ROY FREED: Perceptions
- I find the course of my personal development unusually informative regarding the complex of my kaleidoscopic mental resources and experiences and my good fortune to surmount disadvantages and overcome diversities, which very often occurred by chance.
- That started with my quickly-acclimated open-minded young immigrant-type parents who came from Russia prior to WWI; followed by early schooling before full social development; possessing a notable, seemingly genetic innate engineering aptitude and systems approach from early childhood; leadership in diverse non-athletic activities in high school; challenges at scholarship-aided attendance at Yale College in the mid-1930s, during very dire personal economic times, with social isolation there, while living at home during the notorious anti-Semitic quota system and attendance by male predominantly prep-school students who lived in luxurious dorms; a contrasting exciting experience at entirely-open intellectually-dynamic Yale Law School at the end of the 1930s as an idealistic, socially-concerned scholarship student; frustrating early legal employment starting in 1941 during the Great Depression as an unqualified, and unhappy litigator of massive antitrust lawsuits; fortuitously rescuing myself professionally in mid-career in 1960 by discovering, upon the commercialization of computers, computer law and publicizing it, and myself as its discoverer, with great help coincidently volunteered by others with my reciprocation to them; receiving countless invitations to present my understanding of computer law throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world; teaching computer law as an adjunct at Boston University School of Law for seven years while practicing it, enjoying the multiple personal intellectual benefits of computers, including my professional career, as a needed means for expressing myself by surmounting my tendency to revise my writing, and eventually as a transparent source of inferences regarding the basic features of the still opaque human mind, by means of my self-improving, well-functioning mind and ability to get successively innovative ideas, especially regarding the nature and overall top-down functioning of the mind; and continuing it all through enhanced networking in person, and on the Internet, into my 94th year of age.
- The foregoing focuses largely on myself as an actor in society. In particular, my unique related functional perceptions of the mind (at least for non-scientists) and of information as entirely physical in the form of two types of electrical pulse signals within the mind and computers seem to be the pinnacle, thus far say I optimistically, of my intellectual achievements and a fitting superior sequel to my discovering now mundane computer law.
- I now describe the great contrast between that reception of my introducing computer law and the treatment of my far-more significant insights regarding the mind and information. The latter, more significant subject matter appears to elude the vast majority of academicians and professionals whom I have assiduously sought to reach. They probably resist it because of their normal individual and collective, subjective desire to protect their professional mind set or ego from distraction or contradiction.
- I have tried in vain, in person and by e-mail, to engage those people in discussions of my insights, with only two notable successes so far. For one, I readily enjoyed the attention of Dr. Jack Kahn, a constructivist psychologist and former chair of the psychology department at Curry College in Milton, MA, during an arbitrarily-gained, unannounced visit to his office about a year ago without any knowledge about him or his field. His ready confirmation of my perceptions regarding the mind gave me the confidence to persist in developing them more deeply and trying to engage others. In the process, I realized that I had found the functional basis for his field focused on innate, individual subjectivity. The subsequent other exception was Gil Press' initiative, as an associate editor of ACM Ubiquity, an intellectual journal for computer specialists, to interview me for it after fortuitously attending my talk about those perceptions to the Boston Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers at M.I.T.
- My distraction by my foregoing, autobiographical chronology of my accomplishments apparently caused me to overlook my extensive experience regarding the probably more significant equivocal ways people too commonly react to new ideas, such as my innovative ideas regarding what might be done about their socially negative treatment of them. This new material I now present reflects my very informative mixed experience with legal professionals and law schools regarding the earlier dissemination of information about computer law and now, with those same people and also, with academicians generally, about my present perceptions about the human mind and the physical nature of information. I believe that that aspect can be a major element of this interview, and I hope that you agree with me. Please be patient with me as I now develop this point.
- I start with my introduction of computer law, and its mixed treatment by lawyers and law professors. I was particularly aided at the very outset, by the thoughtfulness of the late Paul A. Wolkin, then simultaneously director of the Joint Committee on Legal Education of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Assn., and editor of its The Practical Lawyer. In the latter capacity, he immediately enthusiastically accepted my pioneering 1960 A Lawyer's Guide Through the Computer Maze, and took the initiative to set up a series of seven nationally well-attended continuing-education programs on the scope of that subject, and named me their general chairman. Moreover, the bar at large and many computer specialists embraced that topic. In 1971, I joined six people to establish the Computer Law Assn. as an international bar association, which was succeeded by the International Technology Law Association, which continues to date to conduct educational programs internationally. Moreover, many practitioners found attractive opportunities in that new field from the beginning.
- However, my experience within the American Bar Association was mixed. Colleagues in its initial Special Committee on Electronic Data Retrieval, and its successor Standing Committee were mostly enthralled with the possibility of searching the massive law library with potential novel computer help, while I preferred to explain the more widely significant, diverse substantive legal implications of the use of computers, and secured many opportunities to do so. Accordingly, it published my numerous articles on their diverse legal aspects and sponsored my many talks regarding them at its national conferences, including a performance of a mock trial I wrote on how to introduce computer records in evidence. However, I remained largely a lone wolf in that activity. But I eventually attracted a significant personal private law practice by my activities.
- Moreover, my experience with trying to engage law schools with that new field was also mixed, but almost universally extremely negative. On the positive side, during my practicing that field I was invited to teach a seminar on computer law at the Boston University School of Law, when two of its professors met me at a local Yale Law School Association meeting and informed its Dean Paul Siskind (a former banker), about me. I taught that relatively successfully for seven years, but tired of it because the students unfortunately were too unprepared for the advanced intellectualism I saw in the subject matter. As I look back, that law school should have initially enabled me to introduce all of its students and at least some of its professors to the existence of that new field, and all law schools should have added relevant aspects of that subject matter to the various existing courses, with supplementary seminars for students who wanted a global view of it. During my seven years of teaching there, none of the faculty ever showed any interest in what I was teaching.
- In sharp contrast, my experience with Yale Law School (my alma mater of all things), has been very negative to date, despite the fact that I am commonly complimentarily identified internationally as "the father of computer law".
- But I persist with the hope that an objective evaluation of that experience will reveal its genuine value for our present purposes. In essence, Yale Law School has sadly, from my vantage point, never so identified me despite my raising that issue repeatedly. Of course, I was impelled by my ego, but I felt that a broader issue was at stake.
- Similarly, my efforts to introduce my thinking about the mind and the nature of information to two professors at Harvard Law School, one of whom I considered a professional friend, fell on deaf ears.
- While law professors might have mistakenly considered computer law early on to be merely mechanistic and lacking substantive relevance, my current interest in the legal aspects of the mind certainly is not. It actually parallels, for non-scientists, the attention presumably being given to the legal aspects of neuroscientific discoveries, particularly under the sponsorship of the MacArthur Foundation at various institutions.
- My efforts to engage numerous academicians at Harvard, M.I.T., and Boston University regarding my perceptions of the mind have practically universally been ignored. I often received their personal expressions of willingness, but never received a response to my request for a date to meet.
- But I had a singular early, informative, constructive interaction at M.I.T. when one of their neuroscientists announced as an expert on synapses, or gaps in the mind's segmented circuits, graciously listened to my speculation that the mind thinks equivocally creatively by purposefully selectively operating its synapses equivalently to the way computers literally use their on-off switches on their signal batches among their circuit segments. He promptly explained that the mind does that by modulating, or selectively varying the force behind its batches of coded signals to close the gaps. But he objected to my identifying him with that explanation, because I am "not a scientist." That denies my potential audiences of the benefit of scientific confirmation of my basic explanation.
- Fortunately, a recent major exception to the foregoing negative experiences heartened my effort to present my perceptions. I presumptuously barged in on Dr. Jack Kahn, a constructivist psychologist and former chair of the psychology department of Curry College in Milton, MA, and explained my functional perception the mind. After patiently listening to me, he found it valid at its functional level. Moreover, he suggested that I propose a paper on it for the then-forthcoming international conference of constructivist psychologists in Boston, which I delivered extemporaneously.
- Lastly, an entirely coincidental experience appears to provide a breakthrough for my gaining the attention of a desired broad diverse audience to my insights regarding the legal implications of my functional perception of the mind. Last year, I gained an invitation to present my perception and its legal implications to the Boston chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers at a venue at M.I.T. While my insights did not appear to resonate with the computer programmers in the audience, they fortunately did with Gil Press, an associate editor of ACM Ubiquity, an intellectual journal for computer specialists, who happened to attend. They did in the form of his just released interview of me in that publication, and on the Internet, entitled, "The Law, the Computer, and the Mind: An Interview With Roy Freed."
- Well, what does the foregoing litany of my frustrating express efforts to gain attention to my present insights regarding the mind really reveal, along with a few much appreciated notable positive exceptions? While those efforts reveal my difficulty with reaching a legal audience, which should be appropriate because of the subject matter involved, their fundamental lesson probably is universal. It appears that evolution necessarily makes all minds individually inherently subjective and hence, equivocally susceptible to blinding ideologies and socially-positive mind sets. That happened through the way it unavoidably arranged for the ever-plastic, initially-partial, blank-slate mind to gain haphazardly from the environment starting at birth, the knowledge it needs to utilize its amazing, inherent abilities to make its related body, or person, the unique, maximally autonomous creature it is.
While the mind's subjectivity can drive it positively to accomplish its diverse, socially-desirable goals, such as practicing a profession or craft or serving as a care giver, it can negatively block its receptiveness to new ideas and goals. Ideologies stifle that naturally by their providing economy of mental effort, or relief from thinking, with their glib explanations for apparent new circumstances. Ideologies tend to attract people similarly disposed and to cause the rejection of others. Moreover, minds appear to protect their ideologies as their points of view, egos, or their very personas against contradiction. They do so through the instinct, or drive to survive, as vigorously as they protect the physical structure of their related body. They do that with verbal argumentation and even violence, thus leading to religious, political, social, and other polarization.
By coincidence while composing this material, I came upon Jonah Lehrer's confirming article entitled "Group Think: The Brainstorming Myth," in the January 30, 2012 issue of The New Yorker. Impliedly apropos of my negative view of ideologies, it quotes Charlan Nemeth, a professor of psychology at the University of California in Berkeley, as stating that "dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints.
- Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it always will be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.
- With evolution of humans having apparently ceased, it appears that there is no conclusive solution to the social problems caused by blind ideologies. There seems to be only a potential palliative. That is to inform people of the problem's existence with its socially-negative effect, through my functional explanation of the mind as I am presenting it here, to reveal its unique creativity and free will that can override, or at least mitigate those ideologies by always-potential open-minded, maximally-objective thinking.
Hence, I hope that the interview can make that final point effectively.