

"I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-tac-toe," Sussman replied.

"Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.

"I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play," Sussman said.

Minsky then shut his eyes.

"Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher. "So that the room will be empty."

At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

Source What I actually said was, "If you wire it randomly, it will still have preconceptions of how to play. But you just won't know what those preconceptions are." --Marvin Minsky

Minsky has three children: Henry Minsky, Julie Minsky and Margaret Minsky, who is herself a Doctor of Philosophy from MIT, with a special interest in Haptic technology. He also has four grandchildren: Gigi Minsky, Harry Minsky, Charlotte Minsky and Miles Steele.

Selected works

* ▪ Neural Nets and the Brain Model Problem, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1954. The first publication of theories and theorems about learning in neural networks, secondary reinforcement, circulating dynamic storage and synaptic modifications.

  • ▪ Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines, Prentice-Hall, 1967. A standard text in computer science. Out of print now, but soon to reappear.
  • ▪ Semantic Information Processing, MIT Press, 1968. This collection had a strong influence on modern computational linguistics.
  • ▪ Perceptrons, with Seymour Papert, MIT Press, 1969 (Enlarged edition, 1988).
  • ▪ Artificial Intelligence, with Seymour Papert, Univ. of Oregon Press, 1972. Out of print.
  • ▪ Communication with Alien Intelligence, 1985
  • ▪ Robotics, Doubleday, 1986. Edited collection of essays about robotics, with Introduction and Postscript by Minsky.
  • ▪ The Society of Mind, Simon and Schuster, 1987. The first comprehensive description of the Society of Mind theory of intellectual structure and development. See also The Society of Mind (CD-ROM version), Voyager, 1996.
  • ▪ The Turing Option, with Harry Harrison, Warner Books, New York, 1992. Science fiction thriller about the construction of a superintelligent robot in the year 2023.
  • ▪ The Emotion Machine[18] Simon and Schuster, November 2006. ISBN 0-7432-7663-9 (book available online on his MIT home page; see below)
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Marvin Lee Minsky's Timeline

August 9, 1927
New York, New York, NY, USA
January 25, 2016
Age 88