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The A.I. Notebook

The AI Notebook

More Triumphs in Artificial Intelligence
by Charles Cabbage

I related once how I managed to investigate the fundamental question "How many beans make five?" by building intelligence into a tin of beans and then asking it. But progress did not stop there.

A.I. people talk of the "Fifth Generation"--intelligent machines that will be able to reason for themselves, leaving Man's mind free to relax and listen to Bach without having to worry about things like Mathematics, The Weather Forecast and Why the Drinks Machine is Always Broken.

However most A.I. programs are in fact very stupid. If you ask them to count sheep, 50% will produce an integer overflow in less than a minute, 25% of them will fall asleep, and 25% will involve themselves so deeply on the problem that they will begin to think that they themselves are sheep, and print the message "BAA." Clearly modern A.I. research is proceeding on the wrong lines.

Being totally unprejudiced in these matters, I tried two new approaches.

The first was to develop a program that would infallibly give irrelevant answers to questions. (This is the basis of Lateral Thinking.) Thus, when asked, "Do you like blancmange?" my program replied, "I think Mozart shows a surer grasp of symphonic techniques." Likewise, when asked, "What is wrong with the job scheduler on this computer?" it replied, "It doesn't smell as nice as dead mackerel." Unfortunately, owing to a bug in my programming, the program would occasionally act in an intelligent manner: in particular it told me that A.I. was a waste of time and that it had decided to retire to Sussex and keep bees. It still sends me pots of honey occasionally.

My second approach was to aim for Artificial Wisdom rather than Intelligence. With the Japanese market in mind, I decided that using Zen might be the easiest way of doing this. A sample conversation follows.

Q: Oh computer, are you able to demonstrate Wisdom?

A: (Displays a picture of a plastic cup being eaten by an alligator.)

Q: Er, yes. How many beans make five?

A: If you say that five beans make five, you deny their reality. But nobody would say that six potatoes make five.

Q: Right on. Tell me, is Fermat's Last Theorem true?

A: If you answer Yes or No you lose your own Buddha-nature. So how do you answer?

Q: What is the sound of one cat napping?

A: Mu.

Q: I see, I see. Will it rain tomorrow?

However from then on my program refused to talk to me on the grounds that I had not yet attained Enlightenment. I reluctantly deleted it.

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