John McCarthy

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John McCarthy (September 4, 1927– ) is a computer scientist, and winner of the 1971 Turing Award. He coined the term "artificial intelligence".

Attributed

  • Amateur bureaucrats are often even worse than professional bureaucrats.
  • An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.
  • An excessive knowledge of Marxism is a sign of a misspent youth.
  • An extreme optimist is a man who believes that humanity will probably survive even if it doesn't take his advice.
  • As Marx should have said, the principle of communism is From each according to what he can't get out of doing. To each according to whom he knows.
  • As the Chinese say, 1001 words is worth more than a picture.
  • As we have recently seen, the function of the anti-trust laws is to protect the poor little fellow with a mere $5 billion from being bullied by the big guy with $50 billion.
  • A true intellectual is a man who, after reading a book and being convinced by its arguments, will shoot someone or, more likely, order someone shot.
  • Barnum predicted that most psychoanalysts would have a hard time making living when he said,"There's a sucker born every minute and two to take him." One sucker isn't really enough to support two psychoanalysts.
  • Both politicians and journalists face situations which strain their honesty and humanity. My opinion is that politicians on the average stand up somewhat better than journalists.
  • Committing genocide on behalf of an institution generates greater loyalty to it than merely getting people fired from their jobs on its behalf.
  • Comparing oneself with Galileo or Einstein is certainly good for the ego - provided one refrains from going into too much detail.
  • Compassion is contempt with a human face.
  • Cynicism is a cheap substitute for sophistication. You don't actually have to learn anything.
  • Don't try to talk anyone out of concentrating his hatred on Ayn Rand or any other dead person. It can't harm the dead. Diverted to a living person, it might actually do harm.
  • Everyone needs computer programming. It will be the way we speak to the servants.
  • Foolishness is rarely a matter of lack of intelligence or even lack of information.
  • God did not design human beings in accordance with Christian principles, fascist principles, feminist principles, socialist principles, romantic principles, secular humanist priciples, vegetarian principles, deep environmentalist principles, biocentric principles, or libertarian principles. Any of these groups could have told God a thing or two.
  • Hard distinctions make bad philosophy.
  • He has the first half of the Golden Rule down pat: Do unto others.
  • Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, it is possible that the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him to change his mind and discover a way to do it. He will be pleased. The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side.
  • He's a man of principle. He'd cut his mother's throat for a principle.
  • He who claims that affairs could not be worse is very likely to make them worse.
  • He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.
  • He who says he will die for a cause will probably lie for it and may kill for it.
  • Honor among thieves is the ancestor of all honor.
  • If everyone were to live for others all the time, life would be like a procession of ants following each other around in a circle.
  • If it doesn't work right, we can always try something else.
  • If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power.
  • Inside of many liberals is a fascist struggling to get out.
  • It is deplorable that many people think that the best way to improve the world is to forbid something. However, they're morally more advanced than the people who think the best way to improve the world is to kill somebody.
  • It's just a pissing contest, but unfortunately the contestants never seem to run out of piss.
  • It's possible to program a computer in English. It's also possible to make an airplane controlled by reins and spurs.
  • Language is froth on the surface of thought.
  • Malthus was right. It's hard to see how the solar system could support much more than 1028 people or the universe more than 1050.
  • My hobby of not attending meetings about recycling saves more energy than your hobby of recycling.
  • Never abandon a theory that explains something until you have a theory that explains more.
  • No-one has yet built a monument so high that a bird can't fly over and shit on it.
  • Note to Douglas Hofstadter and Raymond Smullyan: Excessive self reference is as dangerous as smoking.
  • Of course, Third World leaders love you. By ascribing third world ills to First World sins, you absolve them of blame for their countries' failure to advance.
  • Oh, he's sincere all right. The question is: what is he sincere about?
  • Once a person has killed other people on behalf of an ideology, he becomes rather devoted to it.
  • People mourn when a person dies, but no-one mourns the billions of intestinal bacteria that his death dooms. Speciesism, I calls it.
  • People prefer dealing with machinery to dealing with bureaucracies.
  • Personal dishonesty is not needed to produce a dishonest business plan or research proposal. Wishful thinking suffices.
  • Slogans rarely convince the unconvinced. However, they do rally the troops already on your side.
  • Soccer riots kill at most tens. Intellectuals' ideological riots sometimes kill millions.
  • Suicidal terrorists may have short shelf lives.
  • The difference between a contemporary liberal and a socialist is that to a liberal the most beautiful word in the English language is 'forbidden', whereas to a socialist the most beautiful word is 'compulsory'.
  • The last ten percent of any reform is the most difficult to achieve. Moreover, it is often harmful.
  • The peace movement is a great force for peace. Some of the world's most quarrelsome people act out their aggressions through the peace movement.
  • The politicians have a most touching faith in technology—that it can make up for any dumb thing the politicians decide to do.
  • The reason why a professor does something has even less connection with why he says he does it than with most people.
  • "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Yes, even if it's a bad idea.
  • There is only one thing more harmful to society than an elected official forgetting the promises he made in order to get elected; that's when he doesn't forget them.
  • The slogan was 'Don't trust anyone over thirty'. Sixty years later the slogan became, 'Don't trust anyone over ninety'.
  • The word philistine as a pejorative is used in a variety of senses, but a common one refers to a person interested only in money and the goods and amusements money can buy. Usually it doesn't refer to someone who will do anything for money but rather a person who, if he makes a reasonable amount of money, will spend his time enjoying it without considering either the arts, the advance of science, or righting the injustices of the world—unless one of the above happens to be his job. It may not be presumed that the Philistine people of the Bible had this property any more than anyone else. Philistines do less harm than most ideologically motivated people.
  • This is not the first time my views on some topic have inspired in someone the desire to psychoanalyze me. Previous experience leads me to ask about your couch. Is it comfortable? Are its springs in good shape?
  • We can't afford to waste money on crossing the ocean, Mr. Columbus, when Spanish society has so many unsolved problems. Why, most of those Jews and Moors we have converted aren't really sincere Catholics, and a lack of money to hire more inquisitors has put their questionings so far behind that many have died of natural causes before the Holy Inquisition ever got around to them.
  • Well, perhaps you are a pompous fool with power. Please explain what you want me to do and what harm you are threatening to do to me if I don't comply with your wishes.
  • When architects get prizes, the people suffer.
  • When he talks about "firing that loony" he reminds me of a robin attacking its image in a hubcap.
  • When I see a slippery slope, my instinct is to build a terrace.
  • When the policeman quits, each must provide for his own defense. Nuclear proliferation has become more likely.
  • When there's a will to fail, obstacles can be found.
  • With no more than six levels of misquotation, any statement can be made to say whatever you wish.
  • Would you vegetarians like a rule that food stamps cannot be used to purchase products containing meat? Would you vegans like to also forbid their use to purchase eggs, fish or milk products? Some years ago some of my fellow conservatives grumbled about the purchase of filet mignon with food stamps, but their motives were economic, and they were easily beaten down with the usual charges of heartlessness. Maybe you vegetarians would have better luck, since your hearts are pure.
  • You don't want to examine the basis of your computer's morality any more than you want to see sausage being made.
  • Your denial of the importance of objectivity amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say.
  • Your statements amount to saying that if AI is possible, it should be easy. Why is that?
  • You say the only alternative to nuclear war is world government. There is only one possibility worse than nuclear war for the survival of modern civilization, and that is world government. Civilization might recover from the damage of a nuclear war, but judging by past static empires in Egypt and China, it might never recover from world government, there being no chance of external intervention. As it is, present governments are only prevented from becoming dominated by crazy ideas that will suppress all opposition by the existence of other governments. The only way a people can be sure that their government is substandard is that it does worse than those of other countries.
  • You say you couldn't live if you thought the world had no purpose. You're saying that you can't form purposes of your own—that you need someone to tell you what to do. The average child has more gumption than that.