Marvin Minsky's “The Emotion Machine”: Chapter 8.1-2 “Creativity”

Original author: Marvin Minsky
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8.1 Creativity

“Although such a machine could do a lot as well and perhaps better than us, in another it would certainly prove to be untenable, and it would be found that it does not act consciously, but only due to the location of its organs.”
- Descartes. Reasoning about the method. 1637.

We are used to using machines that are stronger and faster than people. But until the first computers appeared, no one knew that a machine could do something more than a limited number of different actions. Perhaps that is why Descartes insisted that no machine can be as inventive as a person.

“For while the mind is a universal tool that can serve under a variety of circumstances, the organs of the machine need a special arrangement for each individual action. From here it is unthinkable that there were so many different arrangements in the car, so that it could act in all cases of life in the way our mind forces us to act. ” - Descartes. Reasoning about the method. 1637.

In the same way, it was previously believed that there was an insurmountable gulf between man and animals. In The Origin of Man, Darwin observes: “Many authors insisted that man is separated by an insurmountable barrier from lower animals with regard to mental abilities . But then he clarifies that this distinction is "quantitative, not qualitative . "

Charles Darwin:“It seems to me now quite proven that man and higher animals, especially primates ... have the same feelings, impulses and sensations; everyone has the same passions, affections and emotions, even the most complex ones, such as jealousy, suspicion, competition, gratitude and generosity; ... possess, although to varying degrees, the ability to imitate, attention, reasoning and choice; possess memory, imagination, association of ideas and reason. ”

Darwin further notes that “individuals of the same species represent all levels, from sheer stupidity to a great mind” and argues that even the highest forms of human thought could develop from such variations - because he does not see insurmountable obstacles for this.

“At least the possibilities of this development cannot be denied, because we see daily examples of the development of these abilities in every child and could trace completely gradual transitions from the mind of a complete idiot ... to Newton's mind .

It is still difficult for many people to imagine the transitional steps from an animal to a human mind. In the past, this view was excusable - few thought that only a few small structural changes could significantly increase the capabilities of machines . However, in 1936, mathematician Alan Turing showed how to create a “universal” machine that can read the instructions of other machines, and then, switching between these instructions, can do everything that these machines can do.

All modern computers use this technique, so today we can use one device to arrange a meeting, edit texts or send messages to friends. Moreover, as soon as we store these instructions inside the machine, the programs may change so that the machine can expand its own capabilities. This proves that the limitations that Descartes observed were not inherent in machines, but were the result of our old-fashioned ways of constructing or programming them. For each machine that we constructed in the past, there was only one way to perform each specific task, while a person, if he is having difficulty solving a task, has alternative options.

Nevertheless, many thinkers still argue that machines can never reach heights like writing great theories or symphonies. Instead, they prefer to attribute these skills to inexplicable "talents" or "gifts." However, these abilities will become less mysterious as soon as we see that our resourcefulness could arise from various ways of thinking. Indeed, each previous chapter of this book showed how our mind offers such alternatives:

§1. We are born with many alternatives.
§2. We learn from the Imprimers (Sealers) and from friends.
§3. We are also learning what should not be done.
§4. We are capable of reflection.
§5. We can predict the consequences of imaginary actions.
§6. We use vast stocks of common sense knowledge.
§7. We can switch between different ways of thinking.

This chapter discusses the additional features that make the human mind so universal.

§8-2. We look at things from different angles.
§8-3. We have ways to quickly switch between them.
§8-4. We can learn fast.
§8-5. We can efficiently recognize relevant knowledge.
§8-6. We have different ways of representing things.

At the beginning of this book, we noted that it is difficult to perceive ourselves as a machine, since no existing machine understands the meaning, but only executes the simplest commands. Some philosophers argue that this should be so, because machines are material, while meaning exists in the world of ideas, an area outside the physical world. But in the first chapter, we suggested that we ourselves limit the machines by defining values ​​so narrowly that we cannot express their diversity:

“If you 'understand' something in only one way, you are unlikely to understand it at all - because when - Something goes wrong, you run into a wall. But if you imagine something in different ways, then there is always a way out. You can look at things from different angles until you find your solution! ”

The following examples show how this diversity makes the human mind so flexible. And we will start by assessing the distance to objects.

8.2 Estimated distance

Do you want a microscope instead of an eye?
But you are not a mosquito and not a microbe.
Why look at us, judge for yourself,
On the aphids, neglecting the heavens

- A. Pope. Experience about a person. (per. V. Mikushevich)

When you are thirsty, you are looking for something to drink, and if you see a mug next to it, you can just take it, but if the mug is far enough, you will have to go up to it. But how do you know what things you can reach? A naive person does not see any problems here: "You just look at the thing and see where it is . " But when Joan noticed an approaching car in chapter 4-2 or grabbed a book in 6-1, how did she know the distance to them?

In primitive times, people had to evaluate how close the predator was. Today we need to evaluate unless there is enough time to cross the street - however, our life depends on it. Fortunately, we have many ways to estimate the distance to objects.

For example, a regular cup the size of a hand. So if a cup fills as much space as your outstretched hand! imagethen you can reach out and take it. You can also estimate how far the chair is from you, since you know its approximate size.

Even if you do not know the size of the object, you can still estimate the distance to it. For example, if one of the two things of the same size looks smaller, then it is further away. Such an assumption may be erroneous if this thing is a model or a toy. If the objects overlap each other, regardless of their relative sizes, the one that is in front is closer.


You can also get spatial information about how parts of the surface are lit or shaded, as well as about the perspective and environment of the object. Again, such clues are sometimes misleading; the images of the two blocks below are identical, but the context suggests that they have different sizes.


If you assume that two objects lie on one surface, then the one that lies above is further away. Finer-grained textures appear farther, like blurry objects.



You can estimate the distance to the object by comparing different images from each of the eyes. By the angle between these images or by the small “stereoscopic” differences between them.



The closer an object is to you, the faster it moves. You can also evaluate the size by how quickly the focus of vision changes.



And finally, besides all these methods of perception, you can estimate distance without using vision at all - if you saw an object earlier, you remember its location.

Student: why so many methods, if two or three are enough?

Every minute of wakefulness, we make hundreds of distance estimates, and yet, we almost fall from the stairs or crash into the door. Each of the methods for estimating distance has its drawbacks. Focusing only works on close subjects - some people cannot focus their vision at all. Binocular vision works at great distances, but some cannot match images from each of the eyes. Other methods do not work if the horizon is not visible or texture and blur are not available. Knowledge applies only to familiar objects, but an object can have an unusual size - nevertheless, we rarely make fatal errors, since we have many ways to estimate distance.

If each method has its pros and cons, what should I trust? In the following chapters, we will discuss several ideas about how we can quickly switch between different ways of thinking.

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“The Table of Contents of The Emotion Machine”
Chapter 6. COMMON SENSE [ eng ]
Chapter 7. Thinking [ eng ]
Chapter 8. Resourcefulness
8‑1. Resourcefulness
8‑2. Estimating Distances

8-3. Panalogy
8-4. How does Human Learning work
8‑5. Credit-Assignment
8‑6. Creativity and Genius
8‑7. Memories and representatives
Chapter 9. The Self [ eng ]

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