Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

The picaresque tale of la Mettrie is well told in Pamela McCorduck’s deliciously titled book Machines Who Think, a poetically written and truly engrossing, though somewhat biased, early history of AI—and while we’re speaking of translating book titles, I offer you the challenge of translating McCorduck’s title into French. There is a serious snag—namely, that the French relative pronoun qui means both “that” and “who”, and therefore the obvious solution, “Machines qui pensent”, falls totally flat, since it back-translates into “Machines That Think”. Can you do better?

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

And in the same way the universal historians sometimes, when it pleases them and fits in with their theory, say that power is the result of events, and sometimes, when they want to prove something else, say that power produces events.

Susan Cain – Quiet (2012)

We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a lightsaber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.


Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

It is important to realize that the expressive photograph (the “creative” photograph) or the informational photograph does not have directly proportional relationship to what we call reality. … Many consider my photographs to be in the “realistic” category. Actually, what reality they have is in their optical-image accuracy; their values are definitely “departures from reality.” The viewer may accept them as realistic because the visual effect may be plausible, but if it were possible to make direct visual comparison with the subjects, the differences would be startling.


Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)

…An odd feature of what happened is that your System 1 treated the mere conjunction of two words as representations of reality. Your body reacted in an attenuated replica of a reaction to the real thing, and the emotional response and physical recoil were part of the interpretation of the event. As cognitive scientists have emphasized in recent years, cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

TIT FOR TAT fared spectacularly well in the ecological tournament, increasing its lead ever more. After 1,000 generations, not only was TIT FOR TAT ahead, but its rate of growth was greater than that of any other program. This is an almost unbelievable success story, all the more so because of the absurd simplicity of the “hero”. One amusing aspect of it is that TIT FOR TAT did not defeat a single one of its rivals in their encounters. This is not a quirk; it is in the nature of TIT FOR TAT. TIT FOR TAT simply cannot defeat anyone; the best it can achieve is a tie, and often it loses (though not by much).

(About Axelrod’s iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments, where the contestants were programmed strategies. The ecological tournament was one that repeatedly eliminated the worst-performing strategies from the pool, so that the ‘environment’ of strategies evolved until a winner came out on top. TfT simply begins by cooperating and subsequently does whatever its opponent did on the previous turn.)

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Terry Pratchett – Unseen Academicals (2009)

A lot hinges on the fact that, in most circumstances, people are not allowed to hit you with a mallet. They put up all kinds of visible and invisible signs that say ‘Do not do this’ in the hope that it’ll work, but if it doesn’t, then they shrug, because there is, really, no real mallet at all.