Symbolic A.I.

The other day, I was bored, and so I started clicking on the StumbleUpon button on my Firefox toolbar (StumbleUpon is a neat little free plugin that sends you to random user-discovered webpages. Good if you’re bored and you want to discover something new, but also dangerously addictive). Somehow, I ran into a production journal for a program called PixelMachine, a raytracer programmed in C++, and put together over a weekend. It’s really quite impressive. That inspired me to start learning C++.

Today, boredom struck again. After clicking “Stumble” for a few hours, hoping to find something amusing, a thought occurred: why not start a similarly impressive project? What, though, could I possibly do? I’m still far too much of a C++ novice to program anything like that. I also didn’t want to do anything derivative. So I thought, why not a symbolic A.I. program?

I don’t know if “symbolic A.I.” is a pre-existing term, but even if it is, I’ll re-define it here (try and stop me! I dare ya’!). In my mind, symbolic A.I. is a sort of self-modifying computer program. The symbols involved represent little bits of computer code. This code, though, can modify and extend itself, in a very recursive, loopy sort of way. This is how I imagine the program’s learning process:

  1. The program is primed with a bit of code, perhaps a code for giving a reply to a yes/no question.
  2. The program is run. The program “mutates” and self-modifies at runtime.
  3. The program is run again, and user feedback (or computer-generated feedback) determines the fitness of the program’s new version
  4. The information from Step 3 is used to “push” the program in a certain way.
  5. Go back to Step 2.

Thus begins what will likely be a blundering saga: the SymbolicAI program-development journal! Not only will this track the development of SymbolicAI itself, but my growth as a C++ programmer. You, dear reader, will follow me as I thumb through references, hunt down tutorials on the Internet, and reverse-engineer and study other C++ programs.

And so it begins. I start with this:

#include <isotream>
using namespace std;
int main ()
return 0;

Who knows where I’ll end up? To work!


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