Marvin Minsky, an American scientist working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) who co-founded vthe Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AI laboratory, wrote several books on AI and philosophy, and was honored with the ACM A.M. Turing Award, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 at the age of 88. Born in New York City, Minsky attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Phillips Academy, before entering the U.S. Navy in 1944. After leaving the service, he attended Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1950. He then went to Princeton University, where he built the first randomly wired neural network learning machine, the Stochastic Neural Analog Reinforcement Calculator (SNARC), before earning his Ph.D in mathematics there in 1954. Doctorate in hand, Minsky was admitted to the group of Junior Fellows at Harvard, where he invented the confocal scanning microscope for thick, light-scattering specimens, decades in advance of the lasers and computer power needed to make it useful; today, it is in wide use in the biological sciences.
Virtual patients are viewed as a cost-effective alternative to standardized patients for role-play training of clinical interviewing skills. However, training studies produce mixed results. Students give high ratings to practice with virtual patients and feel more self-confident, but they show little improvement in objective skills. This confidence-competence gap matches a common cognitive illusion, in which students overestimate the effectiveness of training that is too easy. We hypothesize that cost-effective training requires virtual patients that emphasize functional and psychological fidelity over physical fidelity. We discuss 12 design decisions aimed at cost-effective training and their application in virtual patients for practicing brief intervention in alcohol abuse. Our STAR Workshop includes 3 such patients and a virtual coach. A controlled experiment evaluated STAR and compared it to an easier E-Book and no-training Control. E-Book subjects displayed the illusion, giving high ratings to their training and self-confidence, but performing no better than Control subjects on skills. STAR subjects gave high ratings to their training and self-confidence and scored better higher than E-Book or Control subjects on skills. We invite other researchers to use the underlying Imp technology to build virtual patients for their own work.
My last interview for this year is with Steve Lohr. Steve Lohr has covered technology, business, and economics for the New York Times for more than twenty years. In 2013 he was part of the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. We discussed Big Data and how it influences the new Artificial Intelligence awakening. Steve Lohr: Both Google and Microsoft are contributing their tools to expand and enlarge the AI community, which is good for the world and good for their businesses.