Episode 6

Melanie Mitchell

Professor of Complexity, Santa Fe Institute

Melanie Mitchell is the Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute. Her current research focuses on conceptual abstraction, analogy-making, and visual recognition in artificial intelligence systems. Melanie is the author or editor of six books and numerous scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her book Complexity: A Guided Tour was published by Oxford University Press in 2009. ) Her latest book is Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). She studied under Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (1973) and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on analogy-making.




Norton Juster, The Phantom tollbooth

She remembered the fantastically evocative and terrifying illustration. ​

Another striking thing was how the world of words and numbers are portrayed in the book.

Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

She read it when she was 9 years old, remembering it as her first time learning about multiple dimensions.

Lincoln Barnett, The Universe And Dr. Einstein

She read it at hight school. The book was suggested by her Physics teacher

She absolutely loved it and it's one of the books that influenced her to pursue her studies in Physics.

Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

She read it in her college years. She finds the author an incredible communicator in Maths and a wonderful writer who made it accessible to the public.

She picked the book because she was interested in what draw people to believe something.

George Gamow, One Two Three… Infinity

She read it in college she was thinking about fundamental ideas.

She remembered being very impressed and influenced by it.

She was interested in how we can explain things to people

Harlow Shapley, Beyond the Observatory

She read it in college when she was interested in astronomy.

One essay she remembered: it's about how much you can infer from a single pinpoint of life.

She thought for a long time about following her career path in astronomy.

Stephen Gould, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History

A housemaid from her college gave the book to her.

He was major in Evolutionary Biology and said it would teach her everything to know about biology. She never took a biology class. So it was an eye-opener book for her. It talks about some of the very interesting questions we never thought to ask about biology.

Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach

She read it the year after her college graduation.

She heard about it from Martin Gardner's review on the Scientific American.

William Poundstone, The Recursive Universe

She believes she read it in her Graduate school.

John Holland, Adaptations in Natural and Artificial Systems

It's rom her Graduate school. It’s a very technical book.

Holland is one of her professors at the University of Michigan. He was the founder of the field: Genetic Algorithm, which brought ideas from Evolutionary Biology into Computer Science.