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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The unintelligent... artificial intelligence

1. Page 1

Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick made one and only mistake in their piece of work “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and that was the date.

Marvin Minsky, the great intellectual and guru in the field of artificial intelligence, gazes the future of machines with optimism. “One day”, he maintains, “machines will master the ability of thinking, whatever the term “think” might mean.” When interviewed by the New York Times he did not hide his enthusiasm. He stated that he is a cinema fan, and that he never misses any science fiction films: “They introduce ideas”, he says. “The Terminator’ and the ‘Total Recall’, presented ideas about memory transplant. Quite crude ones, but I loved the mechanics.” He also reads science fiction literature. “There are dozens of really rich sources of inspiration in these books”, he claims. “Gregory Benford, David Brin and Larry Niven are the best writers of our times. In their writings, there is always a new brilliant idea about something. I’ve also borrowed ideas from older science fiction writers like Robert Meimlein and Isaac Asimov…” His view about the first female science fiction writer, Mary Shelley, ( Frankenstein), boils down to the fact that “she was right in her forecast that ‘humans would never understand the poor creature.’ It is such a sad story! By the way, I read the book once again, more thoroughly this time, to trace any hints on how that robot functioned. Unfortunately there was nothing in it and the funny thing is that when you read the novel you don’t care…”

Marvin Minsky has been amongst the pioneers of artificial intelligence. At the end of the 1950s, when the term did not exist, he originated a research program along with John McCarthy, a professor of Informatics at Stanford University, which was to become the famous MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Nowadays, almost forty years later, he is looking back into the field he helped to shape:

“We got stuck”, he says. “Artificial Intelligence has made it into creating a bunch of wonderful things…programs that can do better than an average stockbroker, programs that can amend certain things…

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