AI Koans

AI Koans: (by Danny)

A novice was trying to fix a broken lisp machine by turning the power off and on. Knight, seeing what the student was doing spoke sternly- "You can not fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong."

Knight turned the machine off and on.

The machine worked.


One day a student came to Moon and said, "I understand how to make a better garbage collector. We must keep a reference count of the pointers to each cons." Moon patiently told the student the following story-

"One day a student came to Moon and said, "I understand how to make a better garbage collector...

In the days when Sussman was a novice Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6. "What are you doing?", asked Minsky.
"I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe."
"Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.
"I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play"
Minsky shut his eyes,
"Why do you close your eyes?", Sussman asked his teacher.
"So that the room will be empty."
At that momment, Sussman was enlightened.


A student, in hopes of understanding the Lambda-nature, came to Greenblatt. As they spoke a Multics system hacker walked by. "Is it true", asked the student, "that PL-1 has many of the same data types as Lisp". Almost before the student had finshed his question, Greenblatt shouted, "FOO!", and hit the student with a stick.


A disciple of another sect once came to Drescher as he was eating his morning meal. "I would like to give you this personality test", said the outsider,"because I want you to be happy." Drescher took the paper that was offered him and put it into the toaster- "I wish the toaster to be happy too".


Additional item from Craig Reynolds:
A cocky novice once said to Stallman: "I can guess why the editor is called Emacs, but why is the justifier called Bolio?". Stallman replied forcefully, "Names are but names, `Emac & Bolio's` is the name of a confectionary shop in Boston-town. Neither of these men had anything to do with the software."

His question answered, yet unanswered, the novice turned to go, but Stallman called to him, "Neither Emac or Bolio had anything to do with the ice cream shop, either."

Yes, you guested it, an ice cream koan.

Last Update: 17 February 1995 / Brad Miller / miller@cs.rochester.edu