How do we ever understand anything? Almost always, I think, by using one or another kind of analogy—that is, by representing each new thing as though it resembles something we already know.

from The Society of Mind (1985)

Portrait of Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky

Cognitive Scientist
August 9, 1927 – January 24, 2016

Marvin Lee Minsky was an American cognitive scientist concerned largely with research of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, and author of several texts concerning AI and philosophy.


3 Documents






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Matter, Mind and Models

In this paper, Minsky ponders the enigmatic relationship between the physical and metaphysical. He suggests our inner worlds are bisected—part mechanical, part magical. This split identity leads to tangled beliefs when we probe our own natures. Though science may someday bridge the body and soul, Minsky foresees our hearts ever holding fast to ghosts in the machine. For in the end, we are but Patchwork Men—stitches of logic and fantasy, reason and madness, particles and dreams.

Mind As Society

Conscious intelligence may be viewed as a computer system composed of many smaller parallel processing programs. Marvin Minsky, Ph.D., is one of the acknowledged founders of the mathematical theory of computation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. He argues that understanding the individual as a very sophisticated machine actually affirms human dignity.

Cover image for The Society of Mind

The Society of Mind

Marvin Minsky (one of the fathers of computer science and cofounder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT) gives a revolutionary answer to the age-old question: How does the mind work? Minsky brilliantly portrays the mind as a ’society’ of tiny components that are themselves mindless. Mirroring his theory, Minsky boldly casts The Society of Mind as an intellectual puzzle whose pieces are assembled along the way. Each chapter, presented on a self-contained page, corresponds to a piece in the puzzle. As the pages turn, a unified theory of the mind emerges, like a mosaic. Ingenious, amusing, and easy to read, The Society of Mind is an adventure in imagination.

Mentioned in 4 documents

Ludwig von Bertalanffy

General System Theory

In his seminal work, biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy outlines a theory of systems that breaks down disciplinary boundaries and argues that there are general principles and laws applicable to systems of all kinds. He contends that phenomena should be viewed not in isolation but as components of systems interacting with their environments. Bertalanffy proposes that there are commonalities across biological, physical, and social systems that can be explored through systems thinking. He suggests the need for an overarching systems science to uncover these universal system principles. The book develops key concepts like open and closed systems, steady states, growth, feedback, homeostasis, differentiation, hierarchy, and emergence. General System Theory was groundbreaking in its interdisciplinary approach and helped foster the growth of systems theory across academia and society.

Gregory Stock


In this visionary book, Gregory Stock gives us a new way of understanding our world and our future. He develops the provocative thesis that human society has become an immense living being: a global superorganism in which we humans, knitted together by our modern technology and communication, are like the cells in an animal's body. Drawing on impressive research, Stock shows this newly formed superorganism to be more than metaphor: it is an actual living creature, which he has named Metaman, meaning beyond and transcending humans.

Donald Hoffman

Reality Isn't

What if the way our senses perceive reality is not at all representative of its true nature, but rather a highly abstracted interface? Donald Hoffman is working on a mathematical theory to find out.

Kevin Kelly

What Technology Wants

One of today's most respected thinkers turns the conversation about technology on its head by viewing technology as a natural system, an extension of biological evolution. By mapping the behavior of life, we paradoxically get a glimpse at where technology is headed—or "what it wants." Kevin Kelly offers a dozen trajectories in the coming decades for this near-living system. And as we align ourselves with technology's agenda, we can capture its colossal potential. This visionary and optimistic book explores how technology gives our lives greater meaning and is a must-read for anyone curious about the future.