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The influence of Nicholas Rashevsky's mathematical biophysics


Did the chess playing machines have an impact?
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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I think the result of the machines being good at chess and checkers and... eventually, a backgammon machine program developed at Carnegie Mellon Institute by a researcher named Hans Berliner. It beat the world champion at backgammon, for what that’s worth, but I don't think any of these had any serious effect on… on the more general goal of making a machine that had something like human general intelligence: the resourcefulness… ability to solve all sorts of different kinds of problems. The trouble with these particular games is that you discover a few tricks that… at which machines are better than people because the machine is faster at doing relatively simple things than the person and... so, defeating a person in certain activities... it’s almost like a steam shovel and a person with… with an ice pick. If there’s no real difference except speed, then one isn’t very impressed if a machine... speed or strength. And these chess machines were not particularly clever in any important sense. They couldn’t solve other kinds of problems.

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: Carnegie Mellon Institute, Hans Berliner

Duration: 1 minute, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 13 May 2011