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Marvin Minsky selected for Dan David Foundation Prize

Marvin Minsky
Marvin Minsky
Photo: Wikipedia

Each year, the Dan David Foundation, headquartered at Tel Aviv University, selects a laureate — for each of three time dimensions past, present and future — who represents the culmination of innovative and interdisciplinary research fostering universal values and goals towards promotion of outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social achievements that improve the world.

This year the Dan David Foundation International Board selected MIT professor emeritus Marvin Minsky to receive the Dan David Foundation Prize for the Future Time Dimension titled “Artificial Intelligence: The Digital Mind." Minsky was selected as one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence. He is cited as among the most influential intellectuals of the 20th century in a variety of disciplines, including AI, robotics, computation, learning, cognition, philosophy and optics.

Marvin Minsky is professor emeritus of media arts and sciences and a founding member of the MIT Media Lab, where he continues to teach and mentor. He came to MIT as a faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1958, and in 1959 co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, for which he served as co-director until 1974. He was the Donner Professor of Science at MIT from 1974 to 1989, and became the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences in 1990.

Pioneering robotics and telepresence, Minsky is recognized for his work using computational ideas to characterize human psychological processes — and working to endow machines with intelligence. His early 1960s papers “Steps Towards Artificial Intelligence,” “Matter, Mind, and Models,” and (co-authored with Seymour Papert) “Perceptrons,” placed Minsky in the forefront of the new field of AI. With Papert, Minsky proposed a new theory they called “The Society of Mind” — combining developments from child psychology with their research on AI to address the complexity of intelligence. 

Minsky continued to develop this theory through the next decade, publishing in 1985 a book of the same title and proposing individual mechanisms to account for a matching psychological phenomenon. He proposed theories to account for human higher-level feelings and uniquely human resourcefulness in his 2006 sequel, titled, “The Emotion Machine."

Minsky has received numerous awards including the ACM Turing Award in 1970, the IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award in 1995 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute in 2001. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and many other societies. He completed his PhD dissertation at Princeton University in 1954. It was titled, “Neural Nets and the Brain Model Problem.” This represented the first publication of theories and theorems about learning in neural networks, secondary reinforcement, circulating dynamic storage, and synaptic modifications.

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