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Jocelyn Paine

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The Life and Wisdom of Father Aloysius Hacker

November 15, 2009

I became aware of Fr. Aloysius Hacker and his unique approach to AI through a research report in an old AISB Quarterly, the newsletter of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour. A page long, the report described a robot billiards player. It dismissed object recognition and tracking in one paragraph. The rest of the page, it devoted in great and reassuring detail to the workings of an integer-equality predicate used in counting balls. Which makes sense, because why say much about what you're not confident of? Readers want stuff they can trust. Then yesterday, I came across Fr. Hacker again, in The Researcher's Bible (1): thirteen pages of excellent advice to research students, in which Fr. Hacker demonstrates how to define the argument to be advanced by a research paper. So I decided to search out AISB's online articles by Fr. Hacker, and here they are. As he asks in one article, why specify, modularise, or test? To someone of your ability, suggesting you need such help is an insult.

The links below are all to PDF copies of AISB Quarterly. Fr. Hacker always publishes on page 12.

Fr. Hacker's Diary
20th August 2001. With high-tech companies crashing all around us, it is a major coup for Hacker Enterprises to have developed an ICT business model that really works.
(Issue 106)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 1: Creating Time for the Pursuit of Research
Inspired by the new look AISB Quarterly, I have remodelled my column as a guide for the young AI researcher. In each issue I will tackle a different skill that the ambitious AI researcher must perfect. I will identify techniques and pass on tips that will turn the aspiring novice into a successful master. For this inaugural entry in the guide, there is no more important skill than that of creating time for the pursuit of research.
(Issue 107)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 2: How to Become a Media Tart
We continue the series of articles, begun in the last AISB Quarterly, in which we provide invaluable advice to the young AI researcher. In this second article we address the vital art of becoming a media tart.
(Issue 108)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 3: How to Get Your Research Published
We continue our widely acclaimed guide series, advising young researchers how to succeed in the modern world of AI research, by tackling a vital topic.
(Issue 109)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 4: How to Optimise Your Citation Count
At last, the edition of the Guide that you have all been waiting for.
(Issue 110)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 5: How to Get Research Funding
The Guide turns to a vital topic for the young AI researcher.
(Issue 111)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 6: How to Gain an International Reputation
All researchers seek the recognition and respect of their peers. In their wake come promotion, status and financial reward. So how to get them?
(Issue 112)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 7: How to Write Computing Programs
AI research is founded on computer programs. Your research reputation ultimately depends on the quality of your software.
(Issue 113)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 8: How to give a presentation
Congratulations! You have succeeded in getting a research paper accepted for a conference or being invited to give a seminar. Now, it is vital that your presentation makes the best possible impression and further enhances your international reputation.
(Issue 114)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 9: How to be a Research Leader
AI research is labour intensive. To make an impact, you need a devoted work force to implement your groundbreaking ideas. To orchestrate raw postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers into the harmonious, world-class team that you need, it is essential to know how to be a Research Leader.
(Issue 115)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 10: How to write papers
The key to a successful research career is to publish the maximum number of papers with the minimum amount of effort.
(Issue 116)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 11: How to be a Consultant
You will know you have arrived when you are first asked to be a consultant. Not only is this a tribute to your growing reputation, but it will also help to supplement your otherwise meagre income as an AI researcher.
(Issue 117)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 12: How to Organise a Conference
Organising a major international conference both demonstrates the esteem in which your peers hold you and illustrates your selfless dedication to serving your field. You must seek out this double opportunity.
(Issue 118)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 13: How to Argue
Your whole research career consists of argument: presenting the central argument of your research work, understanding and criticising the arguments in other people's work, teaching these arguments to your students.
(Issue 119)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 14: How to be creative
Prowess in AI research requires constant imagination, ingenuity and innovation.
(Issue 120)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 15: How to edit a journal
An appointment as the editor of a major journal is one of the highest accolades that your peers can bestow. Thoughtlessly handled, however, it can also be a major burden.
(Issue 121)

The Life of A. Hacker Episode 1: The Early Years
I was born to humble parents in a Mayfair slum in London in 1938. Neighbours would remark on how much I took after my father, but I saw little of him during my childhood, since he was a frequent guest at a high-security Government establishment at Wormwood Scrubs, …
(Issue 122)

The Life of A. Hacker Episode 2: Formative Years
Disowned by my absent parents, in 1950, as a twelve year old functional orphan, I entered the Academy for Belief in and the Upholding of Spiritual Education (ABUSETM) based in Manchester.
(Issue 123)

The Life of A. Hacker Episode 3: Accelerating intellect
Funded by lucrative income from my company BOOTLEGTM (Black-boxes, Other Outfits and Thingamajigs, Likewise Electronic Gizmos), in 1956 I set out for Dartmouth, USA for the first ever AI conference.
(Issue 124)

The Life of A. Hacker Episode 4: Computational Theology
The UK I returned to, at the start of the Swinging Sixties, was very different from the one I had left. It was alive to new thinking, especially to the combination of "white hot" technological innovation with new forms of spirituality and the spending of large sums of money.
(Issue 125)

The Life of A. Hacker Episode 5: Four Seasons of AI
UK weather is famous for its variability — so is AI weather. From the mid-60s to the mid-80s, AI went through four seasons, but not in the usual order. The AI Spring started in the mid-60s, as the diaspora from the demise of CATHOLICTM (Church of Aloysius Theobald Hacker for Ordinations, Liturgy, Inquisitions and Christenings) founded new research groups in Edinburgh, Sussex, Essex and elsewhere. Unfortunately, relations with Mickey MacDonald's group …
(Issue 126)

Fr. Hacker's Guide for the Young AI Researcher 16: How to maximise your citation count
We interrupt the "Life of A. Hacker" to bring you this special and important supplement to Hacker's Guide. The main determinant of your score in the new Research Excellence Framework will be citation counts. Maximising citations to your work will be your passport to appointments, promotions, and research fame. This can be a blessing, not a curse, if you learn how to be cited.
(Issue 127)


(1) By Alan Bundy, Ben du Boulay, Jim Howe, and Gordon Plotkin, with contributions from Graeme Ritchie and Peter Ross. There are other guides — such as Writing a good grant proposal and Questions to Ask of AI Research — at Alan Bundy's page of How-To Guides.

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