We’ve lost one of the world’s most brilliant scientists.
Marvin Minsky, the MIT scientist who helped pioneer the field of artificial intelligence and laid the foundations for the computer and the internet, has died at 88, The New York Times reports. The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage, according to his family.
“The world has lost one of its greatest minds in science,” Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, wrote in an email to colleagues, according to The Washington Post.
Beginning in the 1950s, Minsky began working to create intelligent machines, a field that would come to be known as artificial intelligence, or AI.
AI has become vastly more sophisticated since then, though we have yet to develop a machine that has true general intelligence — the ability to do anything a human being can. But that never daunted Minsky:
“The problem of intelligence seemed hopelessly profound,” Minsky told The New Yorker when it profiled him in 1981. “I can’t remember considering anything else worth doing.”
Here are some of Minsky’s greatest achievements in AI:
- In 1951, Minsky built “SNARC” (short for Stochastic Neural Analogue Reinforcement Calculator) — a neural network that could be considered the first artificial learning machine.
- He co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Project (later renamed the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) in 1959 with computer scientist John McCarthy, who coined the term “artificial intelligence.” The lab was part of the ARPAnet — the precursor to the internet — and helped pioneer the notion that software should be shared freely (aka open-source).
- In the 1960s, Minsky developed some of the first mechanical arms, laying the foundation for modern robotics.
- During the early 70s, along with computer scientist Seymour Papert, he developed “The Society of Mind” theory of human intelligence (described in his 1986 book), based on research in developmental child psychology and artificial intelligence.
- Director Stanley Kubrick consulted Minsky for his film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” according to The New York Times — which contains perhaps the most famous AI in film history, HAL 9000.
These were just a few of Minsky’s many achievements, which also spanned fields such as computational linguistics, mathematics, and optics.
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