Introducing Dr. Marvin Minsky

A.I. Pioneer & Mind Theorist — Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT, Media Lab.

Facing the Future

As soon as we understand how the human brain works, we should be able to make functional copies of our minds out of other materials. Given that everything is made of atoms, if you make a machine, in some sense it is made of the same kinds of materials as brains are made but organized either in very different ways or fundamentally the same ways.

Interestingly, if you are going to copy the organization of a particular human mind maybe you should make a dozen of them. There is no particular limit on how many copies to make and how the future society will treat them.

When will all these great things happen of overcoming death and making people more intelligent and turning ourselves into machines with replaceable parts so that suffering will disappear? Many great science fiction writers have written well about the future of human minds and what will happen if we eliminate death and people can live forever and we keep growing and so forth.

In my view, as we still do not know very much about how exactly the brain represents knowledge and does reasoning, it is very hard to predict how long it will take to do things like that. I however am fairly confident that, sooner or later, we will. Given that, in all likelihood, it does not require the breaking of any known rules of physics, and while it clearly represents a formidable science and engineering challenge, it is not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when" — it is a matter of time.

My impression is that progress in science fields relevant to the creation of functional copies of minds has actually been slowing down rather rapidly in the last few decades and that in the early days of cybernetics from 1940 to 1980 we were learning more and more about the brain very rapidly. Contrary to many current opinions, I think we are learning less and less in recent years. This is because people are trying to understand the brain itself rather than make good theories of how brains might work. It does not help to look at a brain unless your head is full of powerful ideas about what might be going on there.

On that basis, I doubt that very much of this will happen by 2045, but who knows. What is clear however is that there are lots of possibilities in the future that no one seriously discusses.



BIOGRAPHY

Widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at M.I.T. His research led to advances in mathematics, computer science, physics, psychology, computer graphics, symbolic mathematical computation, knowledge representation, computational semantics, machine perception, symbolic learning and connectionist learning.

Built the first Neural Network Learning Machine and the first Confocal Scanning Microscope, an optical instrument with unprecedented resolution and image quality. Pioneered robotics and telepresence. Authored The Society of Mind (1985) in which 270 interconnected 1-page ideas reflect the structure of the theory itself. Sequel: The Emotion Machine (2006).

Honors: Turing Award; Killian Award; Japan Prize; Rank Prize, Royal Society of Medicine; R.W. Wood Prize, Optical Society of America; Benjamin Franklin Medal; In Praise of Reason Award, World Skeptics Congress; President, American Association for Artificial Intelligence; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, IEEE, Walt Disney Imagineering. Board of Advisors, National Dance Institute, National Space Society, American Academy of Achievement. Member, U.S. National Academy of Engineering, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Argentine National Academy of Science, League for Programming Freedom.


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