Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky
Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky in 2008
Born Marvin Lee Minsky
August 9, 1927 (1927-08-09) (age 84)
New York City, United States
Fields Cognitive science
Institutions MIT
Alma mater Phillips Academy
Harvard University
Princeton University
Doctoral advisor Albert W. Tucker
Doctoral students Manuel Blum
Daniel Bobrow
Carl Hewitt
Danny Hillis
Joel Moses
Bertram Raphael
Gerald Jay Sussman
Ivan Sutherland
Terry Winograd
Patrick Winston
Known for Artificial intelligence
Notable awards Turing Award (1969)
Japan Prize (1990)
IJCAI Award for Research Excellence (1991)
Benjamin Franklin Medal (2001)

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.



Marvin Lee Minsky was born in New York City to a Jewish family,[1] 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 the same field from Princeton (1954).[2] He has been on the MIT faculty since 1958. In 1959[3] 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.

Isaac Asimov described Minsky as one of only two people he would admit were more intelligent than he was, the other being Carl Sagan.[4] Patrick Winston has also described Minsky as the smartest person he has ever met. Ray Kurzweil has referred to Minsky as his mentor.

3D profile of a coin (partial) measured with a modern confocal white light microscope.

Minsky's inventions include the first head-mounted graphical display (1963) and the confocal microscope[5] (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[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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".[10][11]

Marvin Minsky is affiliated with the following organizations:

Minsky is a critic of the Loebner Prize.[15][16]

Personal life

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.


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.[17] 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)

See also


  1. ^ Science in the contemporary world: an encyclopedia
  2. ^ Hillis, Danny; John McCarthy; Tom M. Mitchell; Erik T. Mueller; Doug Riecken; Aaron Sloman; Patrick Henry Winston (2007). "In Honor of Marvin Minsky’s Contributions on his 80th Birthday". AI Magazine (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) 28 (4): 103–110. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  3. ^ Horgan, John (November 1993). "Profile: Marvin L. Minsky: The Mastermind of Artificial Intelligence". Scientific American 269 (5): 14–15. 
  4. ^ Isaac Asimov (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954-1978. Doubleday/Avon. p. 217,302. ISBN 0-380-53025-2. 
  5. ^ The patent for Minsky's Microscopy Apparatus was applied for in 1957, and subsequently granted US Patent Number 3,013,467 in 1961. According to his published biography on the MIT Media Lab webpage, "In 1956, when a Junior Fellow at Harvard, Minsky invented and built the first Confocal Scanning Microscope, an optical instrument with unprecedented resolution and image quality".
  6. ^ For more, see this interview,
  7. ^ Clarke, Arthur C.: "2001: A Space Odyssey"
  8. ^ Marvin Minsky's Home Page
  9. ^ Marvin Minsky - The Franklin Institute Awards - Laureate Database. Franklin Institute. Retrieved on March 25, 2008.
  10. ^ "AI's Hall of Fame". IEEE Intelligent Systems (IEEE Computer Society) 26 (4): 5–15. 2011. doi:10.1109/MIS.2011.64.  edit
  11. ^ "IEEE Computer Society Magazine Honors Artificial Intelligence Leaders". August 24, 2011 (2011-08-24). Retrieved September 18, 2011 (2011-09-18).  Press release source: PRWeb (Vocus).
  12. ^ Extropy Institute Directors & Advisors
  13. ^ Alcor: Scientific Advisory Board
  14. ^ Minsky joins kynamatrix board of directors
  15. ^ Minsky -thread.html
  16. ^ Technology | Artificial stupidity
  17. ^ Margaret Minksy's website
  18. ^ Simon & Schuster: The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind (Hardcover)

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Marvin Minsky — 2008 Marvin Lee Minsky (* 9. August 1927 in New York) ist ein amerikanischer Forscher auf dem Gebiet der künstlichen Intelligenz. Gemeinsam mit John McCarthy, Nathaniel Rochester und Claude Shannon begründete er 1956 auf der Dartmouth Conference… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Marvin Minsky — en 2008. Marvin Lee Minsky (né le 9 août 1927) est un scientifique américain. Il travaille dans le domaine des sciences cognitives et de l intelligence artificielle. Il est également cofondateur, avec l informaticien John McCarthy du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marvin Minsky — en la conferencia sobre inteligencia artificial relalizada en la ciudad de Bremen en 2006 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Marvin Minsky — Marvin Lee Minsky nace en la ciudad de Nueva York el 9 de agosto de 1927. Tras acabar el high school se unió a la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América. Tras dos años de servicio entra en la Universidad de Princeton donde se graduaría en 1950.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Marvin Lee Minsky — Marvin Minsky (16. Juni 2006) Marvin Lee Minsky (* 9. August 1927 in New York) ist ein amerikanischer Forscher auf dem Gebiet der künstlichen Intelligenz. Gemeinsam mit John McCarthy, Nathaniel Rochester und Claude Shannon begründete er 1956 auf… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Marvin Lee Minsky — Marvin Minsky Marvin Minsky en 2008. Marvin Lee Minsky (né le 9 août 1927) est un scientifique américain. Il travaille dans le domaine des sciences cognitives et de l intelligence artificielle. Il est également cofondateur, avec l… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Minsky — (Russian: Минский) is the name of a princely Russian family of Rurikid stock. People Hyman Minsky (1919–1996), American economist Marvin Minsky (born 1927), American cognitive scientist in the field of Artificial Intelligence Michael Minsky… …   Wikipedia

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  • Marvin — est un prénom masculin celtique et gallois. C’est aussi un patronyme anglophone. Le nom Marvin est d’origine galloise et signifierait « ami de la mer ». Sommaire 1 Prénom 2 Patronyme 3 Musique …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marvin (given name) — Marvin Gender male Origin Word/Name English Marvin is a male given name, derived from the Welsh name Mervyn.[1] Marvin may refer to: In music: Marvin Hamlisch, successful composer of film scores …   Wikipedia

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