Marvin Minsky

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Marvin Minsky
Marvin Minsky at OLPCb.jpg
Minsky in 2008
Born Marvin Lee Minsky
(1927-08-09)August 9, 1927
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Residence United States
Citizenship United States
Nationality American
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Education Phillips Academy
Alma mater Harvard University (BA)
Princeton University (PhD)
Thesis Theory of Neural-Analog Reinforcement Systems and Its Application to the Brain Model Problem (1954)
Doctoral advisor Albert W. Tucker[1][2]
Doctoral students
Known for
Influenced David Waltz[citation needed]
Notable awards
Spouse Gloria Rudisch (m. 1952)
Children 3

Marvin Lee Minsky (August 9, 1927 – January 24, 2016) was an American cognitive scientist concerned largely with research of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, and author of several texts concerning AI and philosophy.[12][13][14][15]

Minsky received many accolades and honors, such as the 1969 Turing Award.


Marvin Lee Minsky was born in New York City, to an eye surgeon father, Henry, and to a mother, Fannie (Reiser), who was a Zionist activist.[15][16][17] His family was Jewish. He attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and the Bronx High School of Science. He later attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He then served in the US Navy from 1944 to 1945. He received a B.A. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1950 and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1954. His doctoral dissertation was titled "Theory of neural-analog reinforcement systems and its application to the brain-model problem."[18][19][20] He was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1954–1957.[21][22]

He was on the MIT faculty from 1958 to his death. He joined the staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1958, and a year later he and John McCarthy initiated what is, as of 2019, named the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.[23][24] He was the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Contributions in computer science

3D profile of a coin (partial) measured with a modern confocal white light microscope.

Minsky's inventions include the first head-mounted graphical display (1963)[25] and the confocal microscope[5][Note 1] (1957, a predecessor to today's widely used confocal laser scanning microscope). He developed, with Seymour Papert, the first Logo "turtle". Minsky also built, in 1951, the first randomly wired neural network learning machine, SNARC.

In 1962, Minsky published a (7,4) Turing machine and proved it universal. It was the simplest known universal Turing machine until Stephen Wolfram's (2,3) Turing machine was proven to be universal in 2007.[26]

Minsky wrote the book Perceptrons (with Seymour Papert), attacking the work of Frank Rosenblatt, which became the foundational work in the analysis of artificial neural networks. This book is the center of a controversy in the history of AI, as some claim it to have had great importance in discouraging research of neural networks in the 1970s, and contributing to the so-called "AI winter".[27] He also founded several other AI models. His book A framework for representing knowledge created a new paradigm in programming. While his Perceptrons is now more a historical than practical book, the theory of frames is in wide use.[28] Minsky also wrote of the possibility that extraterrestrial life may think like humans, permitting communication.[29]

In the early 1970s, at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, Minsky and Papert started developing what came to be known as the Society of Mind theory. The theory attempts to explain how what we call intelligence could be a product of the interaction of non-intelligent parts. Minsky says that the biggest source of ideas about the theory came from his work in trying to create a machine that uses a robotic arm, a video camera, and a computer to build with children's blocks. In 1986, Minsky published The Society of Mind, a comprehensive book on the theory which, unlike most of his previously published work, was written for the general public.

The MA-3 Robotic Manipulator Arm, on display at MIT Museum
General view 
the Belgrade Hand 

In November 2006, Minsky published The Emotion Machine, a book that critiques many popular theories of how human minds work and suggests alternative theories, often replacing simple ideas with more complex ones. Recent drafts of the book are freely available from his webpage.[30]

Role in popular culture

Minsky was an adviser[31] on Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey; one of the movie's characters, Victor Kaminski, was named in Minsky's honor.[32] Minsky is mentioned explicitly in Arthur C. Clarke's derivative novel of the same name, where he is portrayed as achieving a crucial break-through in artificial intelligence in the then-future 1980s, paving the way for HAL 9000 in the early 21st century:

In the 1980s, Minsky and Good had shown how artificial neural networks could be generated automatically—self replicated—in accordance with any arbitrary learning program. Artificial brains could be grown by a process strikingly analogous to the development of a human brain. In any given case, the precise details would never be known, and even if they were, they would be millions of times too complex for human understanding.[33]

Personal life

The Minskytron or "Three Position Display" running on the Computer History Museum's PDP-1, 2007

In 1952, Minsky married pediatrician Gloria Rudisch; together they had three children.[34] Minsky was a talented improvisational pianist[35] who published musings on the relations between music and psychology.


Minsky was an atheist,[36] a signatory to the Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics.[37]

He was a critic of the Loebner Prize for conversational robots,[38] and argued that a fundamental difference between humans and machines was that while humans are machines, they are machines in which intelligence emerges from the interplay of the many unintelligent but semi-autonomous agents that comprise the brain.[39] He argued that "somewhere down the line, some computers will become more intelligent than most people," but that it was very hard to predict how fast progress would be.[40] He cautioned that an artificial superintelligence designed to solve an innocuous mathematical problem might decide to assume control of Earth's resources to build supercomputers to help achieve its goal,[41] but believed that such negative scenarios are "hard to take seriously" because he felt confident that AI would go through a lot of testing before being deployed.[42]


In January 2016 Minsky died of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 88.[43] Minsky was a member of Alcor Life Extension Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board.[44] Alcor will neither confirm nor deny whether Minsky was cryonically preserved.[45]

Association with Jeffrey Epstein

Minsky received a $100,000 research grant from Jeffrey Epstein in 2002, four years before Epstein's first arrest for sex offenses; it was the first from Epstein to MIT. Minsky received no further research grants from him.[46][47]

Minsky organized two academic symposia on Epstein's private island Little Saint James, one in 2002 and another in 2011, after Epstein was a registered sex offender.[48] Virginia Guiffre testified in a 2015 deposition in her defamation lawsuit against Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell that Maxwell directed her to have sex with Minsky among others. There is no independent corroboration of the sex allegations, and there has been no lawsuit against Minsky's estate.[49] Minsky's widow, Gloria Rudisch, says that he could not have had sex with any of the women at Epstein's residences, as they were always together during all of the visits to Epstein's residences.[50][51]

Bibliography (selected)

  • 1967 – Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines, Prentice-Hall
  • 1986 – The Society of Mind
  • 2006 – The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind

Awards and affiliations

Minsky won the Turing Award (the greatest distinction in computer science)[39] in 1969, the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1982,[52] the Japan Prize in 1990, the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence for 1991, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute for 2001.[53] In 2006, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for co-founding the field of artificial intelligence, creating early neural networks and robots, and developing theories of human and machine cognition."[54] In 2011, Minsky was inducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems' AI Hall of Fame for the "significant contributions to the field of AI and intelligent systems".[55][56] In 2014, Minsky won the Dan David Prize for "Artificial Intelligence, the Digital Mind".[57] He was also awarded with the 2013 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies category.[58]

Minsky was affiliated with the following organizations:

Media appearances

  • Future Fantastic (1996)
  • Machine Dreams (1988)

See also



  1. Marvin Lee Minsky at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. Marvin Lee Minsky at the AI Genealogy Project.
  3. "Personal page for Marvin Minsky". Retrieved June 23, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Minsky, Marvin (1961). "Steps toward Artificial Intelligence" (PDF). Proceedings of the IRE. 49: 8–30. CiteSeerX doi:10.1109/JRPROC.1961.287775.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Minsky, Marvin (1988). "Memoir on inventing the confocal scanning microscope". Scanning. 10 (4): 128–138. doi:10.1002/sca.4950100403.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Pesta, A (March 12, 2014). "Looking for Something Useful to Do With Your Time? Don't Try This". WSJ. Retrieved March 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Hillis, Danny; McCarthy, John; Mitchell, Tom M.; Mueller, Erik T.; Riecken, Doug; Sloman, Aaron; Winston, Patrick Henry (2007). "In Honor of Marvin Minsky's Contributions on his 80th Birthday". AI Magazine. 28 (4): 109. doi:10.1609/aimag.v28i4.2064.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Papert, Seymour; Minsky, Marvin Lee (1988). Perceptrons: an introduction to computational geometry. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-63111-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Minsky, Marvin Lee (1986). The Society of Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-60740-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> The first comprehensive description of the Society of Mind theory of intellectual structure and development. See also The Society of Mind (CD-ROM version), Voyager, 1996.
  10. Minsky, Marvin Lee (2007). The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-7664-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Elected AAAI Fellows".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Marvin Minsky's publications indexed by the DBLP Bibliography Server at the University of Trier
  13. List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  14. "Google Scholar".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 Winston, Patrick Henry (2016). "Marvin L. Minsky (1927-2016)". Nature. 530 (7590): 282. Bibcode:2016Natur.530..282W. doi:10.1038/530282a. PMID 26887486.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Swedin, Eric Gottfrid (August 10, 2005). Science in the Contemporary World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 188 – via Internet Archive. marvin minsky jewish.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Campbell-Kelly, Martin (February 3, 2016). "Marvin Minsky obituary" – via<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Minsky, Marvin (July 31, 1954). "Theory of neural-analog reinforcement systems and its application to the brain-model problem" – via<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Minsky, Marvin Lee (1954). Theory of Neural-Analog Reinforcement Systems and Its Application to the Brain Model Problem (PhD thesis). Princeton University. OCLC 3020680. ProQuest 301998727.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Hillis, Danny; McCarthy, John; Mitchell, Tom M.; Mueller, Erik T.; Riecken, Doug; Sloman, Aaron; Winston, Patrick Henry (2007). "In Honor of Marvin Minsky's Contributions on his 80th Birthday". AI Magazine. 28 (4): 103–110. Retrieved November 24, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Society of Fellows, Listed by Term [1]
  22. "Marvin Minsky, Ph.D. Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Horgan, John (November 1993). "Profile: Marvin L. Minsky: The Mastermind of Artificial Intelligence". Scientific American. 269 (5): 14–15. Bibcode:1993SciAm.269e..35H. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1193-35.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Rifkin, Glenn (January 28, 2016). "Marvin Minsky, pioneer in artificial intelligence, dies at 88". The Tech. MIT. Retrieved July 20, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 "Brief Academic Biography of Marvin Minsky". Retrieved January 26, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Wolfram, Stephen (2016). Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People. Wolfram Media. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-5795-5-003-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Olazaran, Mikel (August 1996). "A Sociological Study of the Official History of the Perceptrons Controversy". Social Studies of Science. 26 (3): 611–659. doi:10.1177/030631296026003005. JSTOR 285702.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Minsky's frame system theory". Proceedings of the 1975 workshop on Theoretical issues in natural language processing – TINLAP '75. 1975. pp. 104–116. doi:10.3115/980190.980222.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Minsky, Marvin (April 1985). "Communication with Alien Intelligence". Byte. Vol. 10 no. 4. Peterborough, New Hampshire: UBM Technology Group. p. 127. Retrieved July 30, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Marvin Minsky's Home Page".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. For more, see this interview, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 16, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "AI pioneer Marvin Minsky dies aged 88". BBC News. January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hutchinson, UK
    New American Library, US. ISBN 0-453-00269-2.
    <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "R.I.P. Marvin Minsky". Washington Post. January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "Obituary: Marvin Minsky, 88; MIT professor helped found field of artificial intelligence". Boston Globe. January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Lederman, Leon M.; Scheppler, Judith A. (2001). "Marvin Minsky: Mind Maker". Portraits of Great American Scientists. Prometheus Books. p. 74. ISBN 9781573929325. Another area where he "goes against the flow" is in his spiritual beliefs. As far as religion is concerned, he's a confirmed atheist. "I think it [religion] is a contagious mental disease. ... The brain has a need to believe it knows a reason for things.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "SCIENTISTS' OPEN LETTER ON CRYONICS". The Science of Cryonics. March 19, 2004. Retrieved May 6, 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Technology |Artificial stupidity Archived June 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Marvin Minsky, Pioneer in Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 88". The New York Times. January 25, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "For artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky, computers have soul". Jerusalem Post. May 13, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Russell, Stuart J.; Norvig, Peter (2003). "Section 26.3: The Ethics and Risks of Developing Artificial Intelligence". Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0137903955. Similarly, Marvin Minsky once suggested that an AI program designed to solve the Riemann Hypothesis might end up taking over all the resources of Earth to build more powerful supercomputers to help achieve its goal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. Achenbach, Joel (January 6, 2016). "Marvin Minsky, an architect of artificial intelligence, dies at 88". Washington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Pearson, Michael (January 26, 2016). "Pioneering computer scientist Marvin Minsky dies at 88". CNN. Retrieved April 7, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. 44.0 44.1 "Alcor Scientific Advisory Board". Alcor. January 14, 2016. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  45. admin (January 27, 2016). "Official Alcor Statement Concerning Marvin Minsky". Alcor News. Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Retrieved May 6, 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  46. Subbaraman, Nidhi (January 10, 2020). "MIT review of Epstein donations finds "significant mistakes of judgment"". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-00072-x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. Report Concerning Jeffrey Epstein's Interactions with the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology (PDF), pp. 9, 15<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  48. "AI pioneer accused of having sex with trafficking victim on Jeffrey Epstein's island". The Verge. Retrieved August 8, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Briquelet, Kate; et al. (September 16, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Names Powerful Men in Alleged Sex Ring". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 8, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. Carlistle, Madeline; Mansoor, Sanya. "The Jeffrey Epstein Investigation Continues After His Death. Here's Who Else Could Be Investigated". Time. Minsky’s widow, Gloria Rudisch, denied he had sex with Giuffre or any other girls<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  51. "Jeffrey Epstein's alleged 'sex slave' reveals the men she claims she was forced to sleep with". New York Post. Retrieved August 8, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  53. Marvin Minsky – The Franklin Institute Awards – Laureate Database Archived May 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Franklin Institute. Retrieved on March 25, 2008.
  54. "Marvin Minsky: 2006 Fellow". Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved July 30, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  55. "AI's Hall of Fame" (PDF). IEEE Intelligent Systems. 26 (4): 5–15. 2011. doi:10.1109/MIS.2011.64.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  56. "IEEE Computer Society Magazine Honors Artificial Intelligence Leaders". August 24, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Press release source: PRWeb (Vocus).
  57. "Dan David prize 2014 winners". May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  58. "MIT artificial intelligence, robotics pioneer feted: Award celebrates Minsky's career". August 24, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. "Extropy Institute Directors & Advisors".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  60. "kynamatrix Research Network : About". Retrieved February 9, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Cite error: <ref> tags exist for a group named "Note", but no corresponding <references group="Note"/> tag was found, or a closing </ref> is missing