I became aware of Lex around the beginning of 2022, and since that time have watched/listened to many dozens of his wonderful podcasts. It would not be an overstatement to say that "getting to know him" (and select interviewees) has altered the trajectory of my life — at a minimum, functioning to provide the required "" to, finally, start this blog.

There is much to say in this regard; I cover only a fraction here.

   
  • Overlap of Spirit

    I find within Lex a certain "core foundational thread of personality" more resonant with my own than I have previously experienced in my 65 years on the planet. This is certainly not the case across all areas — in many, many ways we are dramatically different — but it does appear to be true for a key domain wherein technology and feelings are experienced as a seamless whole.

    Consistently, across dozens of Lex's interviews, I have experienced his interest in and engagement with technology, and sensitivity to and focus on human inter/intra-personal dynamics and feelings, including in particular Love, as inextricable. From considering the question of whether robots must appreciate mortality (perhaps be mortal) to be "fully alive", to understanding that pruning ideas through scorn and eye-rolling is fundamentally failing to be a complete scientist, to appreciating that we may not recognize alien intelligence when we experience it due to our imaginative limitations as human beings, Lex does not just give lip-service to this integration, he embodies it in mind, heart, and action.

    This overlaps greatly with my orientation. While Lex was programming Roombas to "cry out in pain" when they hit something, 30 years earlier, and I believe for similar(ish) reasons, I was extending a language to allow . It was also at around this time that I wrote my "Affectionate Technology" paper, gratifyingly accepted for publication in both computer science and art contexts, and presented in substantially similar form at the College Art Association National Conference and MIT Media Lab.

    Historical note: It was not until I was around 21 that I realized most engineers were not involved with science, math, and technology as a "language of intimacy" to connect deeply and emotionally to other humans — to "maximize the surface area of contact" as I used it — but rather, were engaged with it for "practical" reasons. I knew I was miserable in most tech environments, but it was not until then that I understood why.

  • Pass on Ideas

    For decades, I have off and on pondered several ideas which, to me, feel pretty fundamental. At a minimum, I view them as intriguing and the potential basis for a science fiction story. If I were certain that is all they were, so be it. But in certain cases they might be more than that — they might actually help advance the development of mathematics, physics, robotics, and AI in ways that are difficult for me to predict. I am NOT saying they will, only that they might. And that brings me to the 2nd reason of why Lex — so that he can, where and when he may wish, "carry on the flame".*

    (*In this regard, I recently created a 13"x19" printable page that introduces a number of the most important ideas.)

    More specifically:

    • Lex will instantly, effortlessly, understand virtually all the ideas I wish to share. And he will almost certainly "" them in the literal sense of that word. The reason I say this is that he has all the required technical background; has a deep appreciation of how human perception, colored by both life experience and culture, affects what one sees and assumes; and is deeply curious about everything — and how everything interconnects (the latter being another area where he and I have significant overlap).
    • I had hoped I might myself make technical, in-the-trenches progress on some of these concepts. However given my age, and projecting forward based on progress to date, I fear that is unlikely to be the case...
    • Lex has a breadth of knowledge, and frequency of communications with a diversity of brilliant scientists, mathematicians, and others, that I cannot hope to approach. Thus, he is uniquely positioned (should he choose) to selectively share the ideas I present with those who could evaluate them in terms of whether they are exciting and novel, vs. already being worked on all over the place and I am just not in a position to hear about, vs. being interesting perspectives but fundamentally in conflict with our best current understandings, and so probably most suited to simply becoming a SciFi short story. Additionally, in a number of cases, it is likely Lex himself could provide such feedback (again, simply to the extent he may be interested and willing).
    • Additionally, some of the specific ideas, and even more so the high-level perspectives, are likely to feel supportive of Lex's potential efforts in certain areas within the field of AI and robotics. Indeed, he may even find some of the thoughts/concepts personally/professionally "actionable".
  • Offer Emotional Support

    I have heard Lex mention on a number of occasions the toll critical comments take on him. In the spirit of what I detail in expandable section below, I would like to offer emotional support. In other words, because Lex comes in large part from an academic research environment, he may, at times anyway, be focused more on assessing the "truth" of the comments, rather than on the intended impact the writers of said comments wished to have. I hope to provide a balance to this, focusing more on the potential emotional and social backdrop to it all. Changing that emphasis literally saved my life; perhaps it will help his.

    At about the same time as I realized most engineers engaged in their craft for "practical" rather than "emotional intimacy" reasons, I also realized the majority of academics, , were substantially "emotion-blind". Or maybe "emotion-blind" is not the right phrasing (and indeed unfair), but rather, "emotion-inattentive".

    One way of demonstrating what I mean: If you ask a typical academic within a technical field "Why do you say xyz?", they will almost invariably answer why xyz is true, rather than why they chose to say it in the first place.

    Contrast this with a context such as a marriage counseling session: Imagine one partner says to the other (say) "You are fat." Any passably competent therapist would focus on the choice and motivation of the speaking partner to utter such a thing — not pop the target partner on a scale and engage in a 3-way debate regarding whether said partner is in fact "fat", based on having passed some numeric poundage threshold. (See Affectionate Technology paper on TechnoFrolics site for more along this line — as well as potential future writings on this blog.)

    The above realization proved critical to my understanding and mental health. As I child and young man, I would listen to discussions between MIT researchers, including my father, luminaries in the AI field, and others, and would have nothing to disagree with intellectually — what they were talking about was often both clear and fascinating. Yet I not infrequently found the interactions to varying degrees viscerally alienating — at best "distant".

    It was only when I realized that the meta-context was posturing and status infused, and that that was what I was reacting to rather than the intellectual content, that I understood why.

  • Misc (less "special/important/unique", but potentially fun)
    • Humor

      I am aware Lex is visiting open mike nights and in his interviews, so if he ever visits here, perhaps he will enjoy material shared in that same spirit, connected to my several Open-Mic experiences back in the '80s.

      30+ years ago I engaged in a of amateur standup comedy. While it did not directly blossom into a career, it certainly made public speaking a relative piece of cake thereafter. ("What, you mean I have a full 5 minutes before people start walking out? Unbelievable!")

      A couple of snips from those early years:

      • I have trouble with intimacy. Whenever I go on a dinner date, I take a pair of hi-power binoculars and look through them the wrong way at my companion. This does give me the welcome illusion of distance, however I find myself constantly shouting.
      • Context: At the time, we were blanketed with TV and radio ads of completely inane "combined" this and that. For example "Our mattress salesmen have 100 years combined experience.", "The tag-team pro-wresting duo has a combined weight of over 600 lbs.", etc.

        My little skit (roughly, with edits): Last week, my 32 year old girlfriend dumped me. Brainwashed by the combined experience deluge, I immediately rushed down to the daycare center to invite 16 two year olds out to dinner. Their 32 years combined experience failed to prevent me having to spend the entire evening changing diapers.

      • Context: At the time, there were a flood of Action-Adventure-SciFi-Disaster movies with titles of the flavor of "Charles Bronson is The Mechanic", "Planet of the Apes", "Airport '77", "The Day of the Triffids" and the like. While I don't think this was ever integrated into my comedy routine per se, my brother, cousin, and I came up with a slew of these that still make me smile today (and delighted a random woman seated next to us at an ajoining dining table those many years ago):
        -- "Planet of the Provosts"
        -- "Charles Bronson is The Fussbudget."
        -- "Day of the Toddlers"
        -- "Backup '77" (re a stuffed toilet...)
    • Animals

      Ala (and late-dog), please check out the wonderful squirrels I "befriended" during COVID.