a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Why the Society of Mind is crucial for understanding intelligence


The impact of the Society of Mind
Marvin Minsky Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Yes, the Society of Mind was rather successful. I’ve had messages from people all over the world over the years saying this changed my life and… and I think the reason for its success is first, the chapters are short and each chapter has one main idea, or most of them do, and also the vocabulary I trimmed so that it doesn’t have many words that a ninth grader doesn’t know. So it's… it’s a pre-college book in the sense that its vocabulary, except for a dozen words – new words – is pretty limited. But the other thing is that the book itself illustrates the theory of the mind, that… that the way the mind works, it might have a couple of hundred different pieces of machinery, each of which occasionally interact with some of the others. And so the book itself is a... tries to be a… an analogy with how I think the brain works; mainly, here’s this thing that it does, it’s good at this kind of thing, and every now and then it calls on this one to take over or criticize itself and so forth.

And, so the new book, The Emotion Machine, has been out for three years and I’ve gotten a rather small number of messages saying: 'This was very exciting to read' and said… they’re very respectful, and they say: 'This looks like it has very important ideas and I’m already half way through it.' The letters about the… that’s The Emotion Machine, but the letters about the Society of Mind book says: 'I couldn’t put the thing down and I read it every year and it’s changed my life.' And I'm sure that the ideas in the new book are actually better, but they’re harder. And… I hope somebody comes along and rewrites it someday.

Incidentally, Michael Crichton helped me on the first book and he read the first 100 pages and had quite a lot of suggestions. He took out all the 'verys', I didn’t realize that if you say something is very important, that’s much weaker than saying something is important, but Michael took out a lot of qualifying words that... and he had several technical ideas. I’ve forgotten exactly which ones they were, but he actually had some important contributions that I rewrote into the book and forgot to credit him with.

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, The Emotion Machine, Michael Crichton

Duration: 3 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011