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Marvin Minsky (1927 - 2016)

AP Photo / Robert Kaiser

Marvin Minsky (1927 - 2016)

Marvin Minsky, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, died Sunday at the age of 88, according to the Washington Post and other news sources. His death was announced by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, who distributed an email to his colleagues:

“With great great sadness, I have to report that Marvin Minsky died last night. The world has lost one of its greatest minds in science. As a founding faculty member of the Media Lab he brought equal measures of humour and deep thinking, always seeing the world differently. He taught us that the difficult is often easy, but the easy can be really hard.”

Along with fellow artificial intelligence pioneer John McCarthy, he created the artificial intelligence lab at MIT in 1959.

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MIT’s obituary for Minsky explains some of his insights:

Minsky viewed the brain as a machine whose functioning can be studied and replicated in a computer — which would teach us, in turn, to better understand the human brain and higher-level mental functions: How might we endow machines with common sense — the knowledge humans acquire every day through experience?

He was born in New York City on Aug. 9, 1927. He married his wife Gloria, a pediatrician, in 1952. Their home was known as a meeting place for science fiction writers, including their friend, Isaac Asimov. Another frequent visitor was Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who sometimes would play the bongos at their gatherings. Besides his wife, survivors include three children, a sister, and four grandchildren.

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