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Publishing Steps Toward Artificial Intelligence


The frustration of teaching calculus at MIT
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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After the Fellowship I spent a year with Selfridge, or maybe two.

[Q] Yes, at Lincoln?

At Lincoln, and then I got a letter from the math department saying: 'Why don’t you be a professor here?' So then I moved to MIT and I taught calculus for a year or two.  And I found that rather tedious, teaching these things, because I would prepare the lectures and then, you know, you had to give two courses every two days, and so I’d spend half the time in between figuring out what I did wrong, and the other half planning the next one and… that went on a couple of years. I had this big group growing and functioning, and then one day I ran into Peter Elias, who was head of the EE department, temporarily. He said: 'How are things going?' And I said: 'Oh, it's… I’m not having enough time to do research'. And he said: 'Well, why don’t you move over to the EE [Department of Electrical Engineering] department, because we have lots of money, unlike the math department, so we only have to teach two courses instead of four'. And then it turned out that for some reason… then I got some money from ARPA – some extra money – and then it turned out I only had to teach two courses every other term. And then one of those disappeared, so now I was teaching one… one course half the year.

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: MIT, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, ARPA, Department of Electrical Engineering, Oliver Selfridge, Peter Elias

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011