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The beginning of the Media Lab at MIT


Nicholas Negroponte's lab: The Architecture Machine
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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Nicholas Negroponte had a laboratory with a strange title; it was called the Architecture Machine. And... I think maybe this was because Nicholas’s... PhD thesis was based on a really remarkably humorous and interesting idea that... I don't know if I can explain it. It was a box that had a lot of guinea pigs and a lot of little wooden blocks. And in the course of their activities, the guinea pigs would run into the blocks and push them around and... Nicholas had some system, which would record – maybe just photographs – where the blocks were each day. And... he arranged some kind of plotting machine, which would... I think we may have to erase all this, but he had this machine that would observe that a block had been moved and reach down and move it back. And then, he would record whether the guinea pigs paid any attention to this or appeared to have any intentions about where they wanted the block to be. But I... I give up. I can’t remember the purpose, but anyway, that was called the Architecture Machine at first. And then, he had more students and Nicholas was incredibly productive at... at the beginning of computer science, of... thinking of things that no one else imagined computers doing.

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: The Architecture Machine, Nicolas Negroponte

Duration: 2 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 13 May 2011