As the Information Age continues to yield exponentially more powerful computers and processors, the idea of artificial intelligence will become increasingly more relevant and serious in the coming decades.
But some thinkers saw this coming well in advance, namely American mathematician and inventor Marvin Minsky, who pass away earlier this week at the age of 88.
As the Christian Science Monitor reports, this otherwise obscure figure (outside of the scientific and academic community) was a major intellectual contributor to A.I., laying its conceptual, practical, and ethical groundwork.
Dr. Minsky’s formal education was in the field of mathematics, earning his undergraduate from Harvard in 1950 and his PhD in 1954. But, after achieving his doctorate, he shifted his attention to artificial intelligence. He referred to the puzzle of artificial intelligence as “hopelessly profound” in a 1981 interview with The New Yorker.
As an inventor, Minsky contributed creations such as the first neural network simulator, SNARC, and the Confocal Scanning Microscope, among other various inventions, according to his MIT biography page. However, his biggest impact comes from his insights into human intelligence, which shaped the field of artificial intelligence.
“Marvin was one of the very few people in computing whose visions and perspectives liberated the computer from being a glorified adding machine to start to realize its destiny as one of the most powerful amplifiers for human endeavors in history”, computer scientist and Minsky colleague Alan Kay told The New York Times.
Minsky’s work in artificial intelligence was driven by the concept of “imparting to machines the human capacity for commonsense reasoning”, as written on his biography page. He believed the functioning, commonsense intelligence associated with the human mind could be recreated in machines.
If you would like to know more about Minsky’s views about the quest of intelligent design, check out his two books: “The Society of Mind” (1988) and “The Emotion Machine” (2006). Also check out this 2007 interview with New Scientist, and the more recent 2014 interview with the BBVA Foundation below.