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The Society of Mind [Hardcover]

Marvin Minsky
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 1987
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?"
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition First Printing edition (Jan 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671607405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671607401
  • Product Dimensions: 28.2 x 21.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Professor Guy Cellerier Genetic Artificial Intelligence and Epistemics Laboratory, University of Geneva A PROFOUND AND FASCINATING BOOK that lays down the foundations for the solution of one of the last great problems of modern science....Marks a new era. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best AI book available. 31 Oct 2008
This book will boggle your mind as it describes every aspect of the human psychological model in detail. It is quite a lot to take in but Marvin Minsky really knows his stuff with a long career in NASA's Robotics devision. Definitely worth the read if you have any vague interest in the mind or artificial intelligence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unbelievable 2 Jun 2010
Fascinating book. So well written and presented this book has been very enjoyable to read, the ideas are explained well with easy to understand examples. An amazing insight into how the human mind could work I would highly recommend this to anyone even remotely interested in intelligence and their own existence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is amazing. It combines developmental/child psychology, computer science, artificial intelligence, theory of knowledge and all sorts of other things in something that appears truly timeless and wise, in so many ways. Every page of this book is a key and inspiration to enjoying really substantial challenges.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This book tries to explain how the mind works 7 July 2013
By bernie VINE VOICE
Before one can understand artificial intelligence one must understand the real thing.

This book has lots of fin diagrams as it explained the complexities of what is not one whole comprehensive entity but the "society of the Mind."

It may be a tad dated but the concept is still solid.

And now for something a tad more dated:

Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics by Alfred Korzybski
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  56 reviews
96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly original...will make you "think out of the box". 5 July 2001
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on
In this book the author attempts to explain the workings of the human mind as a collection of a large number of autonomous mindless connected agents. The approach is metaphorical/philosophical, and no empirical evidence is given for the ideas expounded. The "society of mind", composed as it is of a collection of simple objects, is purely reductionist in its strategy and philosophy. It is though a highly original and thought provoking introduction to the major questions involving mental states, concept formation in the brain, learning theory, and artificial intelligence. The author gives many interesting examples that entice the reader to "think out of the box".
The book itself is written as though each chapter were itself one of these agents. Typically a chapter poses a question or a particular phenomenon, and the author then addresses how the mind would implement of resolve this question or deal with this phenomenon. Some interesting chapters in the book include:
1. Self-Knowledge is Dangerous: The author argues that mental constraints are needed to prevent the individual from artificially creating emotional states that would prevent deliberate action on our part. An intelligent machine will then need to have such constraints in order to prevent it from repeating endlessly the same activity.
2. Learning from Failure: Minsky argues that confining oneself to positive learning experiences will not be as robust or effective as one that will involve some kind of discomfort or pain. Such discomfort will enable more radical changes in conceptual structure.
3. Power of Negative Thinking: The author argues that an optimistic problem-solving strategy is contingent on the ability to recognize several paths to the solution, with the best path then selected. When such knowledge is not available, a "pessimistic" strategy is more optimal. The solution in this case is one that at first glance seems the worst possible avenue of approach.
4. Emotion: The question is posed as to whether machines can be intelligent without any emotions. The author seems to be arguing, and plausibly I think, that emotions serve as a defense against competing interests when a goal is set. Emotional responses occur when the most important goal(s) are disrupted by other influences. Intelligent machines then will need to have the many complex checks and balances.
5. Must Machines be Logical: It is argued correctly that intelligent machines must employ reasoning tools other then ones that are strictly logical. Logic is strictly a side constraint, a test that prevents invalid conclusions. It cannot by itself lead to genuine knowledge.
6. Mathematics Made Hard: Minsky argues that the strategy behind the construction of mathematical systems, via strict definitions and categorization, results in systems that have very small "meaning" content. More robust systems must be developed and integrated into the educational process and into any design for intelligent machines.
7. Weighing Evidence: There is an interesting example of a collection of four index cards on two of which are connected line patterns, and on the other two disconnected line patterns. When the cards are cut into many pieces, and put into separate piles, then a machine with a feature weighing capability would be unable to distinguish between the piles.
8. The Mind and the World: The author's thinking on the mind-body problem is a very sensible one, namely that "minds are simply what brains do". It matters not, according to the author, what the substance of mind (brain) is, only what it (the agents) do.
A few omissions in the book include the discussion on intelligence: the author never really gives his outlook or "definition" of intelligence, but merely comments on a few other opinions on this concept. If one is to make "intelligent" machines, it is important that intelligence be characterized explicitly so that one will know when and if the goal of artificial intelligence has been reached. The author correctly argues however that expert systems can and have been successfully constructed, and that the most formidable obstacle to constructing an "intelligent" machine is in implementing the ability of humans to exercise "common sense".
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 1 Mar 2005
By Cindy F. Solomon - Published on
In this book Minsky tries, as have many scientists before him, to explain what seems unexplainable. Even though in present day, many people believe in science over magic, the majority still believes that the brain is somehow magical and cannot be replicated. Minsky asks what stops us from building a brain out of steel instead of carbon? He breaks down the mind in a way that anyone can understand how it works.

I'm almost 14 and in the 8th grade. I picked up this book for a research project on Cognitive Psychology because it was the only thing I could find that wasn't written for graduate students. Not only could I understand it, but it kept my attention (unlike most non-fiction books) and I enjoyed reading it. I liked how Minsky could take the most complex thing in the world, the brain, and describe it in easy to understand terms. There were many pictures and diagrams used to represent the text. For example, to show the basics of how the mind works using many separate agents, Minsky used the example of a child building a tower out of blocks and how the agent in the child's mind, called "builder" and all of "builder's" agents beneath it created the tower out of blocks.

I recommend this book for anyone curious about what goes on in the mind to cause people's actions as well as anyone interested in artificial intelligence.
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the all-time important books 17 Jun 1998
By Random Access - Published on
This book does more to explain the fundamental structure of the human mind than all the volumes of developmental psychology that I've read. In a step-by-step process, Minsky constructs a believable thesis for a way in which the human mind in all its complexity can be built up, layer by layer, from the interactions of "agents", functional subroutines. Some agents are hard-wired by evolution and some are learned. The learned ones stay in consciousness only while they are being built and then become the substrate for higher-level constructs. "The Society of Mind" had shaped the way I look at consciousness.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ingenious 17 April 2001
By Ofir - Published on
I have been reading many books concerened with artificial intelligence and the mind during the past years. Many of them drift off into endless philosophy, or get into too much psychological analysis.
Compared to other books out there, this one is easy to read, and is deeply inspiring. Chapters are concise, and comprehendible. I would recommend this book to anybody who is new to AI and overall theories of the mind.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read if you are interested in how the mind works. 9 Aug 2003
By Harinath Thummalapalli - Published on
The fundamental assumption underlying the principles in the book is that the mind is a result of many small and independent pieces that act in a predictable way and CANNOT think for themselves - but that the result (the mind) CAN think. Of course, the title 'The Society of the Mind' is not a good fit to the ideas in the book because Society and its parts (individual minds) can BOTH think.
But leaving these kind of simple inconsistencies and incongruencies (I discovered at least a couple after some deep thinking) to the side, this book makes for an absolutely fascinating read if you are interested in the subject of how the mind works. The approach is very unique, and the ideas are thought provoking. There are 270 components in the book grouped into 30 chapters and each component takes up 1-2 pages to explain the idea and some basic logic supporting the idea presented in that component. The book has 339 pages in case you are wondering (including the index).
The format of the book makes it very convenient to pick up the book once in a while and read 5-6 ideas in a 15 minute sitting. Of course, to get the most benefit from the book, you have to read one chapter at a time as each chapter contains ideas that are interconnected. The best approach would be to finish reading the book in 2 or 3 sittings so you can connect all the ideas. The author does warn you at the beginning that there are a lot of cross-connections between the different ideas that you may miss. You have to take this advice into consideration and pay extra attention to connecting the ideas in order to get the real theory that the author is trying to communicate. He never actually explains the theory in a nutshell. He leaves it to the reader to come to some conclusions that hopefully will match the author's theory.
Marvin Minsky cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT and this book gets accolades from some very well known and popular figures like Douglas Hofstadter, Michael Crichton, and Gene Roddenberry.
The book has numerous thought experiments that are fun to do! There are also references made to the works of some very eminent scientists and thinkers. The best part about the book is the simplicity of Dr. Minsky's theory on how the Mind works. The second best part about the book is the really elegant way he explains his theory.
The first downside to the book - the actual theory is never explained explicitly but contained implicitly in the different ideas presented throughout the book. The second downside to the book - there isn't clear logic backing some of the ideas and you have to take the author's word for it.
My opinion in a nutshell - this is a book definitely worth buying for your personal book collection. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book for several years now and even though I personally disagree with some of the ideas in the book (you may quickly find yourself feeling the same way), I believe that it is a beautiful work. Enjoy reading this book, you won't regret the time or the few dollars spent.
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