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First Post-Baby Post: Baby Language Choices

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 01/03/2011

On subway back to work in 2011. I’m forty years old, living in New York City, and just had my first kid two months ago. I was born and raised in suburbia as a secular Jew, and the largest influence on my life outside family, was the corrupt and decaying Commodore Computers which happened to be in my back yard. Commodore simultaneously catapulted my career forward and bogged it down with the illusion that interesting things happen in the boondocks. Living in NYC is a cleansing renewal, educating me about where real opportunity exists where exceptional people congregate and influential companies locate. It’s like I was an athlete training on a mountaintop where the air is thin, and coming down to where I never run out of breath. I attribute this to my capability to have continuing professional ambition and a newborn child with whom I am actively involved at forty—plus a veritable zoo of animals at home. My baby-helping vacation is over, and now I’m back to work with my hourly subway ride, and have a moment to compose my thoughts about what’s really important in my new post-baby perspective, and language is it.

I’m not a big believer in New Years resolutions, but I do believe in taking stock of your life and making continual adjustments. Recently, I had the thought that ultimately, one’s own life is a design (or art) project. It’s a collaboration between the hand of fate—the cards that life dealt you—and the creature you became sometime around being self-aware. Perhaps having the child triggered the thought, but it is the first one powerful enough to get me contributing precious time towards writing again after having a baby. This is a thought that if I continue to fan and nurture, will have a profound impact on my child’s life—and I think a good one.

Mallow’s pyramid of self-actualization factors strongly into these thoughts, as does my belief that the technology acceleration curve is about to make things get really crazy. Individuals with meaningful capabilities in tomorrow’s world will actually be the minority who don’t fall prey to attention deficit disorder and rampant consumerism. Visions of this world pervade SciFi with Venus, Inc. being among the best. Survival skills and the ability to thrive and be the master of your own life comes directly from the self-confidence to trust your own internal voice (and indeed to have one) over the voices that the modern world bombards you with 24/7. I was never much on organized religion, but from the teachings of my wife over the past several years, I totally get why Jews are so good at this. It’s not like most Jews these days will take a year out of their live to write a Torah, but we come from a culture that wants you to do so. And somehow this goes on for millennium after millennium without so much as a word, letter or point-size changing from the original document. Imagine trying to do that with 1000 channels of cable TV in the background and 5 different channels of push-notification messages tying to penetrate your concentration-field. My cultural heritage has the cure for A.D.D. codified into it.

But Judaism, as kick-ass awesome as it is in helping to mold a capable individual, doesn’t go the entire length—as well it couldn’t, having been revealed to the people before science. And that brings us to the second part of the cure to A.D.D. and my plan for helping Adi achieve self-actualization at a early age—something I curiously find reinforced in the parenting books of Doctor Sears, such as The Baby Book, in which he says the sign of a baby undergoing attachment parenting is a calm alertness, accompanied by a later confidence to do things that would cause stress in “trained” babies. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I believe a calm confidence is the absolute prerequisite to all other achievements because who can learn if you are in distress from other influences? And it is almost self-evident that alertness is the number-one perquisite to the application of the scientific method in which you make observations of the world around you, which later come into play for hypothesizing, testing and reproducing.

Next comes the language skills, because ultimately, everything in our world is information, and language is the tool to organize information. Language makes you powerful. I believe that as a species, we are coming to realize that the uniqueness of all things is really just the arrangement of information in different designs governed by nature’s laws. These arrangements are themselves perhaps of divine origin and unreproducible due to their complexity and the richness of nature’s laws. But they are arrangements of information none-the-less. Right from the thoughts in our heads that represent to real world to us, down to what must be the objective world out there, which we can only know through our pin-hole of material senses, all evidence indicates existence is a beautiful dance between information and the rules that govern that information, and that as self-aware creatures, the ability that distinguishes us from most animals comes directly out of our ability to observe and imagine new arrangements of that information, and act on it in a way that deliberately echos through the generations, turning us into something much more than creatures that last for about a hundred rotations around the sun.

The better you are at observation, language, and creating and testing your creations, the more capable of an individual you will be in life—especially with the impending craziness of the technology acceleration curve. Vast parts of the human population will just be looking on in awe as it plays out around them, little different than the other animals we share the planet with—with little choice over how these changes will affect them personally. Most will become helpless consumer cattle, constituting the wide base of the social pyramid, while others will develop the capabilities to grab the reigns on this crazy ride and install themselves at the top. Those who do and those who don’t comes down to those who can focus on a single thing for long enough for the iterative cycle of learn, create, test, learn to kick in.

And so I plan on doing everything I can to help my baby master language and the creative process—but not just in the language of her native birth. It’s got to be in multiple languages for different reasons, because no single language serves all purposes. One has got to be for interaction with humans in the modern world, and that’s obviously English. Another will be the language of her 4000+ year old birthright that has both a rich past and vibrant future. And then there are other languages that I will have to help figure out what they’re going to be—and somehow let her help to select—for spacial relations and building living-spaces and molecules, and others for describing processes that govern the behavior of computer programs and robots.

At forty, I’m really just discovering some of the options myself, and their relative advantages and disadvantages. What has longevity? What bogs you down in implementation? What is philosophically bound to worlds that will soon no longer exist? And which languages are going to jump over that divide and become the operating systems and human interfaces in the new world? In what languages can you start achieving compounding returns over the course of life?

I personally and taking up Python for day-to-day work and making some attempt to familiarize myself with LISP through the seminal Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs book, which is now on SourceForge in ePub format for iPads and iPhones. Just as with how my vision is gradually clearing about how handicapped I was in suburbia, so too am I realizing how handicapped I’ve been by jumping onto the wrong language bandwagons, and I want to help give Adiella every advantage in life that good language choices can provide.