Geoffrey Fox

Unsolicited Comments 1998

Index Unsolicited Comments 1998

98.11.16 – ¿Qué pasa? An insatiable attitude of enquiry

Fundamentally, the salient and most permanent impulse of the race [of Greeks], is an avid curiosity. The zeal for knowledge, which inspired the first philosophers and the first scientists, differed in no way from that to which St Paul, in an age of new necessity, cast the bait of the Unknown God. To-day the men of Athens still greet one another with the
words ti neon — what news?– and await an answer. In the country a regular formula of personal interrogation is the preliminary to all hospitality. There results from this insatiable
attitude of enquiry, a universal, and to the Briton, extraordinary, respect for learning, for books as books, and for any aspect of cultural ability. From the highest to the lowest, even to the illiterate, this national trait has endured through the ages.
Robert Byron, The Byzantine Achievement: An Historical Perspective, A.D. 330-1453. 1929, reissued New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1964. (pp. 12-13)

This is wonderful news, that I hope my colleagues in the Bronx Educational Alliance will sufficiently appreciate: When young Puerto Ricans or Dominicans greet one another with the words, ¿Qué pasa? they must be demonstrating their insatiable attitude of enquiry and respect for learning. There may actually be something to this.

1998.06.15 – Simulated students

Computer-generated simulations of people have already infiltrated industry, and are especially popular in manufacturing and military. Generally, the virtual humans act as crash-test dummies, walking through a machine assembly or repair operation, helping to identify and resolve problems before they occur in a real-world setting. More recently, virtual humans have also started to appear as smart opponents in games and as friendly hosts on Web sites.Virtual Humans Stepping Out, by Susan Kuchinskas, Wired, 18.Jun.98

Think of the possibilities for our colleges! Virtual students could fill our classrooms, and be programmed to give the correct answers in quizes and serve as peer mentors to our “real” students. Virtual professors could be programmed to have lovable quirks. Of course, with so many virtual students, the cafeteria would lose money — what do virtual humans eat, anyway? For an examination of this problem, see the scene in William Gibson’s Idoru where the synthesized virtual rock star sits down to dinner with real people.

98.05.?? – Idealism & practicality

Hay gente que si pudiera, arrancaría los rayos de la luna, para amarrarse los zapatos.

(There are people who would, if they could, tear off the moonbeams to tie their shoes.)
Dulce María Loynaz (Cuba)