Vn97.1 Retrospective: Logo Conference 10/1/77
The week of IJCAI, August 22-26, concluding as it did for some of
us with attendance at the Logo conference, was an especially busy one
for me. I can see now this was the point at which I lost control of
processing the data of the project “on line” (keeping the transcription/
vignette backlog to about a week or so). To maintain the density of my
interactions with the children, 3 Logo sessions preceded the conference
and two Home sessions occurred during it. At the same time, I attempted
to attend most of the IJCAI conference session on “Knowledge Acquisition”.
The antihistamine dosage I required to suppress my hay fever kept me
drowsy. The final complication was Hal’s asking me to speak at the Logo
It seemed appropriate for me to speak for two reasons: first, for
general communication’s sake in a community that suffers from too much
intense self-absorption; second, because my work with Miriam is one of
the best answers available to the external criticism that Logo is all
talk and no demonstration. However appropriate, this talk worried me —
it represented my first public appearance in a community within which
I could best hope for my work’s friendly reception, however controversial
might be some elements of methodology. I thought a lot about what
I should say, was much troubled and perplexed.
Miriam asked if she could attend the conference. She knew Danny
Hillis was expected back from Texas on August 25. She knew the conference
was a Logo conference and expected Danny to be there. Miriam
recalls with delight attending Seymour’s seminar at DSRE in the spring,
has asked to attend Marvin’s class expecting to sit in Danny’s lap as
she did the semester before. Here, for me, was a central problem. To
the extent that Miriam is my colleague, to the extent that this project
is our joint construct, I believe her role in it must be manifest.
I warned her that she would be bored, that people talk and talk and talk.
Miriam decided to attend the conference. She spent most of the
morning playing with Claudette Bradley’s son under a table at the back
of the room. With the pressure of her arising visit to the doctor, I was
given a short time to speak before lunch. Miriam chose to stand with
me and be introduced to the community. This was her decision, which
I felt bound to respect. . . . One might ask why.
A behaviorist I once knew, who had since worked his way through to
a richer perspective, one of Zen mastery, advised me: “Don’t worry about
who you are; there is only one valid description; let it emerge from the
process of your being.” The day preceding this conference, Marvin had
been willing to publish fragments of a comprehensive theory of the mind
about parts of which he was still unclear himself. Compared with the
polish of Feigenbaum and his protegé, or Simon’s didactic revelations,
Marvin appeared to be a confused amateur. What is the lesson one may
infer from that performance?
Shakespeare has the villain Iago ask with ironic deprecation,
“Shall I wear my heart upon my sleeve, for daws to peck at?” Othello,
Shakespeare’s hero of greatest heart, by his action answers “Yes.” Of course,
he suffers for it, does stupid things, and is generally considered a fool.
So Miriam chose to stand with me, be introduced as my colleague,
in a study I consider more serious than the others discussed that day.
Because we were in the middle of things, I did not discuss too specifically
what we were doing. (I recall Lee Gregg complained of that, as
did Ira Goldstein.) Howard Peele advised me to attend to the role of
establishing a vocabulary in my work with Miriam, the tracking of that.
Cynthia Solomon thought much of the audience was freaked out by the
prospect of my doing an experiment “on” a subject with whom I was
obviously so intimate.
At first Miriam dogged my steps, then asked me to carry her. I did.
While I was responding to questions she kept asking me to relate to the
audience the joke she invented the night before — while cutting her
food at dinner, her pork chop went flying; she described the incident
as showing her pork chop had a “jump on the floor” bug. I could have
spun a story from that incident, as she wanted me to, and I did not.
Since then, Miriam has invented better jokes. Perhaps, I will one day
give a more polished description of our work.
These notes try to capture some few aspects of my introducing our
intimate study to the Logo conference.
Addendum 97-1 Logo Conference Notes