Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky regarded as the father of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no more. He left this physical world at the age of 88 last Sunday. This is a great loss to the world. But his exemplary works, his lectures, his books and his quotes still make him alive in this world and it will be a great guiding force for researchers in AI, Cognitive Sciences and other related areas.

Although I have read about his work in my younger days, the first time that I came across more seriously on his work was during my seven years stay at Infosys somewhere in the starting of the year 2010.  That was the time I got interested to know more about the area of Emotion Modelling and Emotion Analysis. I together with my colleague (Nirmal, one of the author of this blog site) started to think about what is emotion. Even though, at first, we came across many papers talking about emotions and its negative implications for a human-being in this world we had a feeling that emotion is not that negative as proclaimed in the works that we had collected, rather it should have more positive implications. Unless otherwise it would not have survived the evolution.

So, why did we think that there is more positivity into it. The reason is simple to say but hard to realise. Just think about a human not having any emotions at all. People will say then that what is the big deal he won’t show any expressions, that’s all. Answer to this is you are partially right but you have not understood emotion completely. You are seeing only the behavioral aspects of emotions but there are two more aspects to it. One is the physiological reactions that happens inside the body and the other one, which is the main thing – many will forget or not realise – is the inner feeling. So, when we study about emotions we may have to look into all three aspects. Coming back to the example that we were talking about unless you have emotions is there a way to change the monotonous way of thinking, to prioritize the things you need to do, to know/be aware of the importance of a thing/or an entity? This is what made us to think about the positiveness of emotions. That was the time we came across two of the works done by the legends in this field: (1) Herbert Simon and (2) Marvin Minsky. Herbert Simon in his work said that

“emotions perform the critical important function of interrupting normal cognition when some unattended goals require attention and servicing”       [Herbert Simon 1967]

Minsky in his book on Emotion Machine stated that

“emotions, intuitions, and feelings are not distinct things, but different ways of thinking”

The confidence and the ecstatic feeling that we got when we came across these two statements gave us cannot be explained in mere words. This turned a new leaf in our work. Yes, of course that’s why we call Minsky a legend, right? There may be many many in this world who would have got a new leaf in their life like us. This turned in a new chapter in our thinking and now we are sure that if we need to model emotion then cognition should not be left. Rather, we have to work towards a holistic unified model not a model that has “holes”in it!

All the more, Nirmal sent a mail to Minsky about some of our thinking on emotion treated as human’s resource for problem solving. Surprisingly, he had time to reply to that and that too with lots of positive notes! Such is his humility to answer even patzers in the field like us! That’s why he is a stalwart, is it not?

In fact, every page in his book on Society of Mind deserves at least one PhD work!

I had collected some of his quotes from the Internet and prepared a video out of that. All credits to the original posters of the quotes. This is a very small tribute to him.

 

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