Skip to content

Vn76.1 Where Do Ideas Come From? 8/29/77

In this hot, humid weather, Gretchen and the children have been
spending all day at Logo with me. This morning I found Sylvia Weir had
taken a desk in the room where Robby had just laid claim to an empty
desk. She seemed intent on reading, and knowing how distracting the
children can be, I asked Robby to move to a free desk in the adjacent
room. Later, when I asked him had he done so, Robby told me he had been
locked out of the office.

When Sylvia returned from lunch, she was as surprised as everyone
else that the door had been locked — and that was for her a problem,
because she needed to pick up her materials before leaving shortly. Did
Donna have the key? No. Greg or Eva? Perhaps, but neither was about.
George or Gordon, could they help — neither could. An impasse.

Recalling one of the avocations of students at Caltech had been
lock picking, I thought maybe Danny or Brian might have become similarly
skillful here. Going back into the computer room, I looked toward the
locked room and noticed a roof panel was out of place. Aha! Should
the lock picking be difficult (I had never developed skill at that),
one could go over the partition through the roof. Both lock and door
were sturdy, the lock not accessible to a knife edge or spatula prying
gambit (the only one I know). I looked again at the ceiling and worried
that it would be too tight to snake over except for a child, and I
wouldn’t risk one of the children’s falling from ceiling height. I was
standing on the floor; it is raised for the computer cabling and also
could be dismantled. I walked to the Logo foyer and told Sylvia not to
worry. We couldn’t open the door, but we could open the floor.

Removing the floor panel in front of the door, I could see that one
would have to crawl under the floor for a distance of at least 2 feet,
then lift the panel beyond the next to rise up inside the room. There
might be a desk inside on that second panel; this possible impediment
would make it too difficult for Robby to tackle — if the simple plan
failed he might feel trapped and become frightened. Danny Hillis,
declaring he had done so before, volunteered to crawl under the floor
and open the door. Thus Sylvia’s afternoon was saved and we all had a
good time solving a practical problem.

At dinner this evening, Miriam asked: “Daddy, how did you ever
think of going under the floor? Was it because you remembered how good
a time we had before when the floor was up?” (Cf. Vignette 42) I told
Miriam her guess was pretty good, and I set out my “problem solving
process” in the previous paragraphs to show how good her guess was —
for these notes show how local were the changes, stepwise, to the problem
as I perceived it, by which I arrived at a solution others saw as an
imaginative transformation. What I find most striking, however, is that
Miriam asked me how I got a particularly good idea. This implies she
is capable of reflecting not only on her own thought processes, but also
on mine as well, and even more, has formed her own hypothesis to explain
my thought process in this instance.

Relevance
Miriam inquires how I generated a good idea and offers her
speculation on how I might have done that. This is as clear an example as
one could want of her sensitivity to and reflection upon the process of
thought.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email