Thanks, I needed that.

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry

I was surprised.

I was just eating lunch by myself in the cafeteria.  I am attentive, not expressive, kind of guy.  Besides this was the first time I was visiting MIT, as a part of Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference.  No, my SATs were not good enough to get into CalTech (or MIT), and I am a west coast guy, anyway.

But, lo and behold.  He sat down next to me.  Obviously, to strike up a conversation.

Marvin Minsky.

Ok, now I wasn’t a kid anymore.  I was industry-based AI researcher (Hughes Research Labs, HRL) working at the time on Autonomous Vehicle research.   Minsky didn’t know me, but, I knew a fair amount about him.

Marvin Minsky, full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and “one of fathers of Artificial Intelligence”, came to my table clearly because he was curious.  Minsky, a Fieldmarshal Rational, had been very successful in promoting his graduate students to getting academic professorships across the lands. The list of his PhD students is more than impressive. He had government and university funding. MIT is a technological power house.  Money, People, and Companies have been flocking to MIT well before I was born.

I tried to make our conversation as interesting as I could.  Hey, Marvin was a legend in my field: Artificial Intelligence.

After about 5-10 minutes of conversation, me doing most of the talking about the autonomous vehicle project that I had been involved with, Marvin excuse himself, and wandered over to another table with a couple of people and joined in that conversation.

He didn’t get any useful out of me, in his mind, no doubt.
He moved on.

Thanks, I needed that.

I did get something useful out of the encounter.
A slow idea. But not a fast idea.  A hint on a part of an idea on how the world works.
It was a Kuhnian moment for me, I knew some things that Marvin couldn’t imagine.

But look around Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside’s
Bound to be a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned

Fast Ideas. Old ideas.

[-]Minsky wrote the book Perceptrons(with Seymour Papert), which became the foundational work in the analysis of artificial neural networks. This book is the center of a controversy in the history of AI, as some claim it to have had great importance in discouraging research of neural networks in the 1970s, and contributing to a so-called “AI winter“.[-] {From Wikipedia}

I look around Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter


Consensus Science is not Science. Fast Ideas and Bandwagon research is useful and necessary, but better serves as mulch or swampland for the development of slow ideas of the future.tishby_minsky_comeback

Naftali Tishby was not as ambiguous as Wikipedia’s descriptive opinion (“controversy”) on Minsky’s “fast idea”.

.. neural networks were essentially bashed or killed by two clever people, Minsky and Papert in their famous book Perceptrons. … A classical example of perfectly rigorous work, but completely wrong.  Full of interesting theorems, a lot of insight, but the basic thesis they were trying to prove that Perceptrons can’t work for pattern recognition, was completely wrong.

Although not in the neural network field directly, I was never a fan of Marvin Minsky.  When he gave his talks and published his papers in 70’s and 80’s, I was never impressed (in fact, thought most of his stuff was mediocre at best), even before I had talked with him in the late 80’s in that MIT cafeteria.   But, give the man his due, a pioneer in the field, no more, no less. A seasoned technocrat who pitched his ideas and his student’s ideas successfully to get fame and funding.

HRL Team  “Autonomous Vehicles are the future, and we’re almost there”            — DMK 1987

With the second AI winter occurring, not of Minsky’s doing, rather Jack Schwarz and his cronies, I was laid off at HRL in 1995.

Carry your cup in your hand
And look around you
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say

But the World Wide Web had arrived in 1993, and I had been its Pied Piper within HRL.  HRL’s director considered the Internet as too much hype.

Starting to help my father, I created the website in 1995.

Meanwhile Geoffrey Hinton kept at it with the help of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research,  Slow Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (no thanks to Schwarz and Chomsky, and well, Minsky either)

But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend That you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life
Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
–A Hazy Shade of Winter
Simon & Garfunkel


You haven’t seen nothing yet.

“Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.”
–Baruch Spinoza

“Only the self-educated and educated person is free.”
DMK hacked from Epictetus

Other Fieldmarshal Rationals include: Tan LeMuriel SiebertJerry BussJohn AdamsIndra Nooyi,William Pitt, the YoungerEllen Sirleaf and Joyce Banda, and Margaret Thatcher.

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