When we all become robots, this is how we'll talk

I was just thinking about conversation today, because I noticed that the professor who I’m TAing for had a unicycle in his office. I wanted to ask if he rode a unicycle, what kind of experience he has, if he juggles (because the two are often related), etc. But how do you start that conversation? And then what?

On a note that seems unrelated but is actually related: a rules engine is a cool thing. Sometimes they’re also called Expert Systems. Maybe there’s a distinction between those. I don’t know. Anyway, here’s how it works: you have some facts, and you have some if-then rules. Each rule triggers when certain facts exist.
For example, I could have the following rules:
1. If I have a dollar, I should buy a can of Arizona iced tea from Entropy.
2. If it’s cold, and if I have a hat, I should put the hat on.
3. If I have a drink, and if I’m thirsty, I should drink it.
And I have the following facts:
- I have a dollar.
- I’m thirsty.
- It’s cold.
- I don’t have a hat.
Then rule 1 will trigger because I have a dollar. Rule 3 will then trigger because then I have a drink and I’m thirsty. Rule 2 will not trigger because all of its conditions weren’t met.
That’s what I know about rules engines, in a nutshell. Anyway, they’re cool. Supposedly, this is how the human mind works, according to ACT-R theory. That was the basis for the “cognitive tutors” that I sort of worked on all summer.

Back to conversations:
I want to start this conversation. So I just want to throw out there this fact: You have a unicycle in your office. He would probably have a rule in his mind that says “If someone mentions the unicycle, say that I belong to a unicycling club.” Then I’d have a rule that says: “If someone tells me that he belongs to a unicycling club, do the following: ask how long he’s been doing it, and ask if he knows how to juggle too.” Etc.

What happened instead? I said “Do you ride a unicycle?” The other two people we were with sort of giggled as if it were a stupid question, because why the hell else would he have a unicycle in his office? The conversation derailed from there.

Point is, rules engines are pretty neat. And if that’s how the mind works, that’s simple, elegant, powerful, and therefore beautiful.


yincrash -

i’m pretty sure my rules are always subject to change because i love to second guess them. it makes my life so endlessly frustrating.

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