Artificial Intelligence Koans
(Contributed by

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 of the cans." 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 the room will be empty." At that moment, 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 finished 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."

A man from AI walked across the mountains to SAIL to see the Master, Knuth. When he arrived, the Master was nowhere to be found. "Where is the wise one named Knuth?", he asked a passing student. "Ah," said the student, "you have not heard. He has gone on a pilgrimage across the mountains to the temple of AI to seek out new disciples." Hearing this, the man was Enlightened.

A famous Lisp Hacker noticed an Undergraduate sitting in front of a Xerox 1108, trying to edit a complex Klone network via a browser. Wanting to help, the Hacker clicked one of the nodes in the network with the mouse, and asked "what do you see?" Very earnesty, the Undergraduate replied "I see a cursor." The Hacker then quickly pressed the boot toggle at the back of the keyboard, while simultaneously hitting the Undergraduate over the head with a thick Interlisp Manual. The Undergraduate was then Enlightened.

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