My Life at Age Ten

My brother Larry and I went to summer camp for a week at Camp Bishop at Lost Lake in western Washington state, USA. We slept in cabins and we ate our meals in a big hall near the dock of the lake. The water in the lake was cold, but I swam in it anyway. Under the dock jutting out into the water, I found salamanders swimming on the bottom.

Vita Contemplativa Meets Joe Quarterback

Where one of the trails came into the main camping area of the dock and the flagpole and the great hall, there was an enormous old tree stump where I liked to climb up and sit down and contemplate the world passing by, just as I had done in the jungles of Panama a few years earlier. Happy as a clam, I thought my own thoughts and let my mind wander. A rude awakening came one day when one of the brutish, Gestapo-like camp counselors came by with a pack of gullible boys and pointed at me sitting up on the huge tree stump. "Look at that kid," he said, "just sitting up there and not doing anything!" It was weird to me that he had a look of fear on his face as he bad-mouthed me, as if he suspected that there was more to life than action and constant motion and keeping busy and playing sports. The big, hulking, crew-cut jock looked like he was a few fries short of a Happy Meal, or like there were some colors missing from his box of crayons. Looking into his eyes, I could see that the lights were on but nobody was home. He did not have all the dots on his dice. But he probably had a good life and a good career working for his father-in-law. What was his name? Something like Joe Sixpack or Joe Quarterback.

For fifth grade at Rieverview Elementary School in Raymond WA USA for the first time I had a male teacher, Mr. Lloyd Jackson, who was also the principal of the school. He made us kids really think. For science he had one kid press his finger into some kind of gelatin that was then kept cool for several days in a refrigerator. Mr. Jackson then showed us that a film of bacteria proliferated on the gelatin at the location of the thumbprint. He talked to us about theoretical space-travel, and he wondered aloud how a rocket could move in empty space if there was nothing to press against. I did not know either, until I learned years later that the exhaust of the rocket goes so fast that the rocket moves away in an equal and opposite reaction according to Sir Isaac Newton's Second Law of Thermodynamics. Mr. Jackson had some kind of resource book with the addresses of big corporations that would send a person educational materials upon request. I sent away to General Electric or some such for booklets about electronics. I had a little plastic crystal-radio device with headphones, and Mr. Jackson pointed out to me that such a machine would never wear out, because it had no moving parts.

My uncle Ted, after whom I was named, became a teacher at Raymond High School, where the students called him "Tweedy". He taught me about induction coils which I could make by looping wire into two coils and bringing them close together so as to energize one coil with battery power and induce a weak but positive current in the other coil. The Rankin family lived nearby and Mr. Rankin worked for the telephone company. He gave me the mouthpiece part of a telephone handset. Later on, in Seattle, I made my own short-distance intercom system. In Raymond I was making more and more complex circuits on wooden boards. I would sit in Mr. Jackson's fifth-grade classroom and watch the sea-gulls flying outside, or fantasize about how many boards of electonic gear it would take for me to make a really complex device like a radio transmitter. I did not know it at the time, but the urge to make ever more complex mechanisms was leading me inexorably and ineluctably to the multi-year and multi-decade attempt to make an artificial Mind.

Intellectual Gravitation

Here is as good a place as any to talk about bourgeois science versus unfettered and unrestricted free-for-all science. Although a famous Transcendentalist once said that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," a lucky few work in big corporations or research centers where life permits them to work on serious questions such as how to make a laser with blue light, or how to create "Fifth Generation" telephone systems. In the course of their embourgeoisement, they are being paid good salaries to solve scientific problems or engineering difficulties. Their minds are not gravitating towards the most intellectual mysteries of human existence, but rather these individuals are running as fast as they can in the rat-race to make as much money as possible. "Baby needs new shoes," and so forth.

President John F. Kennedy, shortly before he was "terminated with extreme prejudice," issued some kind of executive order that decreed that married men would no longer be subject to the military draft. Only bachelors would be drafted. Newspapers in America printed humorous articles telling guys that they had better hurry up and get married if they wanted to avoid getting drafted into the Army. For us young men who were not handsome enough or wealthy enough to get married, it seemed as thought the president was driving a wedge through young male American society, giving an extra advantage to the handsome, well-off married guys and penalizing us losers who might otherwise hope to improve ourselves enough to become marriageable, but who would now have the additional impediment of being subject to the military draft. JFK did not care; he was rich and he was a war-hero. But as young males are more and more marginalized, they go off on their own and do strange things. In Japan, the "otaku zoku" never leave their parental households and they spend a lot of time on the Internet. In America, disposable young males immerse themselves in video games, or become proficient at computer programming. Mentifex here eventually obtained various computers (Coleco ADAM; Amiga; Windows computer from; etc.) and taught himself to code programs in various languages such as BASIC; AmigaREXX; Smalltalk; Forth; JavaScript and Perl. I joined discussion forums devoted to artificial intelligence and its coding. Many of my fellow dweebs, nerds and geeks were eager to create Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and they were far better than I was at computer programming, but they had no idea of what AI algorithm they should try to implement in software. As directionless AGI wanna-be's, they were showing Failure to Gravitate. This dire malady is not the "Failure to Orchestrate" that my seven-kids father accused me of when I returned home from the U.S. Army. It is not the "Failure to Launch" as movie-acted by Matthew McConaughey. It is a form of settling into intellectual pursuits that are not at the furthest, most remote boundaries of human philosophical endeavor. The free and unenslaved human mind gravitates naturally to Big Questions such as the smallest things (subatomic physics) and the largest things (galaxies in astronomy), the oldest things (archeology and cosmogony) and the most complex things (neuroscience and the human brain-mind). Albert Einstein enlightened me when I learned from him that he had no interest in normal, everyday physics but rather he was only interested in the deepest and most fundamental aspects of physics. He made me feel free to explore only the deepest and most fundamental aspects of human thinking and reasoning.

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