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Representations of the mind, knowledge and thinking


Seymour Papert's little scientists
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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And so then our worlds started to divide a little bit. I wrote the book called Society of Mind and Seymour wrote several books of theories about how children develop and what might help them. And he tried to start a movement in which he would train teachers to develop this kind of constructive point of view where children would actually think about problems and build models of them and experiment and be like little scientists or like little researchers and the hope was that you train a few teachers to do this and they’ll train a few more and we all hoped that in a decade maybe there would be thousands of these groups and these new ideas would spread and spread and spread, but... didn’t really work that way, for reasons I can’t understand. If you train 10 teachers then the next year they might train nine others and the next year there might be seven or eight and instead of spreading like an epidemic, like the flu, these efforts sort of ran along steadily and then died out. I have no idea why they didn’t become more popular or what went wrong.

But, anyway, I kept working on the basic theory of how large numbers of different ways of thinking could be organized and Papert worked on more trying to see how do these actually work in children and what can be done to help them develop better strategies and tactics and so forth and I hope all this will come together again in the next... next few years, but I’m worried that with the economic depression and the limitation of resources that... that my fifty years of research was a golden age that might be tapering off and I’m just hoping it will start up again.

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: Society of Mind, Seymour Papert

Duration: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011