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Why I prefer science fiction to general literature


Reading HG Wells as a child
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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Well, no, another topic is science fiction because one of the elements of a lot of things I did came from... as a child, reading science fiction. I don’t know if there was anything about that in Bernstein’s – Jeremy’s paper – but when I was a child I ran across HG Wells – it was a big book of HG Wells’ short stories and he was one of the pioneers of science fiction.  I certainly read the English translation of Jules Verne and the short stories of HG Wells which had all sorts of hyper modern ideas in them. There was one story in which some electrical accident had converted a person from being left... right-handed to left-handed and in fact, his whole world was inverted, and I think an element of this story was that he became ill because he was eating right-handed proteins. And I think that this must have been around 1900 at some point when it became known that, for some strange reason all the amino acids have a certain right-handedness and it’s just... it’s an accident that... for which there’s no modern theory why... why are all the proteins twisted this way, rather than that? And, well, it had to be one or the other and... might have been a meaningless accident.

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: Short Stories by HG Wells, HG Wells, Jules Verne, Jeremy Bernstein

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011