Marvin Minsky, often called the Father of Artificial Intelligence, died last week at age 88.
Part-scientist, part-philosopher, he laid the foundations of the field of Artificial Intelligence in the 1950s. His work helped inspire the creation of the personal computer and the Internet.
What did he do that was so cool? Let's find out.
Before Minsky, computers were more like calculators, performing math operations at speeds much faster than humans. Minsky was the first to say that computers can one day be as intelligent as human beings. He was so convinced about this, that in 1959, he and his friend John McCarthy coined the term "Artificial Intelligence" at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Minsky was the first to create a theory for "common sense" in computers. He examined deeply, how human beings thought about things and situations, and created mathematical "models" to mimic that thinking.
Minsky wrote a book called Perceptrons, describing a particular type of "artificial neural network", mimicking how nerves are wired in the brain. Neural Networks have made a comeback in a new field of Computer Science called Deep Learning. Deep Learning is used to recognize things and people in pictures (as seen in Facebook and Google Photos), language translation (try Google Translate), and so on.
Robotics, Microscopes and Virtual Reality
How many of you have done Robotics at school and loved it? You have Minsky to thank again, for his work on robotic arms and grippers, and visual scanners (which inspired robot cameras). One of his biggest inventions was the confocal scanning microscope, an instrument that is still widely used today in medical and scientific research.
Minsky was remarkably futuristic. He created one of the first head-mounted graphics displays, which gave rise to the exciting area of Virtual Reality. This year, Facebook is releasing Oculus, a virtual reality headset, which you can use to play games with your friends in an immersive 3-D environment - stay tuned for a Youngzine article on Virtual Reality!
Minsky's major prediction that computers will one day become as intelligent as humans is now called the Theory of Singularity.
Thinking exercise for you: What do you think will happen to the world, if Singularity is achieved? Will computers take over the world? Will there be wars between humans and computers? Will humans form emotional bonds with computers?