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This period of prudent isolation is a good time to remember that linguistic analysis applies not only to sound, structure, and sense, but also to social interaction. As the first in a series of posts on this topic, we feature Eve Armstrong's brilliant application of simulated annealing to a problem currently on hold, but sure to re-emerge in full force when our lives de-virtualize: "An Artificially-intelligent Means to Escape Discreetly from the Departmental Holiday Party; guide for the socially awkward" (4/1/2020)G:

We shall employ simulated annealing to identify the global solution of a dynamical model, to make a favorable impression upon colleagues at the departmental holiday party and then exit undetected as soon as possible. The procedure, “Gradual Freeze-out of an Optimal Estimation via Optimization of Parameter Quantification” – GFOOEOPQ, is designed for the socially awkward. The socially awkward among us possess little instinct for pulling off such a maneuver, and may benefit from a machine that can learn to do it for us.

Eve offers the string [g∧fui: c:p∧kw] as a representation for the acronym's pronunciation — translated into the IPA characters thus approximated, I think this means [gʌˌfui ˈɔːpʌkw] or maybe [gʌˌfui ɔːˈpʌkw].

No doubt someone will soon apply similar methods to help with navigating the etiquette of on-line gatherings via Zoom or Bluejeans or Houseparty or whatever. And perhaps we can also look forward to development of similar ideas into a convenient smartphone app, with discreet suggestions dynamically updated as the system's evaluation of the ambient situation evolves — a sort of autonomous vehicle guidance algorithm for those whose vehicle is their own feet.

In a final note, Eve warns that

GFOOEOPQ is generalizable to industry and corporate events, graduations, baby’s-first-birthdays, bridal showers, and wedding receptions. I ask that GFOOEOPQ not be used at funerals, religious ceremonies, or any event catered by Zabar’s [33]. In such cases, please respectfully muster sincerity.

Although she is a physicist, Eve has authored several earlier algorithmic explorations of social interaction, notably "A Neural Networks Approach to Predicting How Things Might Have Turned Out Had I Mustered the Nerve to Ask Barry Cottonfield to the Junior Prom Back in 1997", 3/30/2017.


  1. Theophylact said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 8:14 am

    And a happy April 1 to you, too.

  2. bks said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 8:50 am

    Can it be used, in the time of C-19, to convince one's spouse that taking a walk alone is reasonable?

  3. Sophie MacDonald said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 11:12 pm

    Eve's April 1 preprints are the stuff of legend. I'm so glad she delivered again this year!

  4. David Morris said,

    April 2, 2020 @ 6:05 am

    I understand that this is an April Fool's Day joke, but I don't understand the surface structure or the deep structure of what it actually says. Please don't explain it. I'm sure it will lose something in the explaining.

  5. Bill Tucker said,

    April 2, 2020 @ 2:48 pm

    Jim Halpert explains:

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