Marvin Minsky's “The Emotion Machine”: Introduction

Original author: Marvin Minsky
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Nora Joyce to her husband James: “Why don't you write a book that people can understand?”
I hope this book will be useful to those interested in the work of human thinking, those who want advice on its development or are trying to design smart machines. It will be useful to those who want to learn more about artificial intelligence. As well as psychologists, neurologists, computer scientists, philosophers, as they develop new ideas that they are working on.

We all admire achievements in science, art and literature, but rarely recognize our achievements in everyday life. We recognize what we see, understand the meaning of what we have heard, and can apply our accumulated knowledge and experience to solve new problems.

We are also capable of the fact that no other living creature can: as soon as our way of thinking fails, we begin to think about our thoughts- such reflective thinking helps to find a mistake in reasoning and helps to invent new, more effective ways of thinking. However, we still know very little about how our brains deal with this. How does imagination work? What is consciousness? What are emotions, feelings, thoughts? And in the end, what do we think?

Compare this to progress in the natural sciences. What are solids, liquids and gases? What is color, sound and temperature? What is force, pressure and deformation? What is the nature of energy? Today, almost all such puzzles are explained by several simple laws - the equations of Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and Schrödinger.

It is not surprising that psychologists tried to imitate physicists in the search for laws that explain what is happening in the brain. However, this book claims that it will fail, because there are no such laws, because in every brain there are hundreds of parts developing to perform a certain type of work: some parts determine the situation, others give signals to the muscles, others form goals and plans Fourth accumulate and use knowledge. And although we do not know how each part works, we know that their structure is based on the information contained in the genes. Thus, each part of the brain acts under the influence of different laws.

And since we understand how complex the brain is, we need to act not like physicists, but vice versa - instead of looking for simple explanations of the most famous thought processes, find complex ones.

For example, the meanings of the words “feelings”, “emotions” or “consciousness” seem so natural, clear, human, that it is not clear where to start the reasoning. But this book says that each of these words describes the effects of processes in large networks within the brain. Chapter 4 shows that “consciousness” refers to more than 20 such processes.

You might think that we are only making things worse by complicating things, rather than simplifying things. But on a large scale, this increased complexity will ease our task. As soon as we divide the old puzzle into parts, we will replace the old, big problem with a few small ones - complex, but solvable. In addition, Chapter 9 states that treating yourself as a complex machine does not detract from our dignity and enhances our sense of responsibility.

The separation of these large tasks into smaller ones will begin with the image of an ordinary brain containing a lot of parts, which we will call “resources” [1].

We will use this picture to explain any thought process (Anger, Love, Shame), trying to show how each state of mind can be the result of the action of certain mental resources. For example, what we call “Anger” seems to involve resources that make us react with unusual speed and power, while suppressing resources that make us plan and act with caution. Thus Anger replaces caution with aggressiveness, and sympathy with enmity. Similarly, the Fear state uses resources to retreat.

Citizen: Sometimes it all seems funny and joyful to me. And another time (although nothing changes) everything around me seems gloomy and sad, and friends say that I am “depressed” or “depressed.” Where do I get these states of consciousness - or mood, feelings, character - what are their cause?

One of the popular answers is “It's all about brain chemistry” or “This is the result of stress” or “This is because of a negative way of thinking . Nevertheless, these statements do not say anything about the actual work of these processes, while the idea of ​​choosing a set of resources may offer more specific ways in which our thinking changes. Part 1 suggests reflecting on the following fact:

When a person you know is in love, it seems as though they have replaced him - his thinking, goals, and priorities change. As if someone flipped a switch - and launched another program.

What can cause such changes in the brain? This book takes the following approach:

Each of the main “emotional states” is the result of the inclusion of certain resources, while other resources are turned off - thus changing the way the brain works

But what activates resource sets? The following parts show that there must be resources in the brain that are responsible for the “Criticism” - each of which recognizes a certain state and activates a certain set of other resources. Some Critics are innate — fear, anger, hunger, and thirst; they helped our ancestors survive. Thus Anger and Fear developed for protection, and Hunger and Thirst for nutrition.

As we grow older and learn, we develop the ability to activate other sets of resources, states that we consider more “intellectual” or “emotional”.

For example, as soon as you encounter a difficult task, your mind switches between different Images of Mind - choosing different sets of resources helps to divide the task into smaller parts or find suitable analogies or find a solution in your memories - or even ask someone to help. In other words:

Each of the main Thinking Patterns is the result of turning certain resources on or off - in this way the way the brain works.

The rest of the book argues that this switch may be what is inherent in our mind - unique creative potential. For example, in the first parts we will try to show how this explains such states of mind as Love, Affection, Grief and Depression, in terms of how they use our resources. The following chapters discuss more “intellectual” types of thinking.

Citizen: It is strange that you equally explain emotions and ordinary thinking. Thinking is basically rational - dry, detached, logical - while emotions enliven our ways of thinking, adding irrational feelings and prejudices.

The traditional view of emotions is that they add color to ordinary simple thoughts, just as artists use colors to enhance the effect of black and white drawings. However, this book instead argues that many of our emotional states cause some specific ways of thinking to begin to suppress our use of certain resources! For example, in Chapter 1, “hobby” will be depicted as a condition in which we suppress some resources that we could use to recognize someone else’s mistakes. In addition, I think this is a myth that there is such a thing as purely logical rational thinking, because our thinking always depends on our assumptions, values ​​and goals.

Citizen: It still seems to me that you greatly simplify everything. For example, emotional states such as fear and disgust include both the body and the brain: we feel discomfort in the chest or abdomen, palpitations or weakness, and we are trembling or sweating.

I agree that this opinion may seem too extreme, but sometimes, in order to explore new ideas, we need to postpone our old ideas, at least temporarily. For example, it is widely believed that emotions are deeply connected with the state of the body. Nevertheless, in Chapter 7 an opposite point of view is described, considering our body parts as resources that the brain can use to change (or maintain) its mental state! For example, you can sometimes force yourself to keep a certain expression on your face.

So, although this book is called The Machine of Emotions, it claims that emotional states are not particularly different from the processes that we call “thinking”; emotions are a certain way of thinking that we use to increase our creativity, and if passions do not deceive us, this variety of ways of thinking should be such a significant part of what we call “intelligence”, which, perhaps, we should call "ingenuity." And this applies not only to emotional states, but also to all our mental activity:

If you “understand” something in only one way, then you understand almost nothing, because you have nowhere to go if you do not have a solution. But if you present something in different ways, then if you are rather upset, you can switch between different points of view until you find one that works!

Accordingly, when we develop machines to simulate the mind, that is, to create artificial intelligence, we need to make sure that these machines are also equipped with a sufficient variety:

If the program works in only one way, then when this method crashes, the program stops working. But a program that has several ways to continue can then switch to a different approach or find a suitable replacement.

This idea is the central theme of this book, and it absolutely does not coincide with the popular opinion that each person has a central core - some invisible spirit or self, from which all mental abilities emanate. For it seems a humiliating idea - that all our virtues are secondary, or that we do not deserve recognition for our achievements, because they come to us as gifts from some other source. Instead, I see our dignity in what makes each of us: a colossal collection of different ways to deal with different situations and difficulties. This diversity distinguishes us from most other animals - and from all the machines that we built in the past - and each chapter of this book will examine some of the sources of our unique human ingenuity.

  • Part 1. We are born with many mental resources.
  • Part 2. Learning to interact with others.
  • Part 3. Emotions are different Images of Thinking.
  • Part 4. Learning to think about recent thoughts.
  • Part 5. Learning to think at different levels.
  • Part 6. We are accumulating tremendous experience.
  • Part 7. Switching between different Images of Thinking.
  • Part 8. We find various ways of representing things.
  • Part 9. We build various models of ourselves.

For centuries, psychologists have been looking for ways to explain our everyday thought processes, but many thinkers still consider the nature of the mind a secret. In fact, it is still widely believed that the mind consists of ingredients that can exist only in living beings, that no machine can feel or think, nor worry about what can happen to it, or have self-awareness, cannot write a picture or compose a symphony.

This book pursues all these goals at once: it offers a description of the brain and describes machines that can feel and think. Then we can try to apply these ideas both for understanding ourselves and for the development of artificial intelligence.

How to read quotes in a book

If the quote in quotation marks belongs to a real person, the publication date and source are indicated.

Marcel Proust, 1927: “The reader reads primarily himself. And the writer's works are nothing more than an optical device, handed to them by the reader, which allows the latter to discern in himself what he probably could not have discerned without this book. ”

If the quote is without quotation marks, this is a fictitious comment that the reader might have:

Citizen: If ordinary thinking is so difficult, why does it seem so simple

Most references are regular bibliographic quotes, such as

Schenck 1975: Roger C. Schenk, Conceptual Information Processing, Elsevier Science Publishing House 1975. ISBN: 0444107738.

Some links relate to pages on the Internet.

Lenat 1998: Douglas B. Lenat, Contextual Dimensions,

Some other links relate to newsgroups on the Internet, for example

McDermott 1992: Drew McDermott. In, February 7, 1992.

To access these newsgroups (along with the context in which they were written), you can search McDermott on Google. I will also try to keep copies of them on my website at and ask readers to send me questions and comments through this website.

[1] Note that the term “resource” is used in this book, while the term “agent” was used in the previous book, The Society of the Mind. I changed the terms because too many readers have suggested that an “agent” is something like a person (such as a travel agent) that can act independently, as if the agents in the brain could work together like people do. On the contrary, most resources specialize in [performing] certain types of work for some other resources and cannot directly interact with most other human resources. For more information on how these two books relate, see the Push Singh 2003 article, which helped develop many of the ideas in this book.

Thank you for the translation urticazokuthat responded to my call in the "previous chapter." Who wants to help with the translation - write in a personal email or e-mail

By the way, we launched the translation of another cool book - “The Dream Machine: The History of the Computer Revolution” .

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