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Andrew Gleason's help to me as a student


The ghosts of Andrew Gleason and Warren McCulloch
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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He was an intuitive mathematician. Didn't... couldn’t do any real mathematics, but he guessed...  he was remarkably good at guessing... guessing what might be true. So, there were a few of us who hung around and proved that what he conjectured was right, but... but I have ghosts because of this. So, if I’m stuck on a problem, sometimes I imagine Andrew Gleason saying: 'Well, you’re wasting your time.  Try something else.' Or I have the... I used to hang around John Cage a little bit and... he’s one of my ghosts, I didn’t know him that well, but if I’m doing something, he’s saying: 'That’s too pretentious.' And sometimes I have the voice of McCulloch saying: 'You should... you should make that more grand. It's really... show why it’s important.' So, McCulloch is one of the people who watches me when I write and says that's... either, that’s too pretentious, or, not pretentious enough but... do you have people like that? I think I sometimes say... it's a joke between me and my friend Vitek, we say... he made this up. Which was: What would Feynman do? Exactly. For mathematics I say, what would Gleason do? And... that’s the advice I give students, but they don’t listen much. And that's... if you’re talking to someone like Feynman or Gleason who says something, what the students do is they take notes and write it down. And they try to remember what he said, but what you should say is, how did he think of that?  And then, you can go and ask him.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) was one of the pioneers of the field of Artificial Intelligence, founding the MIT AI lab in 1970. He also made many contributions to the fields of mathematics, cognitive psychology, robotics, optics and computational linguistics. Since the 1950s, he had been attempting to define and explain human cognition, the ideas of which can be found in his two books, The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind. His many inventions include the first confocal scanning microscope, the first neural network simulator (SNARC) and the first LOGO 'turtle'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Andrew Gleason, Warren McCulloch, John Cage, Richard Feynman

Duration: 2 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 13 May 2011