Hunting An Elephant In The 90's


Starting on the west coast, he searches north to south and south to north slowly moving east. He inspects all gray animals keeping the first one that weighs the same as a known adult elephant plus or minus 500 pounds.


Starting in the center he moves in an elliptical spiral (with major axis oriented north to south) removing all non-elephants and keeping whatever is left.

Experienced Mathematicians

They will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate exercise.

Professors of Mathematicians

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.

Computer Scientist:

First he notes that there are two kinds of elephants (African and Indian) and requests more detailed specifications as to which elephant is desired to be captured. Then he searches east to west and west to east starting from the southern tip and moving north. He stops only when encountering and capturing an animal whose description matches the American Zoological Society's classification of the type of elephant he is seeking.

Experienced Computer Scientist:

Same as inexperienced computer scientist, except that he places a known elephant in Cairo to guarantee that the algorithm terminates.

Assembly Language Programmers

They prefer to execute Algorithm A on their hands and knees.

Database Administrators

Database Administrators do not need to go out and capture elephants when they can retrieve them simply with an ad hoc query:


Engineers hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching gray animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.

Systems Integration Engineers

They are not so concerned with hunting elephants as with creating a seamless interface between the elephants and their environment.


Economists don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves.


They hunt the first animal they see N times and call it an elephant.


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

They can also measure the correlation of hat size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies, if someone else will only identify the elephants.


Politicians don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.


They don't hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds around arguing about who owns the droppings.

Software Lawyers

Software Lawyers will claim that they own an entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.

Vice Presidents of Engineering, Research and Development

They 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 non-pre-hunted elephant, (in other words, a live one) the staff will (1) compliment the vice president's keen eyesight and (2) enlarge itself to prevent any recurrence.

Senior Managers

Senior Managers set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.

Quality Assurance Inspectors

They ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.

Sales People

Sales People don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.

Software Sales People

Software Sales People ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an elephant.

Hardware Sales People

Hardware Sales People catch rabbits, paint them gray, and sell them as desktop elephants.

(Gwen Eckman)