back to article AI pioneer Marvin Minsky dies at 88

Marvin Minsky, one of the founders of the field of Artificial Intelligence, and an inspiration to generations of researchers, has died. Minsky was a philosopher and a scientist, as well as an adored and decorated academic. Among these decorations was the Turing Award in 1969, and an induction as a Fellow of the Computer …

  1. Naselus

    Sad Times

    Minsky was also just about the only guy who would permit the reprobates in the MIT Tech Model Railway Club access to the mainframe systems in the early '60s... which in turn produced the basis of all IT culture, most of the fundamental concepts in modern, and the first ever computer game. He was a titan in the whole field of computing.

    1. Dr Stephen Jones

      Re: Sad Times

      "which in turn produced the basis of all IT culture"

      I suspect you are an MIT graduate.

      It's as if Britain never existed. In fact, Britain had a computing lead until IBM's marketing muscle killed it off. Once an American bigot, always an American bigot, though.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Sad Times

        And as we all know, British bigotry is, of course, superior. Grow up, kid!

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Sad Times

        The "bigot" charge is a bit rich, but then so was "the basis of all IT culture", which sounds like it comes right from Levy's Hackers, a hagiography which suffers from a glaring lack of restraint and critical thinking.

        The TMRC certainly was important in the history of IT cultures. It was not the sole origin of them.

  2. -tim

    Society of Mind?

    What is death?

    I think his book "Society of Mind" will be one of the best AI books ever written... Once AI works.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Society of Mind?

      > What is death?

      The body switching itself back off again?

    2. emmanuel goldstein

      What is death?

      Nietzsche put it best:

      "The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species."

      Vale Marvin Minsky. He argued that free will is a delusion. I have to agree.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: What is death?

        If you and he are right then your agreement is also a delusion and doesn't matter.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Re: What is death?

          > our agreement is also a delusion

          I think that was the point, when Emmanuel wrote "have to agree", instead of, e.g. "quite agree".

      2. Ali Um Bongo


        *"..."The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species..."*

        Nice quote but, given they tell us there are more people alive currently than have existed throughout all of history, doesn't that make the dead the 'rare species'?

        1. Gartal

          Re: Nietzche

          Human dead are a rare species. Almost all things which now are dead are not human.

        2. Charles Manning

          Re: Nietzche

          "given they tell us there are more people alive currently than have existed throughout all of history"

          This is a bullshit "fact" spread by the OMG!!!!! Overpoulation!!! people that is quite easy to disprove.

          Any citation that quotes "they" is immediately suspect.

        3. JLV

          Re: Nietzche

          Sure about your math? we're at 7 billion, but population was at 1 billion already in 1800, 200 years ago. That's 3 generations and for it to work it implies really really fast growth within generations.

          But thanks for propagating memes. Given the context, wonder if Minsky would have found its propagation funny.

  3. Alexander Giochalas

    He also co-authored an SF novel:

    The Turing Option, together with Harry Harrison, about (what else?) an AI.

    1. apepper

      Re: He also co-authored an SF novel:

      I think he also was a consultant on 2001 about HAL - Clarke cited Minsky in the book as the co-inventor of intelligent computers.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: He also co-authored an SF novel:


        He nearly got killed on-set when a wrench dropped from the height of the X-Ray Delta One centrifuge setup.

  4. m0rt

    Don't forget his musical side...

    Also the co-creator of the Triadex Muse

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also invented the confocal microscrope, used in all kinds of neat stuff from LASIK to the Bluebrain Project. This guy was the da Vinci of our times.

  6. The Indomitable Gall

    There's a name that I don't think I've heard since university -- sad way to be reminded. A very influential man indeed, and his contributions to the field should never be taken for granted.

  7. Florida1920

    He didn't let his fame go to his head

    Had occasion to meet him almost 25 years ago, outside of his professional work. I think the highest compliment you can pay to a person of his stature is that he didn't let it show. No pretense, no affectation, just a real person. What a pleasure it was to make his acquaintance, however briefly.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Marvin, one of the Great "Scruffies", has gone to the Sky Net?

    I'm getting old.

    I remember him giving a guest lecture in 1991 or so at ETH Zürich. He was doodling on the clear plastic film used in the overhead projector (remember those, kids)?

    Afterwards, students snarfed it and reprinted part of the undecipherable postmodern 4-color art in the CS student monthly.

    Some good reads:

    > 1951 – SNARC Maze Solver – Minsky / Edmonds

    > Communication with Alien Intelligence Byte Magazine 1985

    (The Scruffyness stems of course from the dual approach to AI)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This article is sponsored by "Simpler, smarter authentication" ... for the Pearly Gates?

  10. W Donelson

    A giant, a thinker, an inspiration. RIP

    He was my thesis advisor for a while, many years ago.

  11. JeffyPoooh

    A great thinker... RIP

    Anyone that's paid even the slightest attention to A.I. over the past three or four decades will have figured out one iron-clad rule:

    Strong A.I is always "just around the corner".

    Those expecting fool-proof, reliable, perfectly-safe 'self-driving' cars to arrive shortly are very likely going to be disappointed.

    At least the 7-o'clock news will have a topic to fill a regular daily slot: The 'self-driving car' Crazy Accident of The Day.

    1. Charles Manning

      Re: A great thinker... RIP

      AI was real soon now in the 1950s. There was a huge focus on making mechanical robotic dogs etc because the brain will soon be ready and we need a body to put it in.

      The books on computers I read in the 1960s showed machines that would learn by being told they'd made mistakes. Complete with illustrations of men in white coats pushing the "goof" button when the computer made an error.

      Ai was still real soon now when I did post grad AI courses in the early 1980s.... Just a tiny bit more computing power and we'll be there.

      Thirty years later and the AI is still in the glovebox of my flying car.

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