Marvin Minsky was one of humanity’s great thinkers. When I was 14, I wrote asking to meet with him. He invited me to visit him at MIT and spent hours with me as if he had nothing else to do. Years later, I watched as my young daughter Amy, sitting at a restaurant, built a large structure on the table with Marvin, using the silverware and experimenting with different ways the utensils could create stable structures. There was no sense he was working with an elementary-school student. He approached the endeavor with the same seriousness and whimsy he brought to his interactions with any colleague.
He was the consummate educator, for that was his greatest joy and passion. But he was also many other things: a scientist, a mathematician, an inventor, an engineer, a roboticist, a writer, a philosopher, a polymath, a poet, a musician and most of all a student of human nature and thinking. He was the principal pioneer of both the symbolic and connectionist schools of artificial intelligence, and made profound contributions that have enriched the field of computer science–and of all of science.
Kurzweil is a futurist and the author of five books on artificial intelligence
This appears in the February 08, 2016 issue of TIME.