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什么是复印机?

今天看到一个非常欢乐的法庭记录,详见【1】。这是俄亥俄的一个县政府关于复印机的官司。律师M(arburger)问县政府IT主管P(atterson)知道什么是”photocopying machine”,P说他不知道。为这个词的定义,双方鸡生蛋蛋生鸡了半天,浪费了足足10页法庭记录。最精彩的是最后一段:

Marburger: Have you ever–do you have machines there where I can put in a paper document, push a button or two, and out will come copies of that paper document also on paper? Do you have such a machine?

Patterson: Yes, sir.

Marburger: What do you call that machine?

Patterson: Xerox.

Marburger: Xerox. Is the machine made by the Xerox Company? Is that why it’s called Xerox?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: So Xerox, in the parlance that you’ve described, the language that you’ve described, is being used generically as opposed to describing a particular brand; is that right?

Patterson: All of my life I’ve just known people to say Xerox. It’s not commonplace to use the terminology that you’re using.

因为P,和这个县政府里的所有人,从来都把复印机叫“施乐”(Xerox),而不知道什么是“photocopying machine”或者“photocopier”。

 

典型的语义通信失败。

关于复印机,最近还看另外两个笑话。韩国人分不清”f”和“p”,所以在美国的韩国人,或者在韩国的美国人(链接找不到了),会为此闹乌龙, 把coffee machine说成copy machine,反之亦然。这是典型的信道噪声导致的语义噪声。

上星期五听NPR里介绍一本书《什么是信息》【2】,听起来很不错。作者是James Gleick,当年因为《混沌学传奇》得过普利策奖的,我读大学的时候读过。

NPR上另一篇简介信息概念的文章【3】也很不错,香农的理论,算法信息论都讲到,很好懂。

最后,这个周末我做了一个语义信息的计算器。一个句子,可以很长,但是废话–比如“今天要么下雨,要么不下雨”;反之,很短的句子也可以包含很深刻的思想(i.e., 可以从里面引申很多结论)。语义信息测量的不是句子本身的复杂性,而是句子的“废话”程度。目前只支持介词逻辑(Propositional Logic)。

(很抱歉没法写得更生动有趣些,脑子已经木了)

参考:

  1. Identifying photocopy machine poses problem for Cuyahoga County official http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/03/identifying_photocopy_machine.html
  2. Bit By Bit, ‘The Information’ Reveals Everything http://www.npr.org/2011/03/08/134366651/bit-by-bit-the-information-reveals-everything
  3. What is information http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/06/04/127473541/what-is-information
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