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[ontolog-forum] Marvin Minsky's original memo on frames

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2014 11:59:04 -0400
Message-id: <543953C8.8000608@xxxxxxxxxxx>
As Pat Hayes observed, this forum has been rehashing many ideas that
have been kicked around in AI and related fields for a long time. One
of the "oldies but goodies" is the term 'frame', which is now used for
a very watered-down version of a much more complex and richer notion
that Marvin Minsky presented in his famous AI Memo of 1974.    (01)

Most people who talk about frames don't realize that the original
definition was introduced in an unpublished essay by Scott Fahlman,
who was a graduate student at MIT at the time.  Minsky adopted that
word and quoted a large excerpt from Fahlman's essay.  He also
quoted and related many other sources in AI and cognitive science.    (02)

I recently happened to re-read that memo, and I was impressed by its
relevance to the issues discussed in Ontolog Forum. That 40-year-old
memo is still a good summary of many research problems today.  See
the URL and excerpts below.    (03)

And by the way, Fahlman's most successful ;-) innovation was the
sideways smiley face:  http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm    (04)

_____________________________________________________________________    (05)

Source: http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/Frames/frames.html    (06)

Fahlman's original definition, quoted by Minsky:    (07)

> Frame Verification: I envision a data base in which related sets
> of facts and demons are grouped into packets, any number of which
> can be activated or made available for access at once. A packet can
> contain any number of other packets (recursively), in the sense that
> if the containing packet is activated, the contained packets are
> activated as well, and any data items in them become available unless
> they are specifically modified or canceled. Thus, by activating a few
> appropriate packets, the system can create a tailor-made execution
> environment containing only the relevant portion of its global
> knowledge and an appropriate set of demons. Sometimes, of course,
> it will have to add specific new packets to the active set in order
> to deal with some special situation, but this inconvenience will be
> far less than the burden of constantly tripping over unwanted
> knowledge or triggering spurious demons.    (08)

Observation by the psychologist Max Wertheimer, quoted by Minsky:    (09)

> If one tries to describe processes of genuine thinking in terms of
> formal traditional logic, the result is often unsatisfactory; one has,
> then, a series of correct operations, but the sense of the process and
> what was vital, forceful, creative in it seems somehow to have evaporated
> in the formulations.    (010)

Minsky's opening paragraph:    (011)

> It seems to me that the ingredients of most theories both in Artificial
> Intelligence and in Psychology have been on the whole too minute, local,
> and unstructured to account – either practically or phenomenologically –
> for the effectiveness of common-sense thought. The "chunks" of reasoning,
> language, memory, and "perception" ought to be larger and more structured;
> their factual and procedural contents must be more intimately connected
> in order to explain the apparent power and speed of mental activities.    (012)

Minsky's closing paragraph:    (013)

> I cannot state strongly enough my conviction that the preoccupation with
> Consistency, so valuable for Mathematical Logic, has been incredibly
> destructive to those working on models of mind. At the popular level it
> has produced a weird conception of the potential capabilities of machines
> in general. At the "logical" level it has blocked efforts to represent
> ordinary knowledge, by presenting an unreachable image of a corpus of
> context-free "truths" that can stand separately by themselves. This
> obsession has kept us from seeing that thinking begins with defective
> networks that are slowly (if ever) refined and updated.    (014)

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