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The Society of Mind Paperback – March 15, 1988
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For some artificial intelligence researchers, Minsky's book is too far removed from hard science to be useful. For others, the high-level approach of The Society of Mind makes it a gold mine of ideas waiting to be implemented. The author, one of the undisputed fathers of the discipline of AI, sets out to provide an abstract model of how the human mind really works. His thesis is that our minds consist of a huge aggregation of tiny mini-minds or agents that have evolved to perform highly specific tasks. Most of these agents lack the attributes we think of as intelligence and are severely limited in their ability to intercommunicate. Yet rational thought, feeling, and purposeful action result from the interaction of these basic components. Minsky's theory does not suggest a specific implementation for building intelligent machines. Still, this book may prove to be one of the most influential for the future of AI.
From Publishers Weekly
Minsky, cofounder of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, is a charter member of the community of AI pioneers committed to understanding the workings of the human mind and mimicking its processes by computer. Here he takes his place as this generation's Buckminster Fullera revered seminal thinker whose depth and originality sometimes place him out of reach for many. But Minsky's difference is his style: he writes aphoristically, with wit and precision, and makes the most of his perception that the mind learns by images, which perform as agents that connect, interact and even "censor" in a staggeringly subtle "society" of microprocedures. This holistic view of the mind's learning stages is the culmination of Minsky's study, and its insights into the developing world of computers-as-machines are matched by paradoxically intuitive glimpses of the growth of a sense of "self" through introspection, short- and long-term memory, mind-frames utilizing pictures and language. Minsky's creative terminology for freshly perceived mental processes is a major contribution to the future of mind-science. Illustrated. Major ad/promo; Macmillan Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
And yet the book survives (is still in print) today. Addison-Wesley, however, is long "out of print."
Each page is its own discrete article. There are 270 of them. Minsky, in structuring his book this way, uses form to reinforce his ideas about function: The mind is not one big thing; rather it is a collection of small, independent agents, none of which possesses intelligence on its own, that - all working together - create The Society of Mind.
It's a great book to read, but not so easy to understand. You need to be deeply philosophical to understand and enjoy it. I am, so I do. It helps to have a background in psychology of computers.
He explains more or less how he would build a brain, without worrying too much about how ours actually work,
but shows that his model fits well with casual observation.
From a technical perspective his ideas have been to some extent superseded by others like Kurzweil and Hawkins, but he was really the first to layout that this can be done, and that our minds truly do function as a society of individuals rather than a single cohesive whole.
But what I like about it is it's easy to walk away from for a while and pick it back up again. The essays are each only a few pages, so you can just read one a week, dwell on it, then read the next essay. It's a strange book, I wish I knew of more like it.