Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
AI Education

Marvin Minsky, Pioneer In Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 88 (nytimes.com) 76

An anonymous reader sends word that Marvin Lee Minsky, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, has died. The Times reports: "Marvin Minsky, who combined a scientist’s thirst for knowledge with a philosopher’s quest for truth as a pioneering explorer of artificial intelligence, work that helped inspire the creation of the personal computer and the Internet, died on Sunday night in Boston. He was 88. Well before the advent of the microprocessor and the supercomputer, Professor Minsky, a revered computer science educator at M.I.T., laid the foundation for the field of artificial intelligence by demonstrating the possibilities of imparting common-sense reasoning to computers."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Marvin Minsky, Pioneer In Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 88

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @04:52AM (#51372177)

    "Isaac Asimov described Minsky as one of only two people he would admit were more intelligent than he was."

    Wow.

  • by tgv ( 254536 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @04:57AM (#51372187) Journal

    Heard it from a teacher who had heard it from Minsky, but it's probably not literal anymore, after all those years: consciousness is just a feedback loop.

    He was truly one of the greats.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Err, OK dear. It's "just" a feedback loop. Recursion. That's not really Minsky is it. It's Hofstadter. And amazing as recursion is, I don't think my binary search algorithm is actually instantiating a series of conscious moments.

      • Recursion and the lambda calculus, and the use of it in A.I. in languages such as LISP has been around nearly as long as computers have. So no, Hofstadter is not the guy I think of when it comes to recursion.

        I think of John McCarthy first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        But I do like Hostader's book "Goedel, Escher, Bach"; he had a gift in making abstract concepts such as recursion more easily understandable without watering them down too much:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Heard it from a teacher who had heard it from Minsky, but it's probably not literal anymore, after all those years: consciousness is just a feedback loop.

      He was truly one of the greats.

      Calling consciousness 'just' a feedback loop is just a way of avoiding saying 'I don't understand what it is.'

      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        There's more behind that idea than a simple "I don't know". It's of course aphoristic, but if you think of the mind/brain as monitoring all input, adding a feedback loop allows it to monitor itself. It allows learning from decisions, and allows to predict consequences of choices. That is a necessary, although not sufficient part of consciousness.

    • The only issue with the quote is 'just'. Any recursive process is a feedback loop, feeding the state at stage n as input to produce the state at stage n+1. Likewise, any dynamical system is 'just' a feedback loop, the state at time t being input to a set of rules that determine the state at time t+dt (before you do the limiting stuff, though you can use nonstandard analysis to avoid issues with dt being infinitely small).

      Something as complex as consciousness would surely be impossible in the absence of feed

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.
    "What are you doing?" asked Minsky.
    "I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-tac-toe," Sussman replied.
    "Why is the net wired randomly?" asked Minsky.
    "I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play," Sussman said.
    Minsky then shut his eyes.
    "Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher.
    "So that the room will be empty."
    At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

    • That's from The Tao of Programming or The Zen of Programming, (can't remember which) both by Geoffrey James. Lovely little books.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can also find it in The Jargon File, under "AI Koans". It's a good story, but not my favourite one from that file. I prefer "The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer" and the anecdote about the "Magic / More Magic" switch.

    • by maitas ( 98290 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @06:08AM (#51372357) Homepage

      I read "society of mind" when it first got translated to Spanish. Lovely, lovely book. Each page was a concept by itself. You could literaly read one page a day an have a complete knwoledge exerience each time.

      What always makes me feel uneasy of Minsky was the story that he attacked perceptron showing that they could not solve NOR sending neural nets into a freeze for sevwral years drying founding to them, while at that time it was already known that multilayer nets could solve NOR.

      Nowadays deep learning is all the rage...

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Could you please try that again on something other than a smartphone or whatever - what you managed to get onto the net in English is interesting enough that I want to read whatever you meant that got mangled into insensibility.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Sorry about that. It was written on a cell phone and I m not native english speaker.

          Nevertheless here goes the story ( http://www.andreykurenkov.com/writing/a-brief-history-of-neural-nets-and-deep-learning/ )
          Marvin Minsky, founder of the MIT AI Lab, and Seymour Papert, director of the lab at the time, were some of the researchers who were skeptical of the hype and in 1969 published their skepticism in the form of rigorous analysis on of the limitations of Perceptrons in a seminal book aptly named Pe

        • by maitas ( 98290 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:40AM (#51373395) Homepage

          Sorry about that. It was written on a cell phone and I m not native english speaker.

              Nevertheless here goes the story ( http://www.andreykurenkov.com/... [andreykurenkov.com] )
          Marvin Minsky, founder of the MIT AI Lab, and Seymour Papert, director of the lab at the time, were some of the researchers who were skeptical of the hype and in 1969 published their skepticism in the form of rigorous analysis on of the limitations of Perceptrons in a seminal book aptly named Perceptrons. Interestingly, Minksy may have actually been the first researcher to implement a hardware neural net with 1951’s SNARC (Stochastic Neural Analog Reinforcement Calculator) , which preceded Rosenblatt’s work by many years. But the lack of any trace of his work on this system and the critical nature of the analysis in Perceptrons suggests that he concluded this approach to AI was a dead end. The most widely discussed element of this analysis is the elucidation of the limits of a Perceptron - they could not, for instance, learn the simple boolean function XOR because it is not linearly separable. Though the history here is vague, this publication is widely believed to have helped usher in the first of the AI Winters - a period following a massive wave of hype for AI characterized by disillusionment that causes a freeze to funding and publications.

          The point here is that Minsky already knew that a multilayer Neural Network could solve XOR, but he nevertheless wrote a paper showing that a single perceptron could not solve XOR, in order to get funding away from perceptrons and towards his own line of investigation.

          All that said, I highly recommend his "society of mind" book. The idea to have each single page to explain a simple concept in a complete manner was mind blowing to me at that time. I still havent come across another book written that way.

          • Posted here first this morning (couple of types fixed): https://ma.tt/2016/01/minsky/#... [ma.tt]

            Wow, sad to hear the news. Marvin Minsky and I were academic peers of a sort -- he was one of George A. Miller's first students, and I was one of George's last students. :-) George told my parents something like I was the student who most reminded him of Marvin Minsky, except whereas he spent George's Air Force money, I spent my father's money. :-) Which was not quite true (I paid for a chunk of Princeton with the proce

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Thanks.

            Interestingly, Minksy may have actually been the first researcher to implement a hardware neural net with 1951’s SNARC (Stochastic Neural Analog Reinforcement Calculator)

            I've always seen neural nets as a digital approximation of some of the stuff that can be done with an analog computer despite only ever seeing one and only doing one subject way back as an undergrad on how to model dynamic systems with analog computers.

          • If we don't know anything about SNARC, do we have any reason to believe that Minsky had tried multilayer neural nets with nonlinear functions at the nodes? A multilayer neural net with linear functions everywhere is equivalent to a single-layer net with linear functions, and that really isn't useful. If SNARC used all linear functions, that would explain why he dropped the project. I'd think that if it showed more promise, he'd have been likely to continue.

            The fact is that artificial neural nets were

      • Book Link [aurellem.org]

      • Minsky wasn't being disingenuous or ignorant. He was well aware that multilayer nets could solve XOR (not NOR, which wasn't a problem either way). His objection was that he thought multilayer nets were not trainable, which was indeed the general opinion at the time.

        Now, as you point out, we have deep learning algorithms, but those didn't exist then.

  • "Marvin Minsky, Pioneer In Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 88"

    Or so you think...maybe he lives on in a matrix somewhere :-)

  • At least he's off the hook if someone wins the Loebner prize.
  • RIP, Science WHORE (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Mr Minsky was one of these people who lied shamelessly in order to scare the bejesus out of "lesser" people.

    For example, he predicted we would have "a computer more intelligent than humans by year 2000".

    Simple calculations regarding the processing power needed to emulate a neuron invalidates this prediction.

    So he was whoring for money and attention. Not a great scientist at all.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      That's not a lie, just overconfidence.
      • I think once AI is solved, the processing power required will fit easily on 2000-era computers.

        It's still seen as requiring something on the order of the massive parallelism of the human brain. NNs sufficient probably need just a tiny fraction of the human brain.

  • Well, not sure we're there yet for computers.
    We sure as hell are not for politicians...

  • Rest in bits eternally.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:20AM (#51372879)

    I first saw Minsky give a presentation in 1973, at MIT. It was full of confident assertions that, as soon as we had sufficient CPU power, say by 1980 or so, we would have true AI. It was just around the corner and we would have to get used to its implications, etc.; all it would take would be a few megaflops and more RAM, and that was all improving rapidly.

    This was not the last confident presentation I have heard from an AI researcher. It all gives me a certain skepticism about confident AI predictions.

    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      Interestingly, all the confident proclamations about AI we hear these days are made by tech field "thought leaders", "futurists", and other such rabble.

      I have not heard any from actual AI researchers in quite some time.

  • by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:33AM (#51372935) Journal

    I would recommend it.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Soci... [amazon.com]

    Very interesting insights into ideas about how consciousness interprets the reality around us (and how the mind ties it all together into something meaningful).

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      I prefer reading stuff by Sachs etc about the wetware side of things - consciousness in practice doesn't seem to match up so tightly with the models we have of it.
      I suppose the question is whether we want something that really is awake or just a special effect designed to inspire suspension of disbelief. The latter still has value. Even if it's not the real deal there are tasks that it could carry out.
      • I prefer the philosophy side (mostly due to the time I have available).

        I certainly understand it is less practical or applicable.

        But anything that is thought provoking is going to interest me (I tried Godel, Esher, Bach, but it defeated me - multiple times).

        • by Prune ( 557140 )
          I usually read philosophy, physics, and information theory, but I'd say the most illuminating books on consciousness, and the ones that presents the most plausible mechanisms, most backed by significant neurological evidence, are from the famous neurologist Antonio Damasio. The most recent one is "Self Comes to Mind", but if your local library doesn't have a copy, the older "The Feeling of What Happens" is also very highly recommended. It helps that he's not just brilliant, but also a great writer.
      • by Prune ( 557140 )

        I prefer reading stuff by Sachs

        Did you intend to reference Oliver Sacks?

  • I had a chance to meet Minsky at MIT's CSAIL in 2005. Though my interaction with him was brief, it was immediately clear to me that he was a tremendously intelligent individual. I offer my condolences not only to his friends and family, but to the entire human race that is worse off without his insights.

Often statistics are used as a drunken man uses lampposts -- for support rather than illumination.

Working...