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Arthur C Clarke was given his own satellite


Why I prefer science fiction to general literature
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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Here’s HG Wells with his book of 30 or 40 little stories each of which has some amazing idea like instantaneous transformation of matter or... or whatever. But I ran out of those and just at the time when there was no more good… Aldous Huxley was another one – Brave New World – just when I’d read all the classics of which there are only about 10 or 20, then another... an Isaac Asimov appears or... and a Robert Heinlein – 1940 – and that renewed my interest and these people also had short stories and longer ones with new ideas about possible new sciences and new ways of looking at things and... the end result of that is that generally I’d read very little except science fiction and science. Every now and then I try to read a novel but to me all novels are the same, they’re about a bunch of not very interesting people who make some mistake and their life gets very complicated and at the end they either find a way to... to get better or they get killed or whatever. And it seems to me when you’ve read 10 or 20 novels you’ve read them all, but in the world… so they're... general literature is not general to me, it’s almost all the same whereas science fiction is the opposite and each writer tries to make something completely different.

So it doesn’t have Agatha Christies who write 50 wonderful stories that are almost the same with a little clue, but they try to have a big idea that… but then, by some kind of accident, also I happened to meet those people, so unlike with most science fiction readers... Isaac Asimov lived not so far away and I finally met him and I forget how I met Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke, but they all became friends of ours and so that was my community. Mostly people interested in science and psychology and physics and so forth, but also the... David Brin and Vernor Vinge and Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, the people who were writing the most imaginative… in fact Arthur Clarke himself lived upstairs in the third floor for a period when he was loafing in America for some reason.

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: Brave New World, 1940, HG Wells, Aldous Huxley, Isaac Asimov, RObert Heinlein, Agatha Christie, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C Clarke, David Brin, Vernor Vinge

Duration: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011