The Mind of Machines

Tomorrow is the 70th birthday of computer scientist Marvin Minsky, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence--the quest to develop computers that can learn, think, and perform tasks just as humans do. In 1959 he co-founded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Project and directed the lab from 1963 to 1974.

Minsky has developed theories about how the human mind works and has tested the limits of computers and robots. In 1974 he suggested that the human brain contains multitudes of frames, or packages of knowledge that allow us to understand a certain topic--for example, cats and what they do. It will be necessary to stock computers with such frames if they are to be considered intelligent, he says. In his 1987 book, "The Society of Mind" Minsky contends that human consciousness is a myth, and that there is no intrinsic difference between humans and machines.

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