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  1. Mar 2019
    1. Nature had chosen the messiness of life over the austerity of logic, a choice Pitts likely could not comprehend. He had no way of knowing that while his ideas about the biological brain were not panning out, they were setting in motion the age of digital computing, the neural network approach to machine learning, and the so-called connectionist philosophy of mind.
    2. In June 1954, Fortune magazine ran an article featuring the 20 most talented scientists under 40; Pitts was featured, next to Claude Shannon and James Watson.
    3. Oliver Selfridge, an MIT student who would become “the father of machine perception”; Hyman Minsky, the future economist; and Lettvin.
    4. By the fall of 1943, Pitts had moved into a Cambridge apartment, was enrolled as a special student at MIT, and was studying under one of the most influential scientists in the world.
    5. Which got McCulloch thinking about neurons. He knew that each of the brain’s nerve cells only fires after a minimum threshold has been reached: Enough of its neighboring nerve cells must send signals across the neuron’s synapses before it will fire off its own electrical spike. It occurred to McCulloch that this set-up was binary—either the neuron fires or it doesn’t. A neuron’s signal, he realized, is a proposition, and neurons seemed to work like logic gates, taking in multiple inputs and producing a single output. By varying a neuron’s firing threshold, it could be made to perform “and,” “or,” and “not” functions.

      I'm curious what year this was, particularly in relation to Claude Shannon's master's thesis in which he applied Boolean algebra to electronics.

      Based on their meeting date, it would have to be after 1940. And they published in 1943: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02478259

    6. McCulloch and Pitts wrote up their findings in a now-seminal paper, “A Logical Calculus of Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity,” published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics.
    1. Walter Pitts was pivotal in establishing the revolutionary notion of the brain as a computer, which was seminal in the development of computer design, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, and theoretical neuroscience. He was also a participant in a large number of key advances in 20th-century science.