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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
AI koan
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humour /A-I koh'an/ One of a series of pastiches of Zen
teaching riddles created by Danny Hillis at the MIT AI Lab
around various major figures of the Lab's culture.
In reading these, it is at least useful to know that MarvinMinsky, Gerald Sussman, and Drescher are AI researchers
of note, that Tom Knight was one of the Lisp machine's
principal designers, and that David Moon wrote much of Lisp
Machine Lisp.
* * *
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
cannot 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...
[Pure reference-count garbage collectors have problems with
circular structures that point to themselves.]
* * *
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", Sussman replied.
"Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.
"I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play",
Sussman said.
Minsky then shut his eyes.
"Why do you close your eyes?", Sussman asked his teacher.