My Life at Age Thirty-Three

Although I had carefully written Natural Language through Abstract Memory as a scientific paper to explain my breakthrough in the understanding of the brain, no journal would publish it. First I submitted it to Artificial Intelligence, but it was returned to me after the peer-review concluded that my paper was "speculative". Then the journal Cognitive Science rejected my paper as 'inappropriate". Finally Speculations in Science and Technology rejected my paper because it was not "in the hard sciences." To get my ideas published in the journal Nature, I eventually had to resort to the subterfuge of placing a "position wanted" ad in which I oh so casually described myself as someone who had made some great discovery in artificial intelligence. In response, nobody offered me a job, which I did not want anyway, but a research scientist at an East-coast corporation wrote letters back and forth with me for a while.

In the mail that year I received a subscription copy of an issue of Scientific American devoted totally to the human brain. One of the authors, Dr. David Hubel at Harvard, had written both the foreword and one of the major articles, so I figured that this scientist named Hubel was the most worthy to receive a copy of my paper, and I mailed it to him at Harvard University. I also mailed a copy of it to my scientific hero in Switzerland, the Nobelist Sir John Carew Eccles. Months later, Dr. Hubel at Harvard wrote back to me that "neural modeling" was not his specialty, and so I should send the paper to either David Marr or Tomaso Poggio. I looked both of them up in the university library, and it seemed that David Marr had done the more important work in the field of vision, so I mailed the paper to Marr, who eventually wrote back -- from his deathbed -- that I should send the paper to a certain AI researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and not expect an answer but still send the paper. I did not bother to send the paper, and anyway that researcher was eventually implicated in a major scandal. On the other hand, one day about eight months after the mailing of the paper to Switzerland, I was absolutely shocked to receive an airmail letter from the Nobelist in neuroscience Sir John Carew Eccles. It was so amazing to me to have that letter in my hand, that at first I could not open it. I just sat in an armchair and stared at the letter from Eccles for ten or twenty or thirty minutes, while my mind was racing with a brainstorm of thoughts of what it would mean to now be in touch with arguably the world's foremost authority on the human brain. When I finally did open the letter, I was flattered to read that Sir Eccles thought that I was making a serious contribution. He suggested that I send the paper to a certain researcher in New York, but I never did.

A few years later, Dr. David Hubel shared a Nobel prize for his work explaining the human visual system. Since I had now heard from two Nobelists in neuroscience who took me seriously, I became impervious to the slings and arrows of Mentifex-bashers who hounded and vilified me on the Internet. The bashing took very strange and unusual forms, though. I gradually discovered that in every AI-related newsgroup (discussion forum) on Usenet, there was always at least one individual who considered himself something like "the king of the hill," or the resident authority on the subject matter. These lords of the flies did not like me coming in and making my ESC (Extraordinary Scientific Claim) that I was creating True AI or Strong AI or Artificial General Intelligence or whatever the nomenclature was. Since I believed in my theory of mind, I also believed very strongly in the AI software that I was trying to write. But the more I tried to communicate my results, the more I was taken for some kind of nutcase who was not only wrong but was absolutely convinced that he was right. One netgod of Usenet wrote the very first Mentifex FAQ or "Frequently Asked Questions" about Mentifex. Other Netizens started doing things like putting an anti-Mentifex statement in the "SIG" or "signature" block below their Usenet posts. Or they would e-mail me and ask me something, then go on anti-Mentifex vendettas for years. I discovered that the film director who made Saving Private Ryan had suffered a similar fate at the start of his career when he was just one of the guys at a movie studio and his co-workers deeply resented both his efforts to rise above them and his success in rising above them. Luckily for me, I actually enjoyed writing the AI software and getting it to work better and better.

Here I should state that the Mentifex-bashing Netizens were especially wrong about my motivations in life and in AI. I was not trying to get funding, because I worked at low-paying jobs to keep body and soul together while I worked on AI. Although I wrote Amazon Kindle e-books about my AI project, I was trying more to communicate ideas than to sell books. I discovered that it was possible to re-purpose Amazon as a kind of personal AI blog, writing the books in such a way that the salient ideas and even the bulk of the editorial content would show up in the preview for potential buyers of the book. I made sure to have my chapter-headings be complete sentences stating an idea. By placing the entire source code as an appendix in an e-book about AI in German, I caused the more important bulk of the book to be almost completely available for free reading in the on-line Amazon preview of the book. It was memetic warfare, and I enjoyed it. Persons who found out about the Mentifex AI project became subject to the infection of their minds with memes of Mentifex.

It became clear that many scientists would achieve a spectacular and stunning success in one field and then move on to neuroscience as the grandest of the Grand Challenges. For instance, Jeff Hawkins, or Francis Crick, or Gerald Edelman, who advanced the "Theory of Neuronal Group Selection" (TNGS). Among them I was like Alexander who wept because he had no more worlds to conquer.

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