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Minsky wins Japan Prize for pioneering work in AI

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The prestigious Japan Prize has been awarded to Professor Marvin L. Minsky, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, for his innovations and contributions in the area of technology integration.

Minsky will receive approximately $350,000 for the prize. He was recognized for the "establishment of artificial intelligence as a new discipline and the proposal of its fundamental principles," the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan announced in Tokyo.

The Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize since 1985 under the auspices of the Japanese prime minister. The Foundation hopes that the Japan Prize will be internationally known, like the Nobel Prize, for recognizing contributions to human progress.

The prize is given to scientists whose achievements contribute to the progress of science and technology and the promotion of peace and prosperity for mankind.

Minsky, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has made significant contributions to the fields of mathematics, computer science and engineering. In one of his many endeavors, Minsky began an artificial intelligence project in 1959 with Professor John McCarthy that developed into what is now the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Winning the prize is "sort of a big step in recognizing AI for the future," Minsky said yesterday. In the US, AI is not considered a "very fundamental" science, but "in Japan the field of AI is considered ... important," and is very popular, Minsky continued.

"Generally science education and interest in technology is much larger" in Japan than it is here, Minsky said.

Although the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan has attempted to gain worldwide recognition for the Japan Prize, "they're not being very successful," Minsky said. The foundation will award a second prize in the field of earth science by April.

Minsky received a BA from Harvard University in 1950, and a PhD from Princeton in 1954, both in mathematics. He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1958.