The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has
About brains: "My own brain is to me the most
unaccountable of machinery-- always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring
diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?"
About minds: "What we call a mind is nothing but a heap or
collection of different perceptions united together by certain
relations and suppos'd, tho' falsely, to be endow'd with a perfect
simplicity and identity."
And why I study them: "Distributed intelligence is a law of
nature. It is more than a technology. It's also a law of culture and
politics and evolution.
About planning: "To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan,
and not quite enough time."
About planning reactively: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an'
men Gang aft agley"
And using state: "Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me, The present only toucheth thee: But, Och! I backward cast my e'e On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!"
About using stats: "It’s easy to lie
with statistics, but it’s easier to lie without them."
About the words my fields throw around:
About theory: "In teoria, non c'e' differenza tra teoria e pratica. Ma
c'e'" (In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
But, in practice, there is.)
And about proofs: "Some people say
there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of
things can be proved. I don't believe them. The only thing for
certain is how complicated it all is..."
research: "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden
from you will be disclosed to you."
About `agent' research: "Navigation is
hard. Let's go shopping!"
About researching agents: "Objects do it
for free. Agents do it for money."
About business: "Customers aren't like other problems. They really
"Any time I consider a new project, I ask myself, is this pushing the
of gaming toward Nobel Prizes? If it's not, then it's not doing
important enough to spend my time."
"You can't have everything; where would you put it?"
"If I had everything I'd have a closet big enough to put it in."
"There is definitely, definitely, definitely
no logic to human behavior"
About both freedom of speech and software engineering (how
that?): "Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the
arguments for free
discussion, but object to their being `pushed to an extreme'; not
unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for
"Liberals have a set of folk theories that are fallacious. One of
them comes from the Enlightenment, and the assumption is that you are
supposed to be logical. They assume all you have to do is tell people
the facts and they will reason to the right conclusion. This is
utterly ridiculous. Thought is mainly metaphorical. The frames trump
all the facts."
About the goals of AI: "No, I'm not interested in developing a
powerful brain. All I'm after is just a mediocre brain, something like
the President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company."
"If the best the roboticists can hope for is the creation of some
crude, cheesy, second-rate, artificial consciousness, they still
About learning: "Generalisation is not the goal
of learning. Being right is the goal of learning."
"Great mathematics is achieved by solving difficult problems not by
fabricating elaborate theories in search of a problem."
About funding: "Every gun that is
made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the
final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those
who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending
money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of
its scientists, the houses of its children."
About what we promise the military: "With software products, it is
usual to find that the software has major `bugs' and does not work
reliably for some users... The lay public, familiar with only a few
incidents of software failure, may regard them as exceptions caused by
exceptionally inept programmers. Those of us who are software
professionals know better; the most competent programmers in the world
cannot avoid such problems."
"I don't even drink Coke. It tastes like robot sweat."
About precedent: "Nixon used it, and we said, 'Oh, Jesus, what have we
"Naturally if you were born in the nineteenth century when evolution
first began to be known, and everything was being understood, really
understood everybody knew that if everything was really being and
going to be understood, and if there was going to be progress there
would not be any wars, and if there were not any wars then everything
could be and would be understood, and even if death and life were not
understood and eternity and beginning was not understood well that is
to say if they were not understood more than science understood them
better after all except in the unhappiness of adolescence better not
think about that."
"Our long national nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is finally
"The cheap drama brings cause and effect, will power and action, once more into relation and gives a man the thrilling conviction that he may yet be master of his fate." -- Jane Addams, 1909.
"The peculiar evil of
silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human
race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent
from the opinion, still more than those who hold it."
More political quotes
About finishing one's PhD: "Live as if you will die tomorrow - study as if you will live forever." -- Erasmus
And another: "I was going to write a long thesis. Then I got
"The work that leads to a doctor's degree is a constant temptation
to sacrifice one's growth as a man to one's growth as a specialist."
"It never gets easier, you just go faster."
On why speed matters: "It does not matter how slowly you go so long
as you do not stop." --
"Nolite te bastardes carborundorum"
"Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne
About MIT: "This month's slogan: `It's not a hack; it's a prototype.'"
About Edinburgh: "There Learning with his eagle eyes / Seeks Science
in her coy abode."
"MIT wanted me, you know. Wanted me to rule the world for them."
About writing in general: "Contemporary critical theory tells
us that the very idea of communication is an illusion, or fallacy,
though it is not clear what it thinks it is doing when it tells us
About joy: "It's so moving it brings tears to your eyes. How
strange, but I guess that's what joy is."
"I wish there was a true love; I was there was a great art. I wish
there always was enough, but I'd not want if I were smart."
"Someday I'll be remembered for The phone calls I never made
Letters I never mailed And the stories I never finished telling anyone."
About alternative lifestyles "If married women are still seeking
aren't there enough in the home? What is more of a thrill than to
the joy in her husband's eyes as they wander over her tastily cooked
What a thrill when hubby is pleased with the charming gown she has made
from an inexpensive remnant of material. And what, if you will, could
the joy of bringing lovely boys and girls into the world? They surpass
About the dangers of marriage: "Because we were trying ... to enforce
something, a principle, that is much greater than this. We stand
against the one world government, against the coming world of the
| "We have several Buddhas around the house, but I
don't necessarily believe in that either. But if I'm
going to have a god, I'm going to have a smiling god."
About science and religion: " In the time of Galileo it was argued
that the texts, 'And the sun stood still ... and hasted not to go down
a whole day' (Joshua x. 13) and 'He laid the foundations of the earth,
it should not move at any time' (Psalm cv. 5) were an adequate
of the Copernican theory."
"Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith
violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have
that they are right and the other is evil."
More religious quotes
"... atheism, a term which will, I'm sure, eventually become as unnecessary
About growing up: "As an adolescent I aspired to
lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a
meaningful vision of human life -- so I became a scientist. This is
like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls."
About factual certainty: "The wireless music box has no imaginable
commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in
"I would never die for my beliefs
because I might be wrong."
"Life is complex. It has real and imaginary components."
Life as AI: "If travel is searching and home what's been found,
I'm not stopping. I'm going hunting."
"I wish a robot would get elected president. That way, when he came
to town, we could all take a shot at him and not feel too bad."
"I want no hand in creating a world where only Keanu Reeves can
protect my great-grandchildren."
"I haven't lost my mind -- it's backed up on tape somewhere." -- Anonymous