Marvin reorganizes, Bill reorders

Two bits of MIT related news that might be interesting to the outside world: first, four MIT professors, including one Marvin Minsky (along with Steven Pinker and Rodney Brooks) wrote memos to President Bush answering the questions “What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?”

Marvin’s memo is short and to the point, containing only one suggestion:

Mr. President:

My idea is that the whole “Homeland Defense” thing is too cost-ineffective to be plausible. The lifetime cost of, for example, preventing each airplane-crash fatality will be the order of $100,000,000—and we could save a thousand times as many lives at the same cost by various simple public-health measures.

Conclusion: what we really need is a “Homeland Arithmetic” reorganization.

Yours truly,

Marvin Minsky

Also in the news, William Mitchell, author of City of Bits has just officially given up his position as dean of the architecture department to become head of the Media Lab’s academic program. This is an unprecidented move since the Media Lab is merely a part of the architecture department, ostensibly three steps down in the chain of command. But Bill has some big ideas about how to things are changing here at the lab.

MIT News Office: MIT Profs Offer New Year’s Advice

MIT Tech Talk:Mitchell to step down as dean of architecture

3 thoughts on “Marvin reorganizes, Bill reorders

  1. Of course the line between genius and insanty is thin and wavering; Marvin has a tendency to say things that could be interpreted either way. On a public email list last year he concluded from terrorist activity that we should be asking the question “how many people should there be,” to which he provided the answer of 400-10,000, based on the argument that this number would preserve culture on a spaceship.

    Hmm. I’ll leave it as an exercise to readers to find the link between spaceships and terrorists.

  2. regarding homeland security, according to one Mr. David Cross:

    “What is a missle defense shield? Well…it’s a net, made of magic, held in place by pixies.”

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