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I created part of 2001: A Space Odyssey


Stanley Kubrick scraps the tetrahedron
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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So he wouldn’t tell me the plot, so I didn’t know much about HAL except that there would be an intelligent machine in this thing. But there was another little scene where... I described... I had an article... an interview so it's all written up somewhere. But... there was one point where we were actually in a... we went into a little theatre and there were some people that Stanley had gotten to... to look at this preview of... and the preview was a part of the light show. Remember the... that marvelous thing. And... oh and somewhere, and there was a picture in... and the... the artifact was a tetrahedron, before, it was a slab. So he was showing this crater on the moon and there was a tetrahedron, which was black. And, but it's a triangular base, it’s not like an Egyptian pyramid, which is a square base. A tetrahedron is this triangular base thing. And somebody... one of the consultants or whatever was saying: 'What is... what is that thing?' And Stanley said: 'That’s a tetrahedron.' And... and the visitor said: 'What shape is it?'  He’s looking at it. And Stanley realizes that ordinary people have never seen a tetrahedron and they don’t know what it is and they’re a little bit disturbed. And he scrapped it and made it into the... this is a... to me, this is a bizarre event because the idea of somebody not recognizing a tetrahedron is pretty alien, but Stanley regarded it as... oh, I don’t want anything in the movie that they don’t understand.

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: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011