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MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Robotic Arm (Minsky Arm)

Major collection: Science & Technology
Object type: robot
Maker: Date made: circa 1967-1973
Materials: metal; wire; plastic
Measurements: 65 in

This is the second "arm" developed by Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert in their multi-year project to develop a computer system that could "see" and "manipulate" objects independent of human control.

"What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle." -- Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Professor Marvin Minsky created this robotic arm (modeled on a crayfish arm) that used a video camera and computer to look at a stack of children's blocks, take the stack apart, and then build a mirror image.. This work was the principal inspiration and source of ideas for his landmark book on the workings of the human mind, The Society of Mind (1986). While it might seem counterintuitive to build a machine without a conceptual framework, the method proved surprisingly effective and gave rise to Minsky's theory that the mind is composed of a multitude of little processes called "agents." As Minsky put it: "Each mental agent by itself can only do some simple thing that needs no mind or thought at all. Yet when we join these agents in societies--in certain very special ways--this leads to true intelligence."

From the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT

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Related People

thumbnail Papert, Seymour Aubrey
thumbnail Minsky, Marvin Lee
Mintz, Sidney Wilfred