Marvin Minsky on Emotion


Can we stop epidemics by stopping people from shaking each others' hands? Can we solve global overconsumption by making people smaller, or just getting rid of mostly everybody? If a "one child per family" policy means children's families are small, why not add dozens more parents to each family? Artificial intelligence maven Marvin Minsky tackles these "solutions" in a tongue-in-cheek TED Talk from 2003.

Minsky makes an interesting point (in a roundabout way) about the nature of emotion and its role in human problem-solving: we wouldn't implement any of the above-mentioned solutions to human problems, because emotionally they wouldn't work. So what good are emotions, and how are they relevant to machine intelligence? I'll let Minsky explain.

For more on Marvin Minsky, check out his article on mathematics education and his Wikipedia page. Or just become enlightened by this "artificial intelligence koan" credited to Minsky's student Danny Hillis:

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6. "What are you doing?" asked Minsky. "I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-tac-toe," Sussman replied. "Why is the net wired randomly?" asked Minsky. "I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play," Sussman said. Minsky then shut his eyes. "Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher. "So that the room will be empty." At that moment, Sussman was enlightened. What I actually said was, "If you wire it randomly, it will still have preconceptions of how to play. But you just won't know what those preconceptions are." -- Marvin Minsky