Marvin Minsky’s Marvelous Meat Machine
Steven Levy

The Minsky Memorial

Last week I attended the a memorial service for Marvin at the Media Lab. It was a moving tribute to an unforgettable man. Also, in a reflection of his impish personality, it was at times hilarious. One speaker, from Japan, mentioned that in his home country such ceremonies have tears but never laughter. Not here. The speakers, including colleagues, former students and family members, drew on a rich trove of anecdotes that illuminated the unique and marvelous peculiarities of someone whose genius informed science and whose generosity of spirit transformed those who knew him.

The large space in the Media Lab was decorated with giant panels depicting Marvin’s living room. I wouldn’t be surprised if just about every one of the couple of hundred attendees had interacted with Marvin there. A couple of former students lived either above it (in the attic) or below it (in the basement).

Hockenberry, with Minsky’s living room as backdrop

During the program, hosted by erudite-as-always John Hockenberry, we saw various video clips of Minsky in action — lecturing, being interviewed and, in one remarkable segment presented by his daughter Margaret, making a daring climb on a railing to the upper deck of a ship anchored near a Cape Canaveral Apollo launch. Priceless.

Afterwards the assemblage gathered for Chinese food, and munched on fortune cookies. Inside of each one was an epigram from Marvin, who is already missed dearly.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.