Monday, April 21, 2008

study marvin minsky's work

It was a huge moment for me to receive a comment from marvin minsky on my blog recently

Maybe others would like to join me in studying his work?

Some things take a while to figure out. Papert and Minsky worked closely together at the MIT Media lab but Papert wrote about education of children and Minsky wrote about Artifical Intelligence, how to make machines think. Where did it meet? This is explained by Papert in his Afterword to Mindstorms:
For several years now Marvin Minsky and I have been working on a general theory of intelligence (called "The Society Theory of Mind") which has emerged from a strategy of thinking simultaneously about how children do and how computers might think ... the point of departure that separates us from most other members (of the AI community) is (that) ... seeing ideas from computer science not only as instruments of explanation of how learning and thinking in fact do work, but also as instruments of change that might alter, and possibly improve, the way people learn and think ... Marvin Minsky was the most important person in my intellectual life during the growth of the ideas in this book. It was from him that I first learned that computation could be more than a theoretical science and a practical art: It can also be the material from which to fashion a powerful and personal vision of the world" (pp. 208-210)

Society of Mind
(1987) is a fascinating and brilliantly written book. Each page of the book presents a new idea, which piece by piece build to create a big picture of how parts of the mind might work. I read this book a long time ago but many of the ideas in it still seem fresh and relevant, eg. (why maths and science are hard)

Minsky's new book, The Emotion Machine, is available on line in draft form if you want to check it out before buying

Also check out these recent writings in support of the OLPC project

A lot of the research into the mind these days focuses on connectionism and neuroscience. With the noise and interest generated from those areas it is easy to get the impression that things have moved on and Minsky's ideas are out of date. However, it was recently pointed out to me that Minsky's ideas are very relevant to the notion of messy mind. It would be a huge mistake to not take a hard look at his latest contributions.

If you search this blog with the keyword 'minsky' you'll find several other relevant articles too.

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