Juan Diego Raimondi
Juan Diego Raimondi
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I have finally finished reading Marvin Minsky’s The Emotion Machine. As I read the different chapters, I had written some reviews about it ([1], [2]), but I decided not to do that anymore as I was missing the point of the book into the details. My assumption was correct: the final chapters do provide some sort of global vision of the rest of the book that explains the whole theory and provides a good wrap-up of Minsky’s theory.

In short, my previous reviews and summaries are still valid, but what’s new is, in laymans terms, that being a difference-identification machine, the mind analyzes itself and detects internal changes so that it can react based on its own approaches, and that gives us the ability of changing strategies when solving problems, of analyzing things in different aspects (Minsky calls them “levels”) and knowing at the same time how to work with itself. The model sounds very consistent, and regardless of the original statements, it does seem like a simple model of the mind that allows to explain its complexities.

I do see, however, certain points that were not covered in the book and would have been very enlightening. But it probably is my fault, as I have read Minsky’s draft on his page and not the actual published, revised and edited book. I’ll try to avoid reading drafts in the future, as you can really tell that there’s content missing or further explanations that will be missing from these unfinished versions. On this particular example, I would have wanted to see how Minsky’s theory explains what other psychology theories can explain, and be the explanation that no other theories could give. I could only find some references to Freud and the Self on the last chapters, and Jung on the first ones.

Also, I saw that the evolutionary arguments for explaining that the brain has developed in the way that it is right now were quite weak. I can’t really argue against them as I’m not biologist nor close to one at all, but I haven’t read in there any real good explanation of how brains evolved and to assume that they just did is not a proof to the theory, but part of the theory itself. In such a way, I don’t feel disbelieve in it, but I think it should be polished a little more. I wonder if further editions of the book (or maybe other Minsky’s books) do contain the necessary background to cover all of my doubts. I guess I’ll have to find out. ;)

As a general reading, I liked the way Minsky used to introduce several points of view and dialogues in the explanations itself. It seems that he could be actually having a dialogue with the reader, and in such a way, it was really easy to follow and natural to understand. The end of the book needed some more revisions as it was clearly unfinished and with Minsky’s personal notes, but that’s what I get for reading a draft.

I really look forward to read more of the Society of Mind saga.