Image of "Minsky Arm"
“Minsky Arm,” Marvin Minsky, 1967–1973

“What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle.”
— Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Professor Marvin Minsky created a robotic arm that used a video camera and computer to build with children’s blocks. This work was the principal inspiration and source of ideas for his landmark book on the workings of the human mind, The Society of Mind (1986). While it might seem counterintuitive to build a machine without a conceptual framework, the method proved surprisingly effective and gave rise to Minsky’s theory that the mind is composed of a multitude of little processes called “agents.” As Minsky put it: “Each mental agent by itself can only do some simple thing that needs no mind or thought at all. Yet when we join these agents in societies—in certain very special ways—this leads to true intelligence.”

Exhibited:
Minsky Arm
Marvin Minsky
1967–1973

photo: MIT Museum Collections

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