# Two-year-old as finite state machine

Some time ago I joined a family for dinner, and they had a two-year-old. During dinner, the two-year-old accidentally knocked over her glass, and liquid quickly spread across the table. The adults at the table sprang into action, containing the spill on the table, wiping it up, and checking for leakage onto the floor.

After all the excitement died down, the two-year-old looked down, saw the empty glass, and threw her hands up in the air, proudly announcing, "I drank it all!"

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1. Aaargh! says:

A friend of mine once observed that babies are functions. It takes food as input and provides noise and smell as output.

[What’s so special about babies? Adults are the same way. Well, okay, the noises are different. -Raymond]
2. Andrew says:

This is what happens when you use polling!

3. Neil (SM) says:

Reminds me of a "Baby FSM" T-Shirt I saw years ago.

http://www.clevercuties.com/shopexd.asp?id=181

4. McKay says:

Two-year olds are cute, so are people like Andrew who find a parallel to computing :D

5. Ben Voigt [C++ MVP] says:

"Markov model" might be a more correct term, because it specifically precludes any memory other than the current state id.  Although this instance is even more like purely combinational logic (no retained state at all).

In any case, watching the intelligence of young children unfold to slowly incorporate more and more knowledge and understanding of the world is definitely a win.

6. Reminds me of Mike Stall’s post "My baby, the finite state machine":

http://blogs.msdn.com/jmstall/archive/2006/09/13/baby_state_machine.aspx

7. Aaargh! says:

"What’s so special about babies? Adults are the same way. Well, okay, the noises are different."

Babies are not special. But the difference is this is all they do, humans have more complex behavior: they aren’t simple functions, babies are. A least until they have completed bootstrapping and turn into people.

8. me says:

I have used this behavior in the past to ‘reset’ a baby.  They have a stack of ~2 usually and you can overflow the stack easily.  The usual reaction is to go back to a discovery state.  So you can hand them two non related objects then point out something in the room.  They will usually reset.  Do not use to often as they will adapt :)  Works pretty good with a fussy baby.

This usually works up until about age 3 and a half when they start forming more complex systems themselves.  At which point the stack is MUCH larger.

Learned this from BOFH :)

9. Worf says:

Discovered that behavior in my dog today as well.

One of the tricks I taught him was where I’d put some food on his snout, just behind the nose, and he’s to hold his position, until I command him to get it (but he’s got to get it before it hits the ground).

So lately I mix it up by giving him an intevening command (shake paw) with the food on his nose, then let him get it. He’s been doing the motion for awhile now, just I’ve been giving him explicit commands.

Today, food on nose, but he failed to respond at all. Like he’s crashed – didn’t respond at all. So I take the food off his nose, and gave him the command to eat, and he repeated the motions, followed by a quizzical look as he didn’t see what happened to the food nor had anything enter his mouth – he didn’t notice I took the food away.

Repeated again, worked flawlessly. Apparently found a bug :)

10. AG says:

Two-year-old as a binary digit maybe (quiet/crying)