Who was Marvin Minsky?

Marvin Minsky was a scientist of immense stature in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research known for his extensive excellent results and sheer intelligence in approaching complex problems and handling complicated theories. Experts claim that the field of AI is currently in its Golden Age – flourishing and making great leaps in technological advancements that will soon take the world by storm. His research on human brain is astonishing – he used computing metaphors as an attempt to seek understanding of the human mind. He also developed convoluted theories such as ‘’ Society of Mind theory’’, which seeks to explain how intelligence could actually be the result of the interaction of non-intelligent parts. He reveals that most of the ideas for this theory came from his experiment when he was trying to create a machine, which can build children’s blocks with its robotized parts and a video camera, controlled via computer.

As a young child, Marvin Minsky was considered as one of the smartest children among those in his age group. He attended two prestigious universities, Harvard and Princeton where he displayed much of his exemplary flair in the scientific world, especially that in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Minsky also wrote many texts on AI and philosophy. He received B.A .and PhD in mathematics at Harvard (1950) and Princeton (1954). In 1951, as a student he invented the SNARC, the first neural network simulator using vacuum tubes. His other inventions include hands and robotic devices, the “Muse” synthesizer for musical variations (with E. Fredkin), mechanical arms, the Confocal Scanning Microscope, and one of the first LOGO “turtles”. Being a member of the NAE, Argentine NAS, and NAS, he got several awards including the ACM Turing Award, the Japan Prize, the MIT Killian Award, the IJCAI Research Excellence Award, the Robert Wood Prize for Optoelectronics, the Rank Prize, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal.

Science genius, Minsky also contributed to significant advances in current mathematical standards, as well as computational linguistics, optics, robotics and telepresence. One of his well-known views in AI is that there is no basic difference between humans and machines. As stated in his theory of the Society of Mind, he firmly believed that humans are machines with many unintelligent and semi-autonomous agents that made up the brain which gave the human his intelligence. He also said, “Some computers will become more intelligent than most people,” which is a likely phenomenon considering today’s state of progress in technological advancement.

Minsky’s research in AI was not his only achievement; He got great appreciation in some of his other works. One notable example is The Emotion Machine, a book that critiques many popular existing theories of how human minds work and he brings forth alternative ideas. He dares to challenge traditional mindsets and norms and proposes his own theories on how things work.

Minsky was an intelligent individual who challenged and inspired many of his fellow researchers to explore deeper into the field of AI and make breakthroughs in their research. His colleagues state that he always talked in riddles that displayed his quality of being intelligent and funny at the same time. He was one of the most awarded individuals in his workplace that could take credit for most of the innovations. He aided many improvements of current systems and theories that benefit the world.

He married pediatrician Dr. Gloria Rudisch in 1952 and became a happy father of three children. He was also a talented pianist who published a reflective and contemplative writing on the relationship between music and psychology in 1981. He also helped director Stanley Kubrick for his movie ‘A Space Odyssey’ (2001) regarding the concepts of Artificial Intelligence. One of the characters in the movie was also named after him in his honor. Unfortunately, he passed away on January 24, 2016 at his home in Boston due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Marvin Minsky will be missed by many of those close to him and respected by even more who take great pride in his work and stand to learn much from it.

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