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What Would Marvin Minsky Read?

Key works from the late AI titan’s favorite sci-fi authors

3 min read
What Would Marvin Minsky Read?

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Marvin Minsky was one of the founders of artificial intelligence, and with John McCarthy, he created MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Minsky, who recently passed away at the age of 88, was also a lifelong devotee of science fiction, to the almost total exclusion of all other forms of fiction. (He also penned a science fiction novel of his own, The Turing Option, written with Harry Harrison.)

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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