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A theory of why evolution is a slow process


Why the Society of Mind is crucial for understanding intelligence
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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I think something like the Society of Mind theory is necessary if you’re going to try to understand anything like human intelligence. Just as you need some theory like that to understand any aspect of biology... 'cause consider any animal. An animal is made of organs, a liver and pancreas and stomach and lungs and heart. And each of those systems has evolved to be good at some particular way of doing something or some particular function or solving some particular problem. Of course, they’re all related to survival, but that doesn’t mean that the animal has a survival instinct. It’s a wonderful paradox. Many people say, well the important thing about a living thing is that it has a survival instinct. That’s why it eats, to stay alive. And that’s why it reproduces, so that the species... but there really isn’t any survival instinct. There’s just a collection of mechanisms, all of which help to solve problems in different situations. It seems to me that it’s the same with the mind. That in order to survive or whatever, you have to solve and deal with different situations. And each situation involves some collection of problems to solve. So, a successful animal or the product of an evolution is almost... when it’s successful, is to develop a society of different methods for dealing with situations.

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: 1 minute, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011