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Old 19-01-2006, 11:37 PM posted to alt.food.wine
Max Hauser
 
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Default Wine-advice software; demystification bibliography

[Bibliography of some classic wine-demystification books in English appears
at the end.]

Someone is reportedly selling software now to give personal wine
recommendations (based on a questionnaire). It's hard for me to imagine a
piece of software giving reliable personal wine recommendations, since that
requires getting to know your tastes -- but this has been available (for
centuries) from good local wine merchants if you have them.

However, it's easy to imagine people selling software that promises to do
so. Many of you can remember (before about the 1980s) when computers were
much rarer, more expensive, and still had a larger-than-life mystique. This
mystique was early exploited to make mechanistic advice look authoritative:
The Computer Said It, and The Computer is awesome. Here's an incident I
know first-hand. When I was a teenager (when time-shared computers were
first showing up in schools, with local terminals) a friend at Berkeley High
School said that well-meaning staffers were offering students occupational
guidance By Computer. (This friend did volunteer computer support, and had
the run of The Computer.) We looked at this small custom software program
and it was simplistic, it asked some questions and matched up a simple set
of career suggestions, as one might do on paper but faster -- and
Authoritative Looking. Unfortunately, students and counselors seemed to
take this novel tool too seriously. The Computer Says I am suited for X, so
it must be true. So we got to work. Soon the career recommendations began
including random odd suggestions -- transplant donor, pencil, etc. -- with
the serious ones. Then late in the user session it would increasingly make
spelling mistakes and, as it were, slur its speech. Finally it would
degenerate to nonsense. It stayed in use for some time that way, but people
looked on it differently, maybe even as imperfect as humanity, or more so.
(There's demystification for you.)

Most everyone in the wine industry labors to de-mystify wine (especially in
places like US where wine is not a widespread tradition), to reduce barriers
and increase demand. There's also been a continuum of wine-enthusiastic
writers with humor and wit and anecdotes. I listed below some very well
known, entry-level wine books pre-1980, most of them published in the US.
(I am not a wine-book expert. I have posted all of these before. I've
posted wine info sources publicly here for 20-some years for what it's
worth. The first public Internet wine-forum posting still public,
incidentally, was affordable red-wine suggestions, in early 1982 by Charles
Wetherell, who created the wine newsgroup.) For anyone interested, these
books have been steadily available new or used (search today by ISBN XXX, or
title, at amazon.com or other online sellers, or even a general search
engine). One of the best, very useful even now, is the oldest, Saintsbury
(1920). The list illustrates longtime efforts at demystification. Mystique
is inherent in wine, in the eye of the newcomer. The wine world is
thousands of years old, and COMPLEX. Like art, or real estate, or the stock
market, or human nature. It takes time to LEARN, though there are aids,
including those below and others. Frustration with this reality -- the
yearning to short-cut the learning -- is part of human nature too.

Your health! -- Max

--------
"I hope [this] book will stimulate -- especially in the younger
generation -- a wider appreciation of wine's many virtues. A knowledge of
wines should be a part of everyone's education. To walk about with an Arts
degree and be ignorant of wine is incongruous. I could put up strong
arguments for including wine in the curriculum of all high schools and
colleges." (Blake Ozias, 1966)


George Sainstsbury, _Notes on a Cellar-Book._ 1920. Frequently reprinted
with very minor changes; 14th edition 1978. ISBN 0831764503

Schoonmaker and Marvel, American Wines , Duell, Sloan and Pearce (New York),
1941.

John Melville, _Guide to California Wines,_ 1955, 1960, 1968, 1972.

Blake Ozias, _All About Wine,_1966 and 1973. ISBN 0690000944.

H. W. Yoxall, _The Wines of Burgundy,_ 1968 [1974 p'back], ISBN
0140462007, and 1978, ISBN 0812860918. Simple introduction to a complex
topic (the history and geography haven't changed, at least) but Yoxall is
known for wry humor, and also wrote the preface to the 1978 reissue of
Saintsbury.

Alexis Bespaloff, _Guide to Inexpensive Wines,_ 1973. "SBN" 671215027.

Bob Thompson and Hugh Johnson, _The California Wine Book,_ 1976, ISBN
0688030874. Penetrating snapshot, a landmark in its day -- like Schoonmaker
and Marvel in the 1940s, Melville in the 1950s, the UC/Sotheby _Book of
California Wine_ in the 1980s. Also if I remember, the food selection of
the Book-of-the-Month Club.



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Old 20-01-2006, 03:05 AM posted to alt.food.wine
Mark Lipton
 
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Default Wine-advice software; demystification bibliography

Max Hauser wrote:

Someone is reportedly selling software now to give personal wine
recommendations (based on a questionnaire). It's hard for me to imagine a
piece of software giving reliable personal wine recommendations, since that
requires getting to know your tastes -- but this has been available (for
centuries) from good local wine merchants if you have them.

However, it's easy to imagine people selling software that promises to do
so. Many of you can remember (before about the 1980s) when computers were
much rarer, more expensive, and still had a larger-than-life mystique. This
mystique was early exploited to make mechanistic advice look authoritative:
The Computer Said It, and The Computer is awesome.


Max,
As you no doubt know, AI research has changed markedly since its
heyday in the '80s and has lately (in part) focused on expert systems.
I have no doubt that someone with decent resources could create a wine
expert system that, given enough data input, could perform about as well
as most wine merchants. However, I doubt that that is what you're
talking about here. Regarding your second point, you also no doubt
remember two of the earliest forays into AI: Eliza and Parry, the former
mimicking a therapist and the latter a paranoid schizophrenic. Both
were of course nothing more than hardcoded chatbots in today's parlance,
but still managed to fool quite a few gullible souls into thinking that
they were talking to real people.

Thanks for the bibliography,
Mark Lipton
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Old 20-01-2006, 07:36 PM posted to alt.food.wine
DaleW
 
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Default Wine-advice software; demystification bibliography

I'd forgotten Eliza. I've had worse therapists.

http://www-ai.ijs.si/eliza/eliza.html

Thanks Max and Mark.

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Old 20-01-2006, 09:14 PM posted to alt.food.wine
Max Hauser
 
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Default Wine-advice software; demystification bibliography

"DaleW" in oups.com:
I'd forgotten Eliza. I've had worse therapists.


Yes, I remember it too. There was a public display terminal at a museum
that Mark will know (LHS) in the early 1970s. People could go up to a
terminal and exchange discussion. The program often used simple mechanistic
procedures (like, you mention X and it comes back with "How does X make you
feel?") -- not so very different from some human therapists sometimes?
There was also a fictionalized version giving mental-health support to the
masses, in an avant-garde science-fiction movie around that time (THX 1138 I
think). The public Eliza demonstrations may have helped too to de-mystify
computers quite a bit, to people who tried them (apropos previous posting).

The high tide of artificial-intelligence (AI) funding and research and
glamour circa 1965-1975, and especially its penetrating critics like Hubert
Dreyfus, used to make clear that the US gov't would set up funding (one
could almost say prizes) for whoever could create a software program to do X
Y Z externally intelligent-looking things. Astute software researchers then
set about writing specialized programs that did exactly X Y Z as defined in
the challenge -- like more sophisticated Eliza programs -- and won the
prizes. (As I remember, one early program titled, grandly, "General Problem
Solver," was such a case, and that in reality it performed a mechanistic,
narrowly constrained function. This stuff brought criticism within the AI
research world. One expert wrote that if we don't clean up our act, someone
else will do it for us, and Dreyfus then wrote "I take that as my cue" for a
second edition of his book, which was titled _What Computers Still Can't
Do._ For anyone unfamiliar with the name, Hubert Dreyfus wrote about AI as
a professor of philosophy, and his brother was a professor of engineering at
the same university. The brothers looked alike, and would appear at
well-attended public debates with passionate proponents of AI in the 1970s.
I remember one of those chaired by Lofti Zadeh, that I attended as a
student -- Zadeh introduced Hubert Dreyfus with very good humor as the
"reactionary" voice on the panel -- those were meaty debates, real
substance. "AI" of this early, boom-time type went out of fashion, Stanford
AI Lab (SAIL) lost its Donald C. Power building full of DEC computers of the
_less_ familiar PDP numbers ("Programmed Data Processors," if anyone's
interested) and its self-propelled robot with TV camera on top (unique
official yellow diamond road sign nearby: "Caution! Robot Vehicle").
Usually there were graduate students at the other end of the wireless link,
watching the picture from the TV camera and guiding the robot. In the
summer, the robot could be seen some distance away hanging around near an
idyllic pond and meadow, popular for nude bathing.




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