This past weekend, Marvin Minksy, one of the founding fathers of computer science, passed away at the age of 88. Educated at Harvard and Princeton, The MIT Technology Review recalls, “Minsky believed that the human mind was fundamentally no different than a computer, and he chose to focus on engineering intelligent machines, first at Lincoln Lab, and then later as a professor at MIT, where he cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1959 with another pioneer of the field, John McCarthy.” During the 1980s, Minsky published The Society of Mind, a seminal work which posited that there’s no essential difference between humans and machines, because humans are “actually machines of a kind whose brains are made up of many semiautonomous but unintelligent ‘agents’.” (Quote comes from this NYTimes obit, not Minsky directly).
Above, you can watch The Society of Mind taught as a free online course. Presented at MIT in 2011, Minsky takes you through his theories about how the human mind works, emphasizing “aspects of thinking that are so poorly understood that they are still considered to be more philosophical than scientific.” The goal, however, is to “replace ill-defined folk theories of ‘consciousness’, ‘self’ and ’emotion’ with more concrete computational concepts.” Lectures in the course include ones intriguingly called “Falling in Love,” “From Panic to Suffering,” and “Common Sense.” In addition to The Society of Mind, the course also centers around another book by Minsky, The Emotion Machine, which you can read free online here.
Minsky’s course will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. His book, The Emotion Machine, can be found in our other collection: 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.