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How different professions would hunt elephants
Over the years, the problem of finding the right person for the right job
has consumed thousands of worker-years of research and millions of
dollars in funding. This is particularly true for high- technology
organisations where talent is scarce and expensive. Recently, however,
years of detailed studies by the finest minds in the field of
psychoindustrial interpersonal optimisation have resulted in the
development of a simple and foolproof test to determine the best match
between personality and profession. Now, at last, people can be
infallibly assigned to the jobs for which they are truly best suited.
The procedure is simple: Each subject is sent to Africa to hunt
elephants. The subsequent elephant-hunting behaviour is then categorised
by comparison to the classification rules outlined below. The subject
should be assigned to the general job classification that best matches
the observed behaviour.
Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything
that is not an elephant and catching one of whatever is left. Experienced
mathematicians will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique
elephant before proceeding to step one as a subordinate exercise.
Professors of mathematics will prove the existence of at least one unique
elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant
as an exercise for their graduate students.
Theoretical mathematicians catch elephants in a cage by building a cage,
going inside, closing the door and - defining outside as inside.
Physicists would not begin the actual hunt for elephants immediately.
The experimentalists would first consult the theorists who would then
apply for government grants to support the development of a theory of how
to actually detect elephants. In the ensuing 25 years multiple theories
would be promulgated about how to find pink elephants, black elephants,
charmed elephants, African elephants and Indian elephants. Heisenberg's
grandson would postulate that it is possible to determine the location of
any given elephant or the point in time when an elephant might appear but
not both. Gerald Hawking and Ed Witten would postulate that the only
satisfactory theory would be one that could predict the location of all
elephants of all classes at all times. Carl Shakin, in collaboration
with Jerry Friedman, would develop a theory on bagging elephants. This
theory would describe a methodology of taking known elements such as
camels and colliding them at a high rate of speed to determine if
elephants resulted. There would be specific emphasis on classes of
elephants being sought.
At this point three different groups of experimental physicists would
apply for government funding to support building and use of
instrumentation to experiment based on these theories. The smallest
E-Collider (Elephant Collider) would require $180 billion and another 15
years to build. 15 more years would be spent exploring the Shakin TOS Bag
theory (TOS=Theory of Something as opposed to TOE, the Theory of
Everything). Unfortunately, no elephants will be found as they will all
be extinct by this time.
Computer scientists hunt elephants by exercising Algorithm A:
1. Goto Africa.
2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope.
3. Work northwards in an orderly manner, traversing the continent
alternately east and west.
4. During each traverse pass,
a. Catch each animal seen.
b. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant. c. Stop when a match
Experienced computer programmers modify Algorithm A by placing a known
elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate. Assembly
language programmers prefer to execute the algorithm on their hand and
C programmers refuse to buy rifles off the shelf, and go to Africa with
steel rods and a mobile machine shop, intending to build a perfect rifle
for the job from scratch. They are then never heard from again.
Access programmers zero right in on a elephant right away, even with no
prior experience in elephant hunting, and then, dressed impeccably and
fully looking the part, get the elephant in their beautifully-mounted
scopes, and realise that other than missing a trigger, they are 99.9%
Rbase programmers are even rarer than elephants. In fact, the elephants,
if they ever do sight an Rbase programmer, consider it a "lucky day."
Visual Basic programmers point at their bullets, then point at their
rifles, and then point at the elephant. This amuses the elephants, who
run away. The VB programmers are unable to pursue them, because their
jeeps are undrivable, having steering wheels, joy sticks, yokes, and
rudders, due to their love of multiple "controls".
Visual C++ developers have trouble hunting real elephants. They get
distracted and start searching through the MS foundation Class library
for grey trunk-like objects they can incorporate into their hunting
ADA programmers, APL programmers, Fortran programmers, the Tooth Fairy,
and Santa Claus, are, of course, all fictional characters.
COBOL programmers have too much empathy to hunt another nearly-extinct
Mac developers never actually succeed in hunting elephants. They will,
however, put on lavish hunt launching parties, at which they distribute
T-shirts displaying a pre-hunted elephant.
Windows programmers aren't ever able to hunt elephants because elephants
are afraid of mice.
Civil engineers apply to the governments of all countries in Africa for
contracts to design huge concrete-lined pits for elephants to fall into.
When faced with how to ensure catching nothing but elephants, they defer
to the architect.
Mechanical engineers hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching grey
animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus
or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.
Electrical engineers use CAE systems to simulate the elephant's response
to RF signals, so that they can characterise the elephant as an antenna.
This allows them to develop instruments to detect signal reflections from
elephants. With a big enough power supply, they can then sit in an air
conditioned office in Nairobi and locate all the elephants in Africa at
once. Then they pay a mechanical engineer to go out and get them.
Attorneys have the court issue subpoenas on all elephants. The problem
of finding them then becomes the process server's.
Economists don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are
paid enough they will hunt themselves.
Statisticians hunt the first animal they see 'n' times and call it an
Consultants don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at
all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.
Operations research consultants can also measure the correlation of hat
size and bullet colour to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies,
if someone else will only identify the elephants.
Vice presidents of engineering, research, and development try hard to
hunt elephants, but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the
vice president does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure
that all possible elephants are completely prehunted before the vice
president sees them. If the vice president does see a nonprehunted
elephant, the staff will (1) compliment the vice president's keen
eyesight and enlarge itself to prevent any recurrence.
Senior managers set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption
that elephants are just like big field mice, but with deeper voices.
Quality assurance inspectors ignore the elephants and look for mistakes
the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.
Salespeople don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling the
elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season
Software salespeople ship the first thing they catch and send an invoice
for an elephant.
Hardware salespeople catch rabbits, paint them grey, and sell them as
Tech support people start out by getting the name and phone number of the
elephant. They require the serial number of an elephant before they'll
tell you which Knowledge Base article to read ... but you have to be on
their database first.
This is followed by a brief session in which they try to find out the
type of elephant, and if necessary, the configuration of the elephant.
Another important step in the process is to ascertain whether or not the
elephant is reproducible. If so, and there have been other reports of the
elephant, it is classified as a "KNOWN ELEPHANT". If there have been no
other reports, it is classified as a "NEW ELEPHANT REPORT". Finally, if
the elephant is determined not to be reproducible, it is classified as a
Once a report has been made, the Tech Support people transfer the
elephant hunting task to another group. These people look at the
information gathered about the elephant, and decide whether it is an
"ANOMALOUS ELEPHANT", or if it is an "ELEPHANT BY DESIGN". At this point,
the decision is made whether to actually kill the elephant (in the case
of the "ANOMALOUS ELEPHANT"), or in fact to document the elephant (in the
case of the "ELEPHANT BY DESIGN").
Power Users get the biggest weapon their company can afford (say, an
ICBM) and launch it in the general direction of Africa, hoping they'll
hit an elephant. Of course, no trace of the hunted elephant is ever
found, so they can't prove anything...
Solutions Providers claim to already have several large pre-hunted
elephants soon to be available to anyone who wants them. Currently they
can only provide inflatable blowup elephants for beta-testing hunting
strategies. If pressured, they can send you a CD-ROM of examples of
pre-hunted elephants and previously successful strategies, and lots of
glossy brochures of hunted elephants, and tools available to hunt
elephants with. Their Sales team have been on a course that describes
how to hunt elephants, but have never actually hunted an elephant.
Microsoft Developers define a new standard elephant, mostly backwards
compatible with previous elephants. They then build a genetic engineering
laboratory in darkest Africa, and after several years of secret
development, release several of these new elephants in a fenced enclosure
so they can successfully hunt them.
Borland/IBM/WordPerfect/Lotus Developers consider the new Microsoft
Elephant as not sufficiently portable, and lobby for an ANSI committee to
define the ANSI standard elephant specification. Simultaneously they
feverishly start their own elephant genetic engineering program to
produce their own, more flexible elephant. IBM have an advantage here,
because they still have a cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft, and
straightaway start hunting in Microsoft's fenced enclosure as well.
Digital Research/Novell Developers immediately reverse-engineer
Microsoft's elephant and produce their own version. They then air drop
hundreds of them throughout Africa, but complain vigorously when the
bullets their hunters bought from Microsoft don't hit the new elephants.
Topologists build a cage, with outside-side facing in, and with one
opening somewhere. Then they stretch and invert the works, Earth and
all, through the opening. Thus capturing every elephant, and everything
else in the known universe, "inside". They really never get to the point
where they collect the elephants because they are all arguing about the
best angle to view the cage.
Sex Therapists hunt elephants by going to Africa and catching tapirs,
which they then counsel about how size doesn't matter, and teach them to
trumpet. The tapirs run off happy, and the Sex therapists get a lot of
Paleobiologists hunt elephants by going to Siberia and picking over any
bits of amber they can find, hoping find to a piece with a prehistoric
mosquito in it. They extract blood from the mosquito and start
reconstructing the DNA of Mammoths Primigenius, or woolly mammoth, which
they then insert into the nucleus of a ...etc etc....
Siberian Systems Analysts hunt elephants by finding a frozen lake and
cutting a hole in the ice. They then surround the hole with peas and
hide in the bushes. When an elephant comes to take a pea, they jump out
and push him in the hole.