Event for Marvin

Today I went to a large event at the MIT Media Lab in honor of Marvin Minsky. This was very different from the much smaller event I went to shortly after he passed away, which was just for family and a few friends.

Many wonderful things were said, and I took notes. Looking at those notes now, one if my favorites is from Pat Winston, who summed up Marvin’s contribution to A.I. like this: “Alan Turing told us we could make computers intelligent, and Marvin Minsky told us how to do it.”

Another is from Brian Silverman. He was explaining how when Marvin was working with Seymour Papert on developing programming languages for kids in the early 1970s, and there was no computer that could do what Seymour needed, Marvin just designed a new kind of computer and built it himself.

I particularly like the way Brian said it: “Research required a particular thing. If that thing didn’t exist, Marvin just invented it.”

They also passed out fortune cookies at the event, each with a quote from Marvin. At the end of the evening I saw somebody carrying out a large bag of left-over fortune cookies. “Careful,” I told her, “if you eat too many of those at once, everything will start to make sense.”

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