Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists

Marvin Lee Minsky (born August 9, 1927), sometimes affectionately known as "Old Man Minsky", is an American Cognitive Scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of MIT's AI laboratory, and author of several texts on AI and philosophy.


Marvin Minsky was born in New York City, where he attended The Fieldston School and the Bronx High School of Science. He later attended the 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). He has been on the MIT faculty since 1958. He is currently Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

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 in Computer and Cognitive Science from the Franklin Institute in 2001.

Minsky's patents include the first head-mounted graphical display (1963) and the confocal scanning microscope (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 A. Papert), which became the foundational work in the analysis of artificial neural networks. Its criticism of unrigorous research in the field has been claimed as being responsible for the virtual disappearance of artificial neural networks from academic research in the 1970s.

[Edit]: So it was claimed--but actually our mathematical analysis was to show why bigger perceptrons didn't get better at solving hard problems. And contrary to a popular rumor, almost all our theorems still apply to multilayer

feedforward neural networks. But curiously, no one seems to have proved this, and Papert and I went on to other subjects . -- Marvin Minsky

Minsky was an adviser 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."

Minsky was almost killed due to an accident on the set.

Minsky was also responsible for suggesting the underlying plot of the novel Jurassic Park to Michael Crichton during a walk on the beach in Malibu.

[Edit]: It wasn't about automata. My idea was that even if the DNA in the fossils was gone, it might have affected the positions of the atoms that replaced it. The result would be very noisy, but a dinosaur might have had a trillion cells, so if we had the locations of all the atoms in the fossil, we might be able to reconstruct the DNA by statistical analysis. Unlikely though, and Crichton got the better idea about insects in amber. I'm sure it was in Malibu indeed, because Farrah Fawcett came running by while we were talking. -- Marvin Minsky

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 a comprehensive book on the theory which, unlike most of his previously published work, was written for a general audience.

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.

[Edit]: 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


Marvin Minsky is affiliated with the following organizations:

Minsky is also a co-sponsor of the Loebner Prize.[3] [4]


Minsky is a childhood friend of the Yale University critic Harold Bloom, who has referred to him as "the sinister Marvin Minsky."

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 [1], Simon and Schuster, due September 2006. ISBN 0743276639



See also

  • John McCarthy
  • Gerry Sussman
  • Carl Hewitt
  • Terry Winograd

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).