We Asked a Robot to Write an Obit for AI Pioneer Marvin Minsky

The pioneering artificial intelligence theorist Marvin Minsky died Sunday. So we thought it would be appropriate to ask for an obituary from one of his virtual descendants: Wordsmith, the automated news-writing bot from the company Automated Insights.Yes, sure, it’s only a near-analogy. Wordsmith isn’t exactly an AI. It takes structured data—stuff that fits into a spreadsheet—and fits it into templates of increasing complexity. But Minsky was always interested in the differences and similarities between human and machine cognition, and arguably Wordsmith is cogitating every bit as hard as human reporters do on deadline. (Trust me on this.) “A lot of what goes into a typical obit is very structured, or at least structurable,” says James Kotecki, head of communications at Automated Insights. “You can start with things like their name, their…


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