Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind” as Want to Read:
The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  619 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Our minds are working all the time, but we rarely stop to think about how they work. The human mind has many different ways to think, says Marvin Minsky, the leading figure in artificial intelligence and computer science. We use these different ways of thinking in different circumstances, and some of them we don't even associate with thinking. For example, emotions, intuit ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  619 ratings  ·  44 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Oh Marvy. After the three chapters, I was ready to stop reading -- you simply weren't saying anything important. But then you whipped out a well-placed discussion and your take on the whole consciousness debate; it pulled me back in. Alas, you slipped again as you barely held on to me as I waded (and progressively sped up out of disinterest) through the next chapters.

I get it, you're a computer scientist and attack the understanding of the brain as if it is hierarchically organized in the same (
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
For certain books I find myself reading the Goodreads reviews to see if my responses jibe with those of others, especially in terrain foreign to me, as AI is. I have been impressed with the reviews as mostly intelligent perspectives on the book and author.

I was delighted to be in the hands of a clearly brilliant thinker, and was wowed by the breadth of his knowledge of a variety of disciplines and individual great minds, past and present. But I too found the book less than exciting and coherent
Nathan Nifong
Jul 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Not that Minsky isn't an intelligent guy, he just isn't on the right track. His model of the human brain is complete shit. In fact its an awful stretch to even call it a model of the human brain, because Minsky has never studied the brain. As far as I could tell he just sat around and thought about thinking and then he wrote a book about what he came up with. There are a lot of crazy models we could come up with just from introspection, only one is right, Its not this one. If you are trying to a ...more
Sina Jahandari
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
It took me a long time to finish The Emotion Machine. I read it on and off for almost two years, starting and finishing other books in between. Although some parts are remarkable, some other parts are boring as hell.
The book attempts to provide a model for how humans think. Arguing that countless explainable processes are hidden behind many "suitcase-words" that we use everyday and we cannot explicitly explain them, such as consciousness and feelings, Minsky severely criticizes many theories de
Bob Nichols
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was hard to track what Minsky is doing with this book. “The Emotion Machine” seems mistitled. He sees emotions as a form of thinking. We have multiple ways to think and he says that an “emotional state” is one example of this. Definitions of emotion are all over the place, but Minsky is in another ballpark. While we may attach words and arguments to them, anger and love are quite different than thought. Minsky might mean that this way of thinking is emotion-infused in Hume’s sense, but then H ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more, and it does have a number of fascinating ideas, but overall I found it rather incoherent and undirected, and ultimately unsatisfying. It was hard to make myself get through it all, and I can't point to any particular insight that will change the way I think about AI or intelligence in general. Minsky is a great thinker, but I'd give this book a pass.
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blue
So, how does one go about understanding how the human brain works? One way would be to introspect, to discuss it with others, to speculate, etc. The other would be to try to reverse engineer it. In a lot of ways, it turns out the best way to understand how anything works is to build one yourself, and this is (perhaps surprisingly) no less true of the human brain than with anything else.

Fortunately, even if you fail, you learn a lot.

Marvin Minsky is an MIT professor and researcher who has been tr
Thamme Gowda
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book to know what Marvin Minsky's thoughts are about thinking machines and AI, especially how he thought a truly intelligent agent can be created. While in the middle of the book I realized that the ideas discussed in this book are helping me to understand myself, leave aside the creation of intelligent machines. This is not just an AI book, it also has a psychology and cognitive perspective to help understand how we naturally intelligent beings think and behave.

There are
Kevin Shen
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The central thesis in the emotion machine is that current approaches to neuroscience are in limited in what they can discover. They are limited because they follow the dominant paradigm of scientific theories: explain as much as possible using as little as possible. Occam's Razor. Minsky thinks our fetish for simple laws that describe the world is rooted in physics. In physics we have had much success distilling the laws of nature into small equations with few variables. And as a result, we have ...more
Ricardo Dirani
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a book to set your mind on fire. Why we want what we want? We choose among the things we want, but can we choose *what* we want? Is there a self behind the wheel managing all of our often contradictory drives? The answer is as simple as surprising. This book is sort of a sequel to Society of Mind, which I'm yet to read.
Juan Camacho
Jun 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Very interesting and unique perspective from the pop-psychology slant. It examines how the mind uses different parts of the brain to work together, and how emotions are central to how the mind works. I love his quotations from Shakespeare.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The book is basically Minsky’s theory about how the mind works (in this case, brain ≅ mind). I can’t help but speak about what I didn’t like first…

When I started reading it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m reading pseudo-science book (which it could be, if you take everything for granted, but Minsky repeatedly clarifies that it’s just his theories). I might feel this way because I recently read a very good (popular) science book If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY
Alejandro Ramirez
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Skimmed and consulted, rather than rigorously read.

I'm still making up my mind about the value of this book for me, as some of the conclusions seem too rushed (ie, we have multiple images of self, therefore an unified self doesn't exist") or failing to even attempt to provide an explanation of the phenomena they claim to explain (ie, on the subjective experience it only points to a multitude of stimuli, the challenge of processing them, etc... and it simply stops there).

I do, have to give him c
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found The Emotion Machine to be very enlightening and refreshing. I am a computer scientist and spend some of my free time researching and experimenting with artificial intelligence. I find it interesting to have such an influential person in the Artificial Intelligence community that challenges how we currently approach things (statistical analysis).

I would call this book a "user manual" to the human brain. The system that Marvin Minsky describes in this book has opened my eyes to certain si
Dirk Biesinger
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this book now three times.
Notably, it's the only book I actually made remarks on the border.
Amazingly, this book is able to inspire wild ideas every time. Always something to pick up in there.

Two remarks:
1. the style is not my preferred style, but this is a book I read because of it's message content, not the delivery
2. When reading this book, be aware WHY wrote it and when (stage and experience in his life). Keep this in mind ALL the time!
Usama ahmed khan
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The books is interesting with diverse set of ideas organized around an incomplete model of the mind, and how it works. It is more oriented towards psychological concepts of mind and it's working, and computational implementation of those concepts. Modern approaches to engineering the artificial intelligence are other way around , by building on computational principles and scaling them to generate certain behavior.
Rishabh Arora
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good starting point for those trying to understand the brain and/or venturing into the world of AI. The author constructs some useful models of the brain that are consistent with the everyday observed behavior and even (I feel) with the ideologies of spirituality (based on the little I know from my previous reading)
Hao Ca Vien
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Interesting meta-theory about artificial intelligence as it applies to emotions and higher level and other cognitive functions. Complexity and greater granularity seems to be the way to fill the gaps in knowledge of the mind.

Blaine Morrow
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-for-all
Minsky's approach to cognitive psychology is unique, and he is a great thinker. This book doesn't capture his best thinking, and it's arrangement (with "dialogues" or comments from imagined readers/thinkers, for example) is confusing.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will surely read it again...
Mehmet Yildiz
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christian Barber
AI is impossible without including emotional thinking
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i am learning about what people talk about when they talk about their self.

"perhaps the most popular concept of what we are assumes that we each have a central core- some sort of invisible spirit or ghost that comes to us an an anonymous gift. however, a more realistic view would recognize that each human mind that exists today is one results of a process in which decillions of previous creatures on earth spent their lives reacting, adjusting, adapting, and dying so that some of their descendant
Alexandre Teles
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This author was recommended by the Godel, Escher, Bach - Douglas R Hofstadter

I was expecting like an extension of the book that quoted this, and I faced a book that on beginning wasn't surprising. As I continue the reading it becomes interesting because the language was very simple and in few chapters later the author could show his simplicity to explain his theories and how he is by far limited by barriers between scientific areas, he show a lot of point of views. He explores psychology as well
Aug 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in cognition and emotion
Well, I am still in the middle of the book, and I am kind of reserving judgment. Of course, as one of the leading figures of Artificial Intelligence research, Marvin Minsky comes at the whole question from a computational background and his existing theories of the mind as a collection of largely independent, though interrelated, subroutines or functions. For him, emotion seems to play a role in adjudicating and / or context switching between these multiple functions that all may be clamoring fo ...more
Scott Neal Reilly
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: AI/cognitive science geeks
This is not a book for everyone, but if you're an AI/cognitive science geek, it's worth checking out. It lies in a kind of no-man's land between popular science and a real technical treatise. There is a lot of good detailed content, but not nearly as much as I wanted. On the other hand, Minsky isn't really a great popular writer (I'm currently reading Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control" which is an excellent instance of popular science, as are most of Brian Greene's books). The title was also a bit d ...more
Zarathustra Goertzel
Some parts were very good, and I'm generally glad I read it.

The idea of viewing emotions as ways to think and the initial parts dealing with that are awesome.

The critic-selector idea is kinda cool, but taken too far.

The view of (the false dichotomy of) conscious and unconscious parts of our minds is also quite nice.

There are also many nice gems of insight scattered through the book, as Minsky just gets many things that are often missed :-D

Alas, the discussion of "the Self" and conscious "experie
Rian Nejar
Professor Minsky's depiction of human emotions as "ways to think" is instructive and interesting, but does not fulfill one's natural intuition about processes of thinking and feeling.

Emotions are not exclusive to humans; even my feral pet cat Lucy (about whom I've written briefly in ' Humbling and Humility '), without the thought-capacity of an expanded pre-frontal cortex, manifests and communicates all sorts of emotions including displeasure when I do not open my front door soon enough for h
Nov 15, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: science-sort-of
Being part of a project proposal at the moment has sent me down the road of looking at what the Japanese are doing with robots and somehow this got me here.

I'm guessing it all would have been awfully useful to look at a couple of months ago.


The Japanese see no sense of difference between themselves and everything around them.

The Japanese see no sense of separateness in the way we do between body and mind.

These two ideas might help come up with different ways of approaching the problem at
Jun 23, 2016 rated it liked it

It's fun learning about how our brains work and how "thinking" and "emotion" function; it's more fascinating to look at this from an engineering and artificial intelligence point of view. In "The Emotion Machine", you will be exposed to an interesting theory of how our the different functioning of our brain can be considered as distribution of resources. The idea is easy to comprehend, though at times it did feel a bit repetitive and the presentation of information somewhat disperse
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation
  • Investment Banking: Valuation, Leveraged Buyouts, and Mergers & Acquisitions
  • The Boston Consulting Group on Strategy: Classic Concepts and New Perspectives
  • Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, and Legacy
  • Noise Level
  • Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics
  • The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities
  • The Theory of Money and Credit
  • The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
  • Public Opinion
  • The Theory of Interest: As Determined by Impatience to Spend Income and Opportunity Ot Invest It
  • Honorable Men: My Life In The CIA
  • This Island Earth (Forrest J Ackerman Presents)
  • The Fast Track: The Insider's Guide to Winning Jobs in Management Consulting, Investment Banking & Securities Trading
  • How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed
  • Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
  • On Intelligence
  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
See similar books…

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
Marvin Lee Minsky (born August 9, 1927) was an American cognitive scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, and author of several texts on AI and philosophy. Marvin Lee Minsky was born in New York City to an eye surgeon and a Jewish activist, where he attended The Fieldston School and the Bronx High School of Scienc ...more

News & Interviews

You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
42 likes · 19 comments
“Each of our major Ways to Think results from turning certain resources on while turning certain others off—and thus changing some ways that our brains behave.” 1 likes
“But, somehow, I have got to make both of these things just and right to me. I have got to make everything that has happened to me good for me. The plank bed, the loathsome food, the hard ropes, the harsh orders, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at, the silence, the solitude, the shame—each and all of these things I had to transform into a spiritual experience. There is not a single degradation of the body which I must not try and make into a spiritualizing of the soul.” 1 likes
More quotes…