Seymour A. Papert

The late Seymour A. Papert was a Professor in MIT's AI Lab (1960–1980s) and MIT's Media Lab (1985–2000) and the author of Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.

  • Perceptrons, Reissue Of The 1988 Expanded Edition With A New Foreword By Léon Bottou

    Perceptrons, Reissue Of The 1988 Expanded Edition With A New Foreword By Léon Bottou

    An Introduction to Computational Geometry

    Marvin Minsky and Seymour A. Papert

    The first systematic study of parallelism in computation by two pioneers in the field.

    Reissue of the 1988 Expanded Edition with a new foreword by Léon Bottou

    In 1969, ten years after the discovery of the perceptron—which showed that a machine could be taught to perform certain tasks using examples—Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert published Perceptrons, their analysis of the computational capabilities of perceptrons for specific tasks. As Léon Bottou writes in his foreword to this edition, “Their rigorous work and brilliant technique does not make the perceptron look very good.” Perhaps as a result, research turned away from the perceptron. Then the pendulum swung back, and machine learning became the fastest-growing field in computer science. Minsky and Papert's insistence on its theoretical foundations is newly relevant.

    Perceptrons—the first systematic study of parallelism in computation—marked a historic turn in artificial intelligence, returning to the idea that intelligence might emerge from the activity of networks of neuron-like entities. Minsky and Papert provided mathematical analysis that showed the limitations of a class of computing machines that could be considered as models of the brain. Minsky and Papert added a new chapter in 1987 in which they discuss the state of parallel computers, and note a central theoretical challenge: reaching a deeper understanding of how “objects” or “agents” with individuality can emerge in a network. Progress in this area would link connectionism with what the authors have called “society theories of mind.”

    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00
  • Perceptrons, Expanded Edition

    Perceptrons, Expanded Edition

    An Introduction to Computational Geometry

    Marvin Minsky and Seymour A. Papert

    Perceptrons—the first systematic study of parallelism in computation—has remained a classical work on threshold automata networks for nearly two decades. It marked a historical turn in artificial intelligence, and it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the connectionist counterrevolution that is going on today.

    Artificial-intelligence research, which for a time concentrated on the programming of Von Neumann computers, is swinging back to the idea that intelligence might emerge from the activity of networks of neuronlike entities. Minsky and Papert's book was the first example of a mathematical analysis carried far enough to show the exact limitations of a class of computing machines that could seriously be considered as models of the brain. Now the new developments in mathematical tools, the recent interest of physicists in the theory of disordered matter, the new insights into and psychological models of how the brain works, and the evolution of fast computers that can simulate networks of automata have given Perceptrons new importance.

    Witnessing the swing of the intellectual pendulum, Minsky and Papert have added a new chapter in which they discuss the current state of parallel computers, review developments since the appearance of the 1972 edition, and identify new research directions related to connectionism. They note a central theoretical challenge facing connectionism: the challenge to reach a deeper understanding of how "objects" or "agents" with individuality can emerge in a network. Progress in this area would link connectionism with what the authors have called "society theories of mind."

    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00
  • Counter-Free Automata

    Robert McNaughton and Seymour A. Papert

    A particular class of finite-state automata, christened by the authors “counter-free,” is shown here to behave like a good actor: it can frape itself so thoroughly in the notational guise and embed itself so deeply in the conceptual character to several quite different approaches to automata theory that on the surface it is hard to believe that all these roles are being assumed by the same class.

    The author's write “... it is noteworthy that the class of automata we shall discuss was defined more or less explicitly by several people working from very different directions and using very different directions and using very different concepts. The remarkable happening was that these definitions could not be recognized as equivalent until algebraic tools of analysis were brought to the field in the works of Schützenberger and in the works of Krohn and Rhodes.”

    The theme of the monograph is the unity and equivalence of these different definitions of counter-free automata. Its organization follows the plan of taking up, one by one, each of a number of different conceptualizations: the historically important “nerve net” approach; the algebraic approach, in which automata are treated as semigroups; the “classical” theory based on state transition diagrams; the “linguistic” approach based on the concept pf regular expressions; and the “behavioral” descriptions using symbolic logic. In each of these conceptual areas, the class of automata under study is found in a new guise. Each time it appears as yet another special case. The author's burden is to show that all these definitions are in fact equivalent.

    Care has been taken so that this research monograph can be used as a self-sufficient text. Notations have been defined carefully and always in the context of the discussion. Most of the chapters end with a substantial number of exercises. It is self-contained in that al concepts are defined, and all theorems used are, with one exception, either fully proved or safely left as exercises for the student.

    • Hardcover $20.00
  • Perceptrons

    An Introduction to Computational Geometry

    Marvin Minsky and Seymour A. Papert

    It is the author's view that although the time is not yet ripe for developing a really general theory of automata and computation, it is now possible and desirable to move more explicitly in this direction. This can be done by studying in an extremely thorough way well-chosen particular situations that embody the basic concepts. This is the aim of the present book, which seeks general results from the close study of abstract versions of devices known as perceptrons.

    A perceptron is a parallel computer containing a number of readers that scan a field independently and simultaneously, and it makes decisions by linearly combining the local and partial data gathered, weighing the evidence, and deciding if events fit a given “pattern,” abstract or geometric. The rigorous and systematic study of the perceptron undertaken here convincingly demonstrates the authors' contention that there is both a real need for a more basic understanding of computation and little hope of imposing one from the top, as opposed to working up such an understanding from the detailed consideration of a limited but important class of concepts, such as those underlying perceptron operations. “Computer science,” the authors suggest, is beginning to learn more and more just how little it really knows. Not only does science not know much about how brains compute thoughts or how the genetic code computes organisms, it also has no very good idea about how computers compute, in terms of such basic principles as how much computation a problem of what degree of complexity is most suitable to deal with it. Even the language in which the questions are formulated is imprecise, including for example the exact nature of the opposition or complementarity implicit in the distinction “analogue” vs. “digital,” “local” vs. “global,” “parallel” vs. “serial,” “addressed” vs. “associative.” Minsky and Papert strive to bring these concepts into a sharper focus insofar as they apply to the perceptron. They also question past work in the field, which too facilely assumed that perceptronlike devices would, automatically almost, evolve into universal “pattern recognizing,” “learning,” or “self-organizing” machines. The work recognizes fully the inherent impracticalities, and proves certain impossibilities, in various system configurations. At the same time, the real and lively prospects for future advance are accentuated.

    The book divides in a natural way into three parts – the first part is “algebraic” in character, since it considers the general properties of linear predicate families which apply to all perceptrons, independently of the kinds of patterns involved; the second part is “geometric” in that it looks more narrowly at various interesting geometric patterns and derives theorems that are sharper than those of Part One, if thereby less general; and finally the third part views perceptrons as practical devices, and considers the general questions of pattern recognition and learning by artificial systems.

    • Hardcover $17.50
    • Paperback $10.95

Contributor

  • Embodiments of Mind

    Embodiments of Mind

    Warren S. McCulloch

    Writings by a thinker—a psychiatrist, a philosopher, a cybernetician, and a poet—whose ideas about mind and brain were far ahead of his time.

    Warren S. McCulloch was an original thinker, in many respects far ahead of his time. McCulloch, who was a psychiatrist, a philosopher, a teacher, a mathematician, and a poet, termed his work “experimental epistemology.” He said, “There is one answer, only one, toward which I've groped for thirty years: to find out how brains work.” Embodiments of Mind, first published more than fifty years ago, teems with intriguing concepts about the mind/brain that are highly relevant to recent developments in neuroscience and neural networks. It includes two classic papers coauthored with Walter Pitts, one of which applies Boolean algebra to neurons considered as gates, and the other of which shows the kind of nervous circuitry that could be used in perceiving universals. These first models are part of the basis of artificial intelligence.

    Chapters range from “What Is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a Number,” and “Why the Mind Is in the Head,” to “What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain” (with Jerome Lettvin, Humberto Maturana, and Walter Pitts), “Machines that Think and Want,” and “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity” (with Walter Pitts). Embodiments of Mind concludes with a selection of McCulloch's poems and sonnets. This reissued edition offers a new foreword and a biographical essay by McCulloch's one-time research assistant, the neuroscientist and computer scientist Michael Arbib.

    • Paperback $45.00 £38.00
  • Falling for Science

    Falling for Science

    Objects in Mind

    Sherry Turkle

    Passion for objects and love for science: scientists and students reflect on how objects fired their scientific imaginations.

    "This is a book about science, technology, and love,” writes Sherry Turkle. In it, we learn how a love for science can start with a love for an object—a microscope, a modem, a mud pie, a pair of dice, a fishing rod. Objects fire imagination and set young people on a path to a career in science. In this collection, distinguished scientists, engineers, and designers as well as twenty-five years of MIT students describe how objects encountered in childhood became part of the fabric of their scientific selves. In two major essays that frame the collection, Turkle tells a story of inspiration and connection through objects that is often neglected in standard science education and in our preoccupation with the virtual. The senior scientists' essays trace the arc of a life: the gears of a toy car introduce the chain of cause and effect to artificial intelligence pioneer Seymour Papert; microscopes disclose the mystery of how things work to MIT President and neuroanatomist Susan Hockfield; architect Moshe Safdie describes how his boyhood fascination with steps, terraces, and the wax hexagons of beehives lead him to a life immersed in the complexities of design. The student essays tell stories that echo these narratives: plastic eggs in an Easter basket reveal the power of centripetal force; experiments with baking illuminate the geology of planets; LEGO bricks model worlds, carefully engineered and colonized. All of these voices—students and mentors—testify to the power of objects to awaken and inform young scientific minds. This is a truth that is simple, intuitive, and easily overlooked.

    • Hardcover $28.95 £25.00
    • Paperback $20.00 £15.99
  • Embodiments of Mind

    Warren S. McCulloch

    Embodiments of Mind, first published more than two decades ago, teems with intriguing concepts about the mind/brain that are highly relevant to current developments in neuroscience and neural networks.

    Preface by Jerome Y. Lettvin. Warren S. McCulloch was an original thinker, in many respects far ahead of his time. "Of all our contemporaries in brain research McCulloch is the most personal, idiosyncratic... he is at the center, the pivot of a whirligig of explosive thinking," wrote a colleague in 1966. Embodiments of Mind, first published more than two decades ago, teems with intriguing concepts about the mind/brain that are highly relevant to current developments in neuroscience and neural networks. In his preface to this timely reissue of McCulloch's work, Jerome Lettvin notes in particular that among the papers are two classics coauthored with Walter Pitts. One applies Boolean algebra to neurons considered as gates; another shows the kind of nervous circuitry that could be used in perceiving universals. These first models are part of the basis of artificial intelligence. McCulloch, who was a doctor, a philosopher, a teacher, a mathematician and a poet, terms his work "experimental epistemology."

    In this collection of 21 essays and lectures he pursues a physiological theory of knowledge that touches on philosophy, neurology, and psychology: "There is one answer, only one, toward which I've groped for thirty years; to find out how brains work..."Chapters range from "What is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a Number," and "Why the Mind is in the Head," to "What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain" (with Jerome Lettvin, Humberto Maturana, and Walter Pitts), "Machines that Think and Want," and "A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity (with Walter Pitts). Embodiments of Mind concludes with a selection of McCulloch's poems and sonnets.

    • Hardcover $15.95
    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00