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Reading HG Wells as a child


Hiring technicians to run the AI lab properly
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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One of the reasons that if you ask me how did such and such happen in this laboratory, and why did things work out so well, I usually get credit for it. But in most cases I don’t know what happened because most likely the other guy… there was also a young fellow named Russell Noftsker who... we needed an extra engineer because there’s some things you can’t ask students to do... it’s too hard or they’d have to spend much time on it or they wouldn’t learn much from it. So to me it’s unethical to have a graduate student do hundreds of hours of manual labor. This sort of thing happens in biological laboratories and I think it should be banned and if you want somebody to spend many hundreds of hours being sure that a bottle of something is at the right temperature and is poured in such and such a way, you should hire somebody who’s not a student because what you’re doing is actually wasting…

But anyway, I was interviewing people for being a possible... professional engineer for some of our projects so the students wouldn’t have to do things that they couldn’t learn much from and we interviewed a few people, but this was the only one who seemed to… he had built his own auto gyro or some kind of airplane like that and actually flown it around in New Mexico and not been killed and... I thought that was excellent qualification for… and so that was another person who, in some sense, was in charge of lots of things that I wasn’t good at doing like financial administration and hiring technicians and so forth. So I get a lot of credit for having run this wonderful laboratory, but the trick was that I just came across various tricks for not running it.

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: New Mexico, Russell Noftsker

Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011