Those of you who know me know that I love computer science, programming, and all those things where you type stuff into an endless string of random-seeming numbers and letters and what comes out is a game of Dikembe Mutombo trying to save the world.
Those of you who really know me can also confidently say that none of that is true. No, I know nothing of programming, except that it’s a thing that is done to make writing this blog and really, everything else in life possible for uninitiated simple computer folk like me, or Matlock.
But enough about me. Let’s move on to the topic of today’s article, the great Marvin Minsky. Marvin doesn’t just possess a great double-m name, he also has a very powerful brain. Named as one of the “only two people more intelligent than I” by the eternally modest Isaac Asimov, Minsky has been described as “the superstar elder of artificial intelligence”. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is defined by Wikipedia as “technology and a branch of computer science that studies and develops intelligent machines and software”, not to be confused with the study of evil machines, which includes fax machines and copiers.
Minsky was a pioneer in his field, and continues to wow students as the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT. Someday dear readers, I too will have a sponsored job title.
Minsky realized early on, maybe thanks to his Princeton doctorate, that teaming up with guys with names like Seymour Papert would be a surefire way to success, and of course he was right. Papert and Minsky together developed the first Logo “turtle”. This is a great sounding fact, and to help clear that up I can bring you the exclusive news that Logo is a programming language whose product sometimes resembles turtles. See, I do research and everything. Misnky and Papert also co-wrote a book called Perceptrons, which I believe you can find at your local library for some afternoon reading material. You’re welcome.
Minsky also built the first randomly wired neural network learning machine (yes, that) in 1951 and called it SNARC, standing for Super Nifty Apparatus Reinforcing Culture. Or something. It was actually the first ever self-learning machine, which he somehow built out of vacuum tubes as a student. In my mind, this makes him kind of a precursor to MacGyver, and I can certainly get behind that.