6.S899 Info

From 6.034 Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search



Week 1

Steps Toward AI by Marvin Minsky. Available here [1]

A few comments to guide your reading.

Keep in mind first that this paper was written in 1961, 57 (fifty seven!) years ago. I suspect that’s likely before most of you had even entered middle school.

As the guest editor’s comment indicates, this is very early on in the birth of the modern version of the field; Minsky had been invited to write an tutorial overview.

As this is not a technical paper about an idea, technique or program, the standard format for writing about the paper doesn’t apply.

Recall your job is to summarize the paper in one page. Do that, and try to comment on these things as well:

a) how many of the ideas Minsky mentions do you recognize as still in use?

b) does he do a good job of laying out the structure of the field?

c) consider the sentence near the top of page 9 beginning “A computer can do, in a sense…” There are several reasons why he starts off that way. List some that seem compelling to you.

Week 2 -- Sept 28th

Note: there is no class on September 21. It's a student holiday.

The paper below is for discussion on Friday, 28 September (yes, right after the 6.034 quiz). We will discuss the evolution of rule-based expert systems. The discussion will be based on your comments and insights on the paper:

Robert K. Lindsay, Bruce G. Buchanan, Edward A. Feigenbaum, and Joshua Lederberg. "DENDRAL: A Case Study of the First Expert System for Scientific Hypothesis Formation." in Artificial Intelligence 61, 2 (1993): 209-261.

This is a rather large paper, but you have two weeks to review it and to consider the interesting ideas in it. Given the size and depth of the paper, it would be a bad idea to wait until the last minute to read it.

The paper is available at


Also: as several people found out, it's a very bad idea to wait until just before class to try to produce a hardcopy of your writeup. Printers can be hard to find and can be ornery. Plan ahead.

Week 3 -- October 5

What Are Intelligence? And Why? by Randall Davis Available here [2]

This is another overview of AI paper, rather than a technical examination of a particular technique or program. Instead it tries to take a step back and answer a core question -- what is it that we're talking about when we talk about intelligence? The paper suggests that intelligence is many things and has been interpreted differently from several different intellectual foundations.

Your task is to evaluate how successful the paper is in answering the questions it raises. And pay no attention to the name of the author. I expect you to be hard-headed and clear-headed in your evaluation and/or criticisms.

Week 4 -- October 12

Friday's lecture is about deep neural nets, which have been strikingly successful in computer vision, speech understanding, and a range of other classification tasks. But there is also an interesting problem with them. Deep Neural Nets are Easily Fooled, which is capitalized because that's the title of a very interesting paper, available here:


[If you are off-campus, that link might not work, in which case use this one:]


You may also wish to look at this web page:


Keep in mind though that I've seen it as well, so just repeating what you see there will not be considered a good write up.

As usual the point is not to simply summarize the paper, but to think about what interesting ideas are in there, describe those, and then evaluate them. Make your own judgments and tell me what you think and why.

Week 5 -- October 19

Given the other things going on this week, I have selected a more non-technical paper to read. It's still challenging and needs some thought, but it's also fun. It concerns a famous argument about the possibility of computers thinking. Read it over and explain how you react to the arguments. Please, don't just summarize the paper; write out your own response to it. Is it convincing? If not, why not?


Note that there is no easy or obvious answer here, the idea is to take the argument seriously and think about how you might respond.

Personal tools