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The Emotion Machine


Producing The Society of Mind
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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As time went by, we developed maybe a dozen different interesting ways to represent knowledge, as language expressions, as diagrams, as what are called connected graphs and as neural networks, there are maybe a dozen important ideas that have developed in various times in the history of psychology and more recently in computer science; different ways to represent knowledge, different kinds of operations to use knowledge to solve problems and so forth.

I tried to write articles about how to organize these new ideas into some sort of theory that people could… could use to try to explain how thinking works and try to make new theories that worked even better, but I couldn’t find any way to organize so many different things into a nice story that had a plot. And so I tried to do exactly the opposite at some point, which was to... if there are a hundred ideas or so, can I write a hundred little explanations and have each one point to a few of the other relevant ones? Well I started to do that and I might write 20 different one page essays on different ways to represent knowledge and 10 or 20 essays on different ways to use knowledge to solve problems and 20 different ways to decide if you have several problems, which ones should you work on now and so forth.

And eventually this ended up as 300 little essays and all of them were ranged from two or three paragraphs to two or three pages and in fact, at some point, I called on various friends to help say what order these should be in and can you see any way to make these into a chapter and people argued about it, but I finally decided that the best thing would be to just put them in some kind of order that made a little bit of sense, but not try to trace all the relations between them, so that became a book of about 350 pages and with a few exceptions, you usually can take any page and read it and get some idea of, here’s an aspect of psychology that you might wonder about and here’s an idea about one or two ways it might work and here are a couple of things it might connect to.

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

Duration: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011