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The Society of Mind

by Marvin Minsky

The Society of Mind offers a revolutionary theory of human thought. Marvin Minsky proposes that the mind consists of several kinds of non-thinking entities, called agents. Agents alone repeat their tasks with great acumen, but they execute their work with no understanding of it. Thought occurs when societies of agents interact and relate, much as a jet engine's components work to generate thrust.

Minsky scatters his assertions and relies on the reader to retain their pattern. Chapters often cover less than a page. And each page represents little more than a thought fragment. There is no narrative or plot. The ideas, however, taken in their entirety, represent a radical theory of the mind. In Minsky's world, the brain is a meat machine and the mind is its work.

Many will be discouraged to be reduced to the level of machinery. Recognition that we are machines, even at the rudimentary level of Minsky's theory, presents us with the opportunity to search for the mechanisms of the mind. Introductions often speak of Minsky as the father of artificial intelligence. His previous contributions may find themselves shadowed by The Society of Mind. With these ruminations, Minsky unleashes the possibility that we can build machines that truly mimic the mind. Now we must wait for the software designers to emulate the machinery and the nanoengineers to build it.

(D. Rasmus)


The Society of Mind
Simon and Schuster
Simon and Schuster Building
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

graphic: Signal Catalog

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In other words, we memorize what we're thinking about by making a list of the agents involved in that activity. Making a K-line is like making a list of the people who came to a successful party.

Sometimes, though, our sense of objectivity can get reversed as when an attitude or memory becomes more stable and persistent that what it represents. For example, our attitudes toward things we love or loathe are often much less changeable than those things themselvesparticularly in the case of other people's personalities. In instances like these, our private memories can be more rigid than reality.

Functional Autonomy. In the course of pursuing any sufficiently complicated problem, the subgoals that engage our attentions can become both increasingly more ambitious and increasingly detached from the original problem.

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Gareth Branwyn -

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