Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding

So, years ago, Kurt Eiselt, who was then a professor at Georgia Tech, did an independent study with me on NLP/NLU. It was pretty great, though mostly because it got me excited about the field. We wrote really simple parsers for really tiny subsets of English, in Common Lisp, and talked about how language might work cognitively. He had me get a copy of Schank and Abelson's classic Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding. I read some of it, but for the most part, it's just sat on my shelf for the better part of a decade.

Out of a sense of "geez, this is something I should have read, I'm an NLP researcher now", I've been working through it. It's kind of slow going: I find Schank kind of light on the details and heavy on the intuition, fairly vague. Maybe the later chapters have more detail about the story understanding system they purportedly built in the 70s.

But if there's been a chunk that's worth reading, it's this, at the very end of chapter 5.
John couldn't get a taxi, so he rode his horse downtown and into a restaurant. He beat up another customer and took a menu from him. He decided to have a steak. The waiter came along and John offered him a bottle of scotch if he listened to John tell him what he wanted to eat. John went to the kitchen and told the cook to give him a steak, because the cook could always deduct the gift from his income tax. When the cook refused, John offered to give him guitar lessons, and that worked. While John was eating the steak, the waiter came back and stole $10 from John's wallet. Then John got on his horse and rode out.

No comments: