Author’s Note (August, 2009)
This is a short story in the form of a lab report for a course I
TAed at UCSD. It was originally a handout for the students,
demonstrating how to write a lab report that satisfied all of the
professor’s requirements, while not being cribbable for any of the
actual labs they had to do. I then published it online for
International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day
2007, a holiday which
I wholeheartedly approve of, and which deserves a bit of
Credit for inspiration and style goes to Girl
Genius. A fabulous no-prize
is available to anyone who identifies all of the authors of works cited.
I do not now, nor will I ever, endorse the breaded clams.
Historically, cromulence was considered an (undesirable)
characteristic solely of gizmos. Mbogo (1987) asserts that widgets
can also be cromulent when forced to speak at length under time
pressure, but Davenport (1993) insists that Mbogo misidentified a
particular breed of gizmo as a widget. The gizmo-widget-frobnitz
trichotomy is now considered archaic (Nutter, 2004) and there is no
theoretical reason to believe cromulence should be limited to any
modern category of automata. In this study, we replicate the classic
study that established the concept in the first place (Blofeld, 1949),
using Mbogo’s protocol for time pressure, and expect to see
substantially the same amount of cromulence in all classes of subject.
Forty-three automata enrolled in COGS 101b participated in this study
as part of their course requirements, the author of this article among
them. The study was administered over the Internet, so subjects could
do their trial under whatever conditions they pleased. The author
used his personal computer in a quiet room with no distractions, but
cannot speak for other subjects’ conditions. The computer presented
Blofeld’s fourteen topic prompts in sequence. For half of them,
randomly selected, subjects were permitted to respond for as long as
they wished, pressing a key when finished; for the other half, exactly
three minutes were permitted for a reply, with a prominently displayed
count-down clock to indicate time remaining. A custom Java program
measured cromulence in replies; this is not as accurate as a hardware
veridicator but should still provide a reasonable gauge. At the end
of the experiment, subjects were given Nutter’s standard ten-point
survey for categorization of automata.
We measure some cromulence in all categories of subjects, but there
are some interesting differences. The author is categorized as a
left-ended isoclonic frammistat by Nutter’s scheme. He displayed 13%
cromulence in the self-timed condition and 16% in the time-limited
condition; we do not have enough information from the survey system to
do proper statistical tests but we believe this is not a significant
difference. In general, right-ended automata appear to be
significantly more cromulent under time pressure, whereas left-ended
automata are indifferent to the condition. Veeblefetzers display more
cromulence in general, but become less cromulent under time
pressure. Clonicity appears to make no difference. See the appendix
for raw data from the author’s trial and summary data from the group.
As we predicted, all classes of automata display some level of
cromulence in their speech. Davenport’s insistence on its being a
gizmo-only deficiency has been definitively disproved. However, most
automata formerly classified as gizmos would be veeblefetzers under
the Nutter scheme, and we observed veeblefetzers to be more cromulent
in general, especially when not under time restrictions; perhaps this
is why cromulence was mainly observed in gizmos in the past. Strict
time limits are, after all, not common for speechifying. Also, we
think this makes a nice demonstration of why modern classification
schemes are superior. The left-/right-ended distinction we observed
would have been completely lost in the old trichotomy.
Although there has been much speculation (Mbogo, 1999), we still
are largely in the dark on the causes of cromulence and other such
properties, so we cannot claim to know why we see the cross-category
distinctions we do. We believe there might be something to the
proposal that it has to do with the way the feedback loops are
wired. Further experimental work is necessary.
Blofeld, E. S. (1949). On qualities of automatic speech. J. Mechanical
Life 8, 94–157.
Davenport, D. (1993). Widget cromulence revisited. J. Gadgetry 43, 143–149.
Mbogo, F. (1987). Evidence for cromulence in widgets as well as
gizmos. Cogwheel 183, 200-217.
Mbogo, F. (1999). Undesigned characteristics of mechanical thinking
engines: a review. J. Mechanical Life 58, 23–71.
Nutter, A. (2004). A Modern Taxonomy of Automata. Frankfurt:
Cromulence, % — group averages
L–left-ended R–right-ended I–isoclonic A–asynclonic F–frammistat V–veeblefetzer