The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Marvin Minsky’s Legacy of Students and Ideas

Deciphering how brains and machines think and learn

2 min read
Marvin Minsky’s Legacy of Students and Ideas
Photo: Hank Morgan/Science Faction/Corbis

Geniuses are meat machines—that’s how Marvin Minsky once characterized human beings—just like the rest of us, only much more efficient. And Minsky, who passed away in January, was certainly one of the most efficient meat machines this century or the last has ever seen.

There are the curriculum vitae facts of his genius: the degrees in mathematics from Harvard and Princeton; the cofounding, with John McCarthy, of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory at MIT; the invention of the first head-mounted graphical display, the confocal microscope, and the first randomly wired neural network machine. He was a pioneering computer scientist, cognitive scientist, and roboticist, a fellow of IEEE and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous honors and awards, among them the Turing Award, the IEEE Computer Society’s Computer Pioneer Award, and the Franklin Institute’s Benjamin Franklin Medal. He left his mark on every field that captured his interest, moving through several with seeming ease before finding his life’s work: creating a theoretical framework in which to build machines that could understand as well as calculate.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less