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Marvin Minsky (1927–2016)

Author of Society of Mind

22+ Works 2,997 Members 30 Reviews 8 Favorited

About the Author

Marvin Minsky is Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and cofounder of the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Image credit: David Orban

Works by Marvin Minsky

Associated Works

True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (2001) — Afterword — 561 copies
No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman (1994) — Contributor — 332 copies
The New Humanists: Science at the Edge (2003) — Contributor — 230 copies
Computers and Thought (1963) — Contributor — 75 copies
Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI) (1973) — Contributor — 50 copies
La filosofia degli automi (1986) — Author — 23 copies
Perspectives on Cognitive Science (1981) — Contributor — 8 copies
Writing As a Visual Art (1994) — Foreword — 7 copies
Evolution @ Intersection — Contributor — 2 copies


Common Knowledge



SFFair story of artificial intelligence used to restore memory of scientist and to solve crime where he lost his memory
derailer | 11 other reviews | Jan 25, 2024 |
I first read this when I was experimenting with chatbots in the early 1990's. It's more or less how a computer scientist sees child psychology, with the goal of describing how the mind works. It's pretty much full of profound BS, but there are a few gems hidden in the weeds. It was worth a re-read, if only to remember how much thinking about thinking has not really changed in forty years."Reductionist" doesn't do it justice - when all you have is a communication channel, everything looks like a network.… (more)
dhaxton | 7 other reviews | Jan 19, 2024 |

The first chapter is dated 8 February 2023; the first 18 are set then and later in the year, the next 25 are set in 2024 and the last two in 2026.) I’m going to focus only on the parts set in 2023 here, but I’ll make one general observation: I found the prose to be rather clunky in a number of places, much more so than Harrison at his best, and wondered if Minsky, who was a well known artificial intelligence theoretician rather than a fiction writer, had possibly had more to do with the text than the cover credits suggest.

The narrative thrust of the book is about the development of artificial intelligence in computers, but in fact for most of the first half of it, that theme takes second place to the surgical problems of restoring human brain damage with advanced biological and technological techniques. This is described in immense and frankly excessive detail, though it is interesting that we are now starting to get close to this sort of cybernetic enhancement in real life.

The wounded computer scientist is Irish, which unfortunately allows Harrison to indulge in some stereotyping – Mary Robinson had been elected in 1990 and 1992 saw the X case, so it was clear to anyone who cared to look that the life experience of an Irish person born in 1999 (as his protagonist is) would be pretty different from the de Valera years. And there’s this passage on free movement:

“I have studied the relevant data bases. The European Economic Community forms a customs union. A passport is needed to enter any member country from outside the community. After that there is no need to show it again. However, Switzerland is not a member of this group. I thought that this problem might be postponed until we reached that country’s border.”

I’m cheating a bit because that’s from one of the 2024 chapters. But in fact we’ve had passport-free travel with Switzerland since 2009; and, sadly, we no longer have it with the UK. But this is a book about technological speculation, not future geopolitics. (The word “China” does not appear even once)

I can’t honestly recommend it except as a snapshot of Minsky’s thought at a particular moment, and frankly he said and did more interesting things later in his career.
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nwhyte | 11 other reviews | Jan 13, 2023 |



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