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Endless Loops & Non-artificial intelligence

By November 21, 2003web-tech

Loops are part of everyday life, and sometimes they are good. And sometimes they are bad. In electronic circuits a bad loop is known as a short-circuit. In computer programs an out of control loop that goes on forever is something that is very bad.

Humans also exhibit looping behavior, and this is usually not good. Young children do this a lot, asking repeatedly for some goodie until the harried parent gives in. Sometimes two humans will enter a simulatneous loop.

Recently at an airport I saw an elderly woman at a hot dog counter complaining to the immigrant worker with plastic gloves that she had not received the correct change. The gloved worker kept showing her that her drawer had no $20 bills and kept explaining she couldn’t have taken an twenty from the woman. Then the elderly woman would again repeat her version, and they volleyed back and forth like this as a long line of hungry and weary travellers waited to see if the loop would end.

I see a lot of loops in emails. People who will respond (and cc everyone who received the original E-mail even if it was a trivial question) to every E-mail they get. If we were farther along with Artificial Intelligence we could build programs that would recognize these “looping emails,” analyze them for the meaningful thread of information, and keep only that thread. I’m not waiting for AI to solve this problem. I use non-artificial intelligence, and when I see a bunch of emails that all have “RE:” followed by the same subject line I just delete them all. I believe that looping has to be dealt with ruthlessly.

How do you deal with looping?

P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.


  • ts 128 says:

    a problem whit email are that a small noticr to a littel quastin are that that the realy discussen just end up as a disucssen abut a triva or a funny comment

  • Dan Tobias says:

    What’s needed for the e-mail issue is for people to show some natural intelligence… if you’re careful about trimming quoted material down to the minimum needed to establish context for a reply, and selective about who you cc or forward, and cut out useless accumulated headers and footers from massively forwarded messages, then you greatly improve the signal-to-noise ratio of your correspondence.

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