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July 2005
August 2005

2005-07-02 »

On Distributed Intelligence

Yesterday I and my friends were looking for the site of the Canada Day fireworks (see if you can find them by browsing the web site!). We were initially having some rather bad luck, but were getting reassured by meeting with occasional people who would come to us and ask, "Is this where you can go to find the fireworks?" Being asked the question so many times, of course, implied that there were many people who at least had some idea that this was the right place.

But since we didn't know where we were going either, it eventually became more clear: we asked a few other people for directions, and they gave the same answer as us: "I hope so!" But people were walking in some direction or another. At one point we actually caught ourselves following a group of people who, five minutes earlier, had asked us whether this was the right place. Some consideration led us to this important life observation:

If nobody around you knows where they're going, the people who know where they're going are somewhere else.

Upon realizing this, we departed quickly in search of people who knew where they were going. Happily, we found the site in our second-guess location of where the fireworks ought to be, right before the show actually started, so it all worked out for the best, and with a free philosophy lesson to boot.

(For the morbidly curious: you should know that the Quai Jacques-Cartier is apparently not the same as the Pont Jacques-Cartier. Perversely, the fireworks last night were at the Quai, but the fireworks tonight are at the Pont.)

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