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The significance of being Jewish as a child

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Memories of post-war childhood: Mother and father
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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She was very concerned with social things and always worried about appearances and manners and… my father wasn’t present so much because he was busy get… he would get up at four or five o’clock and go and do surgery or go to his office and see 40 or 50 patients a day and come back and… we spent some time together, but he was usually exhausted and... he had become Chief of Ophthalmology at Mount Sinai Hospital, which is a very responsible position, and was always in demand for the latest techniques in eye surgery.

So he supported everything I did, and if I needed some new tool or equipment or something he'd… he would know somebody who knew how to get it, so I had a lot of very supportive adult friends.  We had a pediatrician, Michael J Karsch, who lived nearby, and of course when I was a child these were the days when if you were sick, the doctor was likely to come to your house, or you could go to the office, neighborhood things; and if I had some complicated… I got a lot of electronic devices when I was a child because there was – this is just post war, talking about 19… after 1941 or so – there was lots of electronic equipment because partly… mainly because of the war, there was tremendous progress in electronics; electronics was big and easy to understand because everything was made of vacuum tubes and big parts that… there were no integrated circuits or black boxes, but occasionally there was a… some kind of box filled with tar that you couldn’t understand. And if I had some gadget I couldn’t understand then I would toddle over to Mick Karsch’s office and we would fluoroscope it. So it’s always seemed to me that one thing that’s missing in modern life is that there should be a fluoroscope in every corner drugstore – I don’t know if there are corner drugstores, even – you know, in my childhood the store on the corner was a candy store or a drugstore, but now drugstores are huge and they wouldn’t fit on a corner, blah, blah!  But no child is allowed to be near a fluoroscope, and so there’s no way to unravel the mystery of sealed boxes.

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: Mount Sinai Hospital

Duration: 3 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011