On Marvin Minsky’s Remarkable Imagination

Source: Medium, Jan 2016

There was a great contradiction about Marvin Minsky. As one of the creators of artificial intelligence (with John McCarthy), he believed as early as the 1950s that computers would have human-like cognition. But Marvin himself was an example of an intelligence so bountiful, unpredictable and sublime that not even a million Singularities could conceivably produce a machine with a mind to match his. At the least, it is beyond my imagination to conceive of that happening.

He questioned everything, and his observations were quirky, innovative, and made such perfect sense that you wonder why no one else had thought of them. After a couple of hours with him, your own vision of the world was altered.

Only years later did I realize that his everyday Minsky-ness imparted a basic lesson:

if you saw the world the way everybody else did, how smart could you really be?

But maybe Marvin could imagine it. His imagination respected no borders.


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