I went to a day-long program at New York University in Manhattan last Friday, where I was in a room with at least 50 PhDs where things such as “an effective counter-hisotrical narrative”and “alternative epistemic machinery” were said. I loved it.
Mind you, it’s not that my own cat buddies …
… aren’t intellectually stimulating companions (they’re not)…
… but this program at NYU was all about decompiling computer history, a subject I had absolutely no interest in. So I signed up.
I boarded the 8:42 to Penn Station and sat my ass down from 10 – 6 to hear all about the textures of digitization in daily life, and the myths of internet infrastructure, and abstract unintuitive machines, and such. I am happy to report that the lemma of American cultural imperialism is still alive and well, only this time it’s all MicroSoft’s fault.
Remember the good old days, when it used to be rock and roll that was going to take over the world and ruin culture for everybody? *Sigh* That was then. These days, rock and roll has all the cultural hegemony of baton twirling.
Seriously, tho. The program brought together really REALLY smart people, and they all gave my brain quite a workout, which I admit has gone flabby in recent years. Last month, for example, I tried to figure out why Kate Hudson is launching a clothing line based on her “intuition as an athlete and a fashion lover”, and why kate Hudson is famous in the first place, and I just couldn’t do it.
So, please meet the brilliant thinkers who made me think hard about the things they think deeply about:
Here is what Jason Scott (below, in a photo that I took myself and didn’t have to grab from the inter webs), who is the world’s first and most famous archivist of the internet:
Kevin Driscoll (M.S. from MIT, Ph.D. from USC , D.J. from his being a millennial) from whom I learned about the effective counter-historical narrative in the context of myths concerning internet infrastructure:
… (Ph.D. Harvard, Alan Turing Centennial Fellow, and lots of other etc.’s), who talked about how the brute force of computer-done mathematic proofs are different from elegance of people-done mathematic proofs and how both embody an intellectual grace all their own, and since she’s a gifted mathematician herself and as articulate as Neil deGrasse Tyson, she was analytically astute and cogent and AWESOME.
Ramsey Nassar …
… game designer, computer scientist, and the kind of Ph.D. that gets to dig deep into secret Ottoman archives in Beruit (maybe it was Constantinople) to discover the Arabian Turing Machine that challenges the entrenched MicroSoftic-imperialistic narrative of the history of computers. As an amateur linguist, I savored his short tutorial on the scriptural form (there isn’t any print form) and mechanics of the Arabic language.
Joy Rankin …
… (Dartmouth, Duke, MIT, and Yale for god’s sake!) who discovered how the Minneapolis school system in the 1970s built a social network before there were personal computers . I know, I know…the 1970s…yawn. I get depressed every time I remember the 1970s. I was not on my game in the 1970s; but neither was the rest of America. And here’s Joy Rankin, born way after the hey day of Tony Orlando and Dawn, researching the 1970s as if they were interesting. Way to go, future MacArthur Genius.
WHY WAS YOU THERE??? you may well ask. I was there to hear the one speaker whose work I was familiar with and am quite the fan of….
… the one and only Stacy Horn.
I know Stacy as the author of my favorite book of 2001 (see above, subtitled “A Morbid Memoir” but its not at all morbid, in my opinion, and is actually a lovely story about the meaning of life and cats).
Stacy is also the author of books about the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory and the cold case squad of the New York Police Dept. Her most recent is Imperfect Harmony, about the psychological and physical well-being to be had from singing with others, based on her 30-years of singing with the Grace Church Choral Society (it’s not a religious book). When I discovered that she’d be speaking about the social network she founded way back in 1990, when she founded the first social network on the East Coast and (side bar) became the hottest IT babe in America (glamor shoots for Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, etc.), I HAD to be there.
These are NYU Ph.D. students (above) being captivated by Stacy’s program. Stacy’s talk was personal, historical, whimsical, and AWESOME. She was what everybody else was talking about: a pioneer in the making of computer history.
What a joy it was for me to be breathing the same air as this group of people — speaking and listening — who were so intellectually engaged with the world. I always say that I need to get out of the house more often but I never would have thought that a program about decompiling computer history would make it so worth missing Judge Judy, but it just goes to show you.
Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked. (Steve Wozniak)
The thing about smart people is that they seem crazy to dumb people. (Anonymous, on a T-shirt)
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss celebrities. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Smart people know that you can only believe half of what you are told. But only very smart people know which half. (Janina Ipohorska)
Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you. (John Wooden)
Richard Branson, for example, is a total maverick but he surrounds himself with smart, successful people and he listens to them. (Brandon Burchard)
Smart people do amazing things against awful odds. (Kim Harrison)
I think smart is sexy. I like smart people. People that are comfortable with themselves I think is very sexy. My cat is really sexy. (Gina Gershon)