Marvin Minsky, who sadly passed away earlier this week, wasn’t just the smartest person I knew. I think he might have been the smartest person that anybody knew. He was in a whole different category.

But I’m not really talking here about intelligence on something as obvious as a linear scale. It’s more that Marvin’s mind was extraordinarily free. He could fly through idea space the way a swallow flies through the air. He would see connections where nobody else even thought to look, leap effortlessly from one concept to an entire new category of concepts, and in general make anybody he was talking with feel ten times smarter.

And all of this without an ounce of hubris. Marvin didn’t care who you were, or whether you were the “right” sort of intellectual. I’ve seen him ignore a room filled with Nobel prize winners, to focus on conversation with a single high school student, just because that student was seriously interested in discussing ideas. He was a true democrat, who believed in the power and the potential of each individual human mind.

I will miss him deeply. The world is a poorer place for having lost him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *