Goodbye to “one best way” solutions

Marvin Minsky of the MIT Media Lab and MIT AI Lab has a very pragmatic approach to robotic engineering and artificial intelligence based on systematic redundancy. “I’ve never seen any mechanical device that actually shows any thought about reliability,” he says (4:40) and goes on to explain his approach (from 4:45):

“My theory is that there are lots of theories about how the brain works. And you can see some guy saying “I have a neural net theory about how to make a machine that’ll learn anything.” And this one has a statistical theory of how to learn anything. And this one says “I’m going to make a simulated evolution.” And this one says “I’m going to make a rule-based system.” And there are about 10 movements in AI that, since about 1980, have gotten some good results, but stopped making progress. And the reason is, everyone’s trying to find the best way to do something.

Well, what you want is something like this” (he shows his mechanical leg model) “where you have six pretty good ways of doing something, and if some of them don’t work maybe the other ones will.

… To me, we’re just big gadgets, and made out of lots of little gadgets. And the important thing is to figure out how to put them all together, not holistically, but reductionalistically, so that if anything breaks, something else will take over.”

Now, that’s a widely applicable approach, I’d say.

Say, Mr Minsky, are you the original Q?

(Thanks, Christian)

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye to “one best way” solutions”

  1. Hi Anne,

    It is an amazing video but how about to look to it by a different way…..

    1st Each human of us is a miracle or in other words each human of us is a great creature because trying to mimic any part of our bodies needs hundreds of years of work and research and I am sure that we will not succeed 100 % also to mimic it. So we should be happy and grateful that we are humans and I hope from all criminals and terriorists to appreciate the deep meaning of being a human because humans are the greatest creatures in our universe and they are more important than oil, money and power.

    2nd Although, the artificial intelligence went to very good steps but that kind of research is too much limited from my point of view because emotions is the most important part in any kind of intelligence but we cannot add them to any robot.

    3rd I believe in that our minds are in our hearts not in our brains and I have several scientific proofs but I will comment later. I will end my comment by asking a question……..

    At which part of our bodies do our minds exist ?

    Please, make a research before answering

    I wish you all the best my lovely Anne.

  2. Dear Hassan,

    Thanks very much for your comment. I’m with you on humans being irreplaceable, and that we can’t reduce humans to their functionality. However, what do we do when people need a little help from an engineer? What about our own “spare parts”, Hassan? Just think of the thousands of survivors in Haiti who will have sustained amputations and now need prostheses. Those arms and legs will have to work after the helicopter helpers have gone home. Minsky’s approach would be to make an arm or leg that will function even if some of its functionalities break down.

    What I like about Mr Minsky is his brilliant pragmatism.

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