Re: Biological = trivial?

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 08:14:32 +0900

Read writes,

>A generative program can be written only if there is already comprehension
>of the phenomena in question.

My memories of working as an AI programmer suggest a slightly different
conclusion. The first iteration of a program requires *some* comprehension
to get off the ground. The joy of computer simulation, however, is (1) the
way that the computer provides instant feedback, showing you unexpected
implications of what you've just told it and (2) the ease with which the
program can then be modified and run again.

The computer is also, as Patrick Winston notes in his introduction to
programming in LISP, a wonderful educational tool, since you can't--except
in trivial cases--simply tell the computer to go from A to B (from bands to
tribes for example). You have to tell the poor mechanical idiot precisely
how to get from A to B, in tiny, perfectly logical steps. You have to
attend to the process and not be content with the handwaving that so often
passes for thought in everyday conversation. (Which suggests, of course,
that there is a wonderful difference between the "knowledge" deployed in
everyday conversation and the rigors of computable models.But that's
another discussion.)

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo