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Modelling my recruitment policy on Oliver Selfridge's lab


Oliver Selfridge's work at Lincoln
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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So it’s right in the middle of the Society of Fellows’ three years that I switched from… from neurology to cognitive psychology. And then when the… that Fellowship is up, I’ve made friends with this wonderful Oliver Selfridge who… whose work I first discovered in the Rashevsky book, and it turned out that he was still around, rather same age as me, and had a laboratory at Lincoln and was working on moderately interesting questions like… at that time most communication was with Morse code, and in order to understand Morse code you had people who had to listen and type, and there was no machine that could transcribe hand-keyed Morse code, because in fact if you looked at the data, some of the dots were longer than some of the dashes. So it was all pretty hard problem, and Selfridge had a group that was doing about five things like that, because Lincoln lab was a military… military electronics laboratory that was mainly concerned with making automatic radar systems to catch Russian missiles going over the North Pole, and that sort of thing.

But his group was doing advanced cybernetics and what was just beginning to be called Artificial Intelligence at that time, and Oliver Selfridge was full of wonderful low level ideas about AI and… a very dramatically inventive guy, and very good at collecting people, so he had this group of wonderful young people and… working on… on radar related things.

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: Society of Fellows, MIT, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Oliver Selfridge, Nicolas Rashevsky

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011