Marvin Minsky -- "Story/Mind" Consultant

[Marvin Minsky]

(photo by Donna Coveny)

Marvin Minsky is Toshiba Professor at the MIT Media Lab. Often identified as one of the founders of the field of Artificial Intelligence, Professor Minsky has worked since the early 1950s on applying the powerful descriptive mechanisms offered by computation to characterizing human psychological processes and on endowing machines with the ability to act intelligently and adapt effectively. A co-founder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (with John McCarthy in 1961) and a long tenure as its director and co-director (together with Seymour Papert from 1963 to 1971) placed his imprint upon the entire field of Artificial Intelligence.

In the early 1970s, Minsky and Papert began formulating a theory called The Society of Mind which combined insights from developmental child psychology with their and their students' experiences of attempting to build intelligent machines. The Society of Mind proposes that intelligence is the product of the managed interaction of a diverse array of agents, rather than the product of any singular mechanism. Such diversity is necessary, they believed, because different tasks require fundamentally different mechanisms; the question to be answered then becomes not what mechanism the mind uses but how it manages the interaction of these diverse elements to yield coherent behavior. In 1985, Minsky published his seminal book, "The Society of Mind." This book's novel composition of 270 interconnected one-page ideas reflects the structure of the theory itself; each page either proposes an idea or mechanism accounting for some phenomena or addresses a problem introduced by some adequate but incomplete solution of another page.

Since the publication of The Society of Mind, Minsky has continued to develop the theory in several directions. He is currently working on a new book, "The Emotion Machine," describing the role that emotions play in mental process viewed as a society of interacting agents. Since his childhood in New York, Minsky has also been deeply involved in music, first as a pianist, then as improvisor and theorist. The texts used in the Brain Opera are taken from discussions between Minsky and Machover on music and the mind, recorded at the MIT Media Lab between 1993 and 1996.