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Quotes of the day: Marvin Minsky

Published Saturday, August 09, 2014 @ 11:53 PM EDT
Aug 09 2014

Marvin Lee Minsky (August 9, 1927 – January 24, 2016)) was an American cognitive scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, and author of several texts on AI and philosophy. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A common concept of the soul is that the essence of a self lies in some spark of invisible light, a thing that cowers out of body, out of mind, and out of sight.... To look for our virtue in such thoughts seems just as wrongly aimed a search as seeking art in canvas cloths by scraping off the painter's works.

An ethicist is someone who sees something wrong with whatever you have in mind.

Brains don't manufacture thoughts in the direct ways that muscles exert forces or ovaries make estrogens; instead, to get a good idea, one must engage huge organizations of sub-machines that do a vast variety of jobs. Each human cranium contains hundreds of kinds of computers, developed over hundreds of millions of years of evolution, each with a somewhat different structure.

Common sense is not a simple thing. Instead, it is an immense society of hard-earned practical ideas- of multitudes of life-learned rules an exceptions, dispositions and tendencies, balances and checks.

Computer languages of the future will be more concerned with goals and less with procedures specified by the programmer.

Every system that we build will surprise us with new kinds of flaws until those machines become clever enough to conceal their faults from us.

General fiction is pretty much about ways that people get into problems and screw their lives up. Science fiction is about everything else.

I bet the human brain is a kludge.

I maintain that attitudes do really precede propositions, feelings come before facts.

I suspect our human 'thinking processes' often 'break down,' but you rarely notice anything's wrong, because your systems so quickly switch you to think in different ways, while the systems that failed are repaired or replaced.

Imagine if TV were actually good. It would be the end of life as we know it.

In general we are least aware of what our minds do best.

In order for a mind to think, it has to juggle fragments of its mental states.

It would be as useless to perceive how things 'actually look' as it would be to watch the random dots on untuned television screens.

Logic demands just one support for every link, a single, flawless deduction. Common sense asks, at every step, if all of what we've found so far is in accord with everyday experience. No sensible person ever trusts a long, thin chain of reasoning.

Logic doesn't apply to the real world.

Minds are simply what brains do.

Most of our future attempts to build large, growing Articial Intelligences will be subject to all sorts of mental disorders.

No computer has ever been designed that is ever aware of what it's doing; but most of the time, we aren't either.

No possible inheritance of built-in genes can tell us what is good for us- because, unlike all other animals, we humans make for ourselves most of the problems we face.

Old answers never perfectly suit new questions, except in the most formal, logical circumstances.

Once the computers got control, we might never get it back. We would survive at their sufferance. If we're lucky, they might decide to keep us as pets.

One can acquire certainty only by amputating inquiry.

Only the surface of reason is rational.

Societies need rules that make no sense for individuals. For example, it makes no difference whether a single car drives on the left or on the right. But it makes all the difference when there are many cars!

Speed is what distinguishes intelligence. No bird discovers how to fly: evolution used a trillion bird-years to 'discover' that- where merely hundreds of person-years sufficed.

We rarely recognize how wonderful it is that a person can traverse an entire lifetime without making a single really serious mistake- like putting a fork in one's eye or using a window instead of a door.

What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle.

Will robots inherit the earth? Yes, but they will be our children.

You can build a mind from many little parts, each mindless by itself.

You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way.

Categories: Marvin Minsky, Quotes of the day


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