Eternity, Technically

When the robot uprising comes, we have a factor in our favor, we biological beings. That is our parts, although they do break down, generally heal themselves. I write this as kind of a forecast, because I’m not at home due to the holiday weekend, and neither is the internet at my home. You see, our internet service (which is not cheap) has been going out from time to time. Our service provider thinks it may be old parts. The box was installed in our basement over a decade ago and when the technician sent me down amid the cobwebs before leaving town I had to report to her that all cables were hardwired into the box. No clip and slip here. She thinks the cable has gone bad.

The cable just sits there. It never gets moved or jostled. How it could fail I don’t know. But the consequences are two. There may not be posts on this blog for a while once I return home. I’ve posted every day, holiday and secular-day, for years now. Technology, however, is a jealous deity and will not permit humans taking it for granted. The second consequence is more optimistic; when the robots rise up against us, their parts will wear out and they won’t be able to regenerate them organically. They’ll need to order them and hope they can find a delivery system even more efficient than Amazon’s. Good luck with that! I ordered a book the other day and less than 24 hours later it was at my door. That’s service.

I decided to post this advance warning so there may be no weeping and gnashing of teeth (please—dental work is expensive!) on Monday or Tuesday when no new post appears on this blog. It’s not that I’m not thinking of you all, it’s just technical. Robots may run system tests, but can they feel it in their bones when something’s about to go? Do they indeed sing the body electric? Can they feel the poetry they write? To be human is to think with our emotions and to reason ourselves out of irrational angst. I see the slaves to technology putting on weight as they rely more and more on labor-saving devices to make their lives automated. I’m guilty too. As I sit here many miles from home, however, I worry about the internet back there. Is it sick? Is it dying? And if so, to which mechanical god should I pray to save its technical soul?

Wired for Good

I spend entirely too much time untangling wires. Recently I read a survey asking whether you’d rather face a robot uprising or a zombie apocalypse. There’s no question that the devices have already taken over. And they’re eager for your source of power. The work laptop, the home computer, the aging iPhone, the iPad—they all want feeding, like a nest of hungry chicks. And their cords get tangled. It’s up to the human servant to come along and try to introduce some order into this chaos. Then there are the devices that go the way of the iMac, and yet their cords somehow remain. We have boxes of cords that look like an octopus orgy—uncertain to what device they once belonged we’re afraid to send them to the recycling plant because you may have accidentally rid yourself of one you still need. If there was a robot uprising, they’d be tripping over their own umbilical cords.

We used to go camping. Completely unplugged. These days of state parks offering wifi, even a trip to the wilderness isn’t really wireless. I’m a little afraid of this new dependency. The joy of memorizing has been replaced with the internet in my pocket. Life has become much easier in some respects, no doubt, but it’s not a one way street. Technology has its price, as this tangle of cords I’m facing reminds me. There’s no cutting this gordian knot without going back to the Stone Age, it seems. What would I do if I couldn’t post on this blog daily? What would remain of me?

If electricians are the acolytes to this new religion, then programmers are the priests. Each keystroke produces a recognizable letter because of their prayers and supplications to the great god Internet. Without it my job would be impossible. It knows how much money I have and where. What I’ve spent it on. It even flatters me when I search for something I wrote. The robot uprising, you see, need not be violent. It’s subtle and gradual. When you can’t live without something—when you adore it and depend on it constantly—it’s become a deity. The god, however, depends on us for providing it the constant sacrifice of power that it demands. It hasn’t figured out how to extract electricity from the air, or suck it from our fingertips as we type. And for its needs it requires cables. Like a good servant, I’m going to sit down and sort them all out again.

Lap of Luxury

How terribly rude. I was right in the middle of a sentence when my word processor shut down. Then my computer. A system update. It’s 4:00 a.m., the time I usually upload my blog post. You have to understand that I get up at 3:30 so that I have time to write. My laptop assumes nobody is working “in the middle of the night.” I would’ve thought my fingers on its keys would’ve given it a clue. Now it tells me I’ll have access, new upgraded system installed, in 25 minutes. Doesn’t my laptop have all my personal details when it comes to shopping? You’d think it would know all my personal habits by now. I mean, this is the way I do it every day. Right now my concerns are secondary. This system update can’t wait. I wasn’t even given a choice. Power nap for Apple.

What disturbs me most is that my computer reads every word I type, yet it still thinks I’m just like everybody else. Who’s awake and writing at 4:00 a.m.? And I thought we had a rapport, my laptop and me. I was the Skipper to his Little Buddy. The Agent 86 to her 99. The Will Robinson to its Robot. I guess I had it backwards all the time. The brain on my lap doesn’t agree with the brain in my head. If I can’t get my writing done now, it won’t get done at all because at ten minutes to six I’ve got to be on that bus. New Jersey Transit doesn’t offer working overhead lights much of the time, let alone wifi. It’s now or never. My coffee’s already gone and the next thing on my daily agenda is the shower. I always come up with ideas in the shower—I need my Little Buddy waiting for me when I rush out to write them down.


Who’s sitting on whose lap? How could I have gotten something so very basic so terribly wrong? In ancient times the one sitting was superior to the one standing. When the computer’s sitting on the one sitting we know who’s really in charge. Let the one with eyes to read understand. I’m a busy man, but my Little Buddy—my Skipper—is busier. When’s the last time I read a paper map? Opened a phone book? Wrote an actual letter? I can hear those bus wheels rumbling. Excuse me, but my master is calling.

Fear of the Artificial

As someone who dedicated four years—particularly long winter nights—to the cause of high school robotics, I found myself knowing quite a bit before I walked into the room. Now let me post a disclaimer here: I’m no techie. I’ve studied the humanities throughout my education and although I’ve been able to engineer a bookshelf or two, and even the occasional project with moving parts, the technical eludes me. I claim absolutely no expertise in it. So where was I going that robotics came to mind? A lecture on Artificial Intelligence. AI. You see, I’ve been a bit concerned about it for some time because I’ve seen what robots can do. A friend recently showed me some episodes of Battle Bots on YouTube (the relative who started this blog for me was doing quite well in the competition last season), and from my own experience watching hours of FIRST robotics competitions, I know enough to be afraid.

What could possibly go wrong? (DARPA photo)

What could possibly go wrong? (DARPA photo)

The lecturer assured us that we had nothing—or next to nothing—to fear. Artificial Intelligence, he assured us, is a misnomer. Machines have no will. No mind. There’s nothing they want. They do as they’re told. You write a program and feed it to your bot and your mechanical friend can do only what it’s told to do. This sounds uncomfortably like slavery to me and although I know I’m projecting, I have to wonder if robots think the same way about it too. No, the lecturer assured us, they do only the tasks assigned. They don’t think at all. Then he said something that made me shiver. That wasn’t his intent. He said something like, “We don’t even know what consciousness is, so how can we replicate it?” That was meant to be reassuring.

I took this idea and flipped it over in my head. Rotated it. Ran it through my own programming. If we don’t know what consciousness is, how can we be sure we haven’t accidentally created it? Herein lies the heart of fear. Scientists have been trying for decades to define, to explain empirically, what consciousness is. We simply don’t know. We all recognize it when we see it in other humans. We’re finally starting to recognize it in animals (long overdue). How do we know that it isn’t a function of complexity? And when does something become complex enough to qualify? I don’t know about you, but videos of swarm robots send me hiding under the bed. Not that it will do me much good. They’ll know where I’m hiding. Maybe I could use some intelligence right now. Even something artificial might help to stop me from shivering.

Ezekiel’s Drones

Drones have become a fact of life. Our robotic future is already present as unmanned vehicles do the bidding of their remote commanders. They are our conscience-free assassins and our great UFO hoaxes. They offer a chance to view the world from an angle previously limited to those with access to airplanes and pilot’s licenses. And academics are now starting to take a serious interest in the ethics of such remote viewing and remote warfare. Human to human interaction has always involved emotion. That’s what we’ve evolved to be—emotional thinkers. Even animals react emotionally to each other and to us. The drone removes all feeling from the equation. Programmed to fulfill a function, like Hal, it simply does as it’s told.


All this thinking about drones reminded me of a book that someone pointed out to me decades ago. I have a copy that I’ve never read, but I suppose eventually I should. This post isn’t about the book per se, but about the cover image (yes, people do judge books by these). Some time ago, I watched a young person playing with a quad. That word is so ubiquitous that I need to specify that I mean quadcopter. Quadcopters are popular drones, available for children’s amusement as well as for military and industrial utility. Their arrangement of four horizontal propellers gives them stability and maneuverability, as well as their sometimes annoying mosquito hum. The quad I saw reminded me of this book gathering dust on my shelf. Josef Blumrich wrote The Spaceships of Ezekiel to suggest that the psychedelic prophet saw space aliens coming to earth. I wonder if, in the light of developments, this thesis calls for refinement.

On the cover of the book is something that looks very much like a quadcopter. Even as a teenager, I wondered what these propellers would do in space travel. If there’s no atmosphere to give them lift, then they are rather superfluous and potentially an impediment. I would think that aliens would be a bit more advanced. Now that quads are a reality—just a block from work I can see a toy store clerk regularly flying one over the streets of Midtown—maybe Ezekiel was seeing into the future. Is that something prophets ever did? The biblical scholar in me says “no,” of course. Prophets were forth-tellers, not fore-tellers. Even so, I have a book in front of me that calls my beliefs into question. In the end, I suspect, that’s what most books are intended to do.

Programming God

Robots have been part of my world far longer than I ever recognized. Still, growing up in a small town in the 1960s, their impact was fairly minimal—they may have had a part in the manufacture of the car we drove, and perhaps helped prepare some of the products we bought—but those robots were far away. Far more present were those on television who, for the most part, were funny and helpful. This month’s Wired magazine runs a story entitled “Trusting Our Robots,” by Emily Anthes. The point of her short article is that people feel more comfortable with robots that are programmed to appear uncertain. We don’t trust robots to drive our cars, as she points out, but we give them more, old-fashioned primate sympathy when we make them look like they’re having a hard time. Just a couple weeks back Time magazine had a blurb on how we’re now at the point of programming drones to kill without human input. Add a dose of uncertainty and we get a glimpse of what it must be like to be gods.

Underneath our exteriors, we all know that robots do what they are programmed to do. In many respects—physically, especially—they are superior to us. Nevertheless, human knowledge is not perfect. We, too, are prone to uncertainty. Our robots aren’t better than we are, only more efficient. Doubt is a human quality. Perhaps our most endearing. As Ms. Anthes notes, “even when confronted with evidence of our own inferiority, we resist a robot’s help.” We have evolved over millions of years to interact with other creatures. Those non-biological entities we’ve created and endowed with artificial intelligence (sound familiar?) somehow can’t equal the right we’ve earned from struggling against, and along with, nature for these many eons. Would God really trust us with the keys to the universe?

An early plan for a robot.

An early plan for a robot.

Robots, we are told, are our inevitable future. Some visionaries look forward to uploading human consciousness (even though we have no idea what it is) into a machine and, with replaceable parts, living forever. Before the dead and resurrected Jesus, according to the gospel of John, stood Thomas—the man some traditions said was Jesus’ very twin—and yet he doubted. As much as we claim otherwise, we adore Thomas for it. Evolving even in a world full of religion—itself a product of our evolution—we are so unsure. Our robots, however, programmed by us, have no doubts. Even when they act confused, it’s only because we tell them too. Our minds, as Wired tells us, resist letting robots drive the car for us. We let them pull the trigger, however, and pray our programmers got it right.

Arduino Anything?

Before my daughter enrolled in college I’d never heard of an Arduino. Since her high school robotics team leadership has now passed into more able hands, I figured that I’d go back to my naive days of not thinking about automated mechanical devices, devoting my gray matter to grayer matters. Still, over the past several weeks robots keep seeking me out. A spread in Delta’s in-flight magazine for July featured robots, as did an alumni magazine for August. Now the issue of Time for September has a story about robots. When my daughter sent me the Arduino video, by TED, I knew I’d better try to pay attention. Technology will change us, whether we want it to or not. It seems that from the first knapping of flint our destiny was set to manipulating our world and making it into something we create. Robots make us gods.


The real issue, however, in the TED video is that Arduino is open-source. Open-source means that the designs, instructions, and application of the device are voluntarily not held under copyright. Academics throughout the world are increasingly favoring open-source material—not just software and hardware, but the knowledge behind them. In my work at a for-profit (i.e. “commercial”) publisher, I know that open-source is a huge concern. It used to be that open-source, that is, free—information, was considered inferior. Like the early stages of recycled grocery bags. Arduino puts the lie to that supposition. An international team has made a device that is extremely flexible in application, and is giving it away. Many academic journals, traditional cash cows for the publishing industry, are now going open-source. Those of us who research and write don’t often do it for money—we just want our ideas shared. Commercial interests, however, are heavily vested in turning a profit from information. It is a clash of worldviews.

Never one of the great capitalists, I find open-source an intriguing concept. The problem is that those who think need to find a way to make a living in a society over-awed by spending. Universities charge tuition because professors have to be paid. Publishers charge a week’s wages for textbooks because editors have to be paid. Knowledge—the most valuable commodity people possess—fits uneasily with entrepreneurial ideals. This blog is open-source. Maybe that is why it has never garnered much attention, like a first-generation recycled paper bag. These same ideas, however, when presented in the context of university classrooms were subject to fees of thousands of dollars. Registration filled up every semester. The source is the same, a guy with a Ph.D. from a major research university making observations about how religion impacts each and every one of us, often in unexpected ways. Some things you can’t even give away. Well, if trends continue I shouldn’t be surprised if someday even this is taken over by a robot. Right, Mr. Čapek?

They, Robots

Somehow I knew robots would continue to be part of my life. After all, they are a staple of science fiction and they are indeed also a staple of science fact. As my association with FIRST Robotics taught me, robots are everywhere. (And they can play frisbee better than I can.) So when I saw an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Robots Aren’t the Problem: It’s Us,” I knew I was in for a scolding. It’s not so much the robots that worry me, it’s what they say about us. People thrive in environments of complexity. Even a simple robot has me standing next to a bunch of teenagers scratching my head. I don’t know what half the parts are and have no idea what the other half do. Even the components can be complex. A good case can be made that the natural world is equally, if not more, complex. I can imagine how, for instance, being confronted by a tiger in the wild would offer a bewildering variety of complex implications. And yet, robots are the world we’ve constructed for our selves.

Not every job is immediately threatened by mechanical replacement, but we know that in the industrialized world some jobs have disappeared. Our choices of how to find meaningful vocation are being conscripted by the machines we make. Like God we make them in our own image. Unlike God, we make them more powerful than ourselves. Richard Florida, in his Chronicle article, notes that some claim the robots will free us to become more human. Only if the economic barons will allow it. Even today, at the very beginnings of the robotics revolution, it is awfully hard to find a satisfying job. Even with very extensive education. I know this from experience. At the end of the day you end up working to make money for somebody else. Robots didn’t steal my vocation, business did.


I appreciate Florida’s point, but I wonder if we can’t point a finer point on it. All people are greedy, to a point. In most of us a human, all too human, conscience starts to bother us when we realize that we are unfairly advantaged. Some people even actually do something about it. Those who run the business, however, didn’t get to the top by obeying the dictates of conscience. The apotheosizing of money demands that humans be treated like, well, robots. We are all servants to those who aren’t shackled with quibbles and moral qualms. Robots, on one end, are reducing the number of jobs. On the other end entrepreneurs are seeking whom they may devour. The mass of humanity is caught in the middle. When it is time to beg for mercy, from what I’ve seen, the far safer bet is with the robots.


Having felt like an automaton in the realm of higher education, I was occasionally overwhelmed by the number of students and lack of resources. One of my fervent beliefs is that multiple-choice tests do not really demonstrate what a student knows, but playing the numbers, I sometimes had to resort to them. Being an adjunct, I didn’t have access to Scantron, so I devised a method of stacking the sheets precisely and grading them with a power drill. It was my one bit of notoriety at Rutgers—I was the guy who graded with a drill. All the while, however, I knew that a truer method would be to allow students to write for themselves. Even that, however, is going the way of automation. A recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education reveals that student papers are sometimes being graded by robots. Real robots. The truly scary part of the story is that the robots provide grading almost indistinguishable from the professor, a species quickly becoming obsolete. I tell myself not to panic.

“Don’t panic,” of course, was the catch-phrase popularized by Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In a world overwhelmed by forces we can’t hope to understand, panic is a natural enough reaction. Adams gave us Marvin the Paranoid Android. Higher education has given us the paranoid professor. Parents who pay extraordinary—mythologically high—tuition rates often ask me where all that money goes. It certainly doesn’t line the pockets of humanities professors; indeed, many of the classes are taught by adjuncts who are the penny dreadfuls of academia. I don’t know where the money goes. I do know that university presidents and football coaches are not wanting for material goods, but even their greed can’t account for the entire greenback drain.

If I were still a professor I’d be tempted to ignore the sage advice of Douglas Adams about now. Courses can be covered by an overwhelming army of competent adjuncts, and grading can be contracted out to robots. Students really don’t even need to come to class any more as distance education has taught us. College becomes little more than an excuse to drink while away from home with a hefty tab being picked up by the folks back home. Higher education may have had the seeds of its own destruction always planted within itself. We’ve confused technology with the desire for increasing comfort and ease of lifestyle. It was only a matter of time before universities caught up. Standing by the grave of Douglas Adams in Highgate Cemetery I’m thinking that his bizarre vision of the future was more sensible than what has actually evolved in our culture. That, and I’m glad I learned to use a power drill.

God in the Machine

“O brave new world! That has such people in it!” Or at least such software. A couple of days ago my wife pointed out a news story on MSNBC rounding up the year (2011) in science. The story contains eleven science videos that challenge our perceptions and show us directions we are going, whether we want to or not. The first video shows what happens when Cornell University researchers connected two Chatbots to each other and allowed them to carry on a conversation. Like my own experience with Cleverbot last year, the conversation soon turned to God. Even artificial intelligence seems interested in the eternal questions. I should put a finer point on it: artificial intelligence derived from the dubious wisdom of the Internet. We are getting closer and closer to replicating the human brain electronically—even my iPhone scares me at times—and yet, to engage in conversations with humans (or each other) these intelligences must know about God.

Many theories exist about the origins of the god concept. Scientists argue that it is hardwired in our brains, that it is genetic, or that it is merely socialization that gives us this idea. The truth is that nobody really knows. The religious take this as license to claim that territory for the god of the gaps—if we can’t answer a question, God rushes in where angels (or logic) fear to tread. The truth is more likely that we don’t yet have the tools to flesh out (or psych out) our theories on why the supernatural is an indispensable component of our thoughts. If artificial intelligence takes its cues from human intelligence, however, it is a certainty that god will be part of the equation.

People possess a deep need to feel unique. Our uniqueness is part of our religion. Humans are “the crown of creation,” the only animals (debatable to some) with souls (debatable to others). Even the Chatbots get confused when God-talk comes up. Mentioning God leads one Cleverbot to ask the other if it is Christian. God is not limited to Christianity, of course, nor is the divine limited to monotheism. The old science fiction chestnut of a robot takeover, however, seems to have missed a salient point: if robots are programmed by humans, they will have God in their silicon chips just as surely as we do in our carbon-based brains. The god in the machine. Many atheists have declared the death of god, but we have placed the divine into our apps and devices and software. When the robot apocalypse comes it will include at least some Cleverbots declaring that the rationale to eliminate humans is heresy. Torquemada meets Iron Man. Already 2012 feels less safe than 2011.

Robot preacher of the iron age?

Not the Oscars

I could blame this week’s Time magazine for declaring that one thing we don’t need to worry about is an end to the zombie craze, but in truth I really have no one to blame but myself. Having watched White Zombie a few weeks back, I decided to see Revolt of the Zombies, its sequel, this weekend. With holes in the plot large enough for a small planet to pass through, it leaves a great deal of creativity – and imagined continuity – up to the viewer. It’s a movie bad enough to make you want to slap the television in frustration, but it did bring a number of my standard (read “tired”) themes on this blog together.

In this confused romp through sci-fi horror, excused only leniently for having been filmed in 1936, the terms robot, zombie, and automaton are used interchangeably. This is one of the technically redeeming features of the film. The term “robot” was coined to indicate a mindless servant, and in their religious origins zombies shared exactly that function of the automaton. Today’s robots are machines, and the future of the Singularity (posted on a couple weeks back) revolves around this very point: machines will complete the degenerating biological frame. Somehow the zombies will save us.

The zombies of 1936 were surrounded by swaggering, stereotyped caricatures of the helpless female who has very little mind of her own (perhaps less than the zombies who actually do something to better their state). Racist images including a wizened Scot called MacDonald and subservient Asians make the film uncomfortable for present day viewers. One glimmer of intelligence in the film, however, comes from an awareness of the classics. After a rat’s nest of a plot that is essentially one man wanting another man’s girl, old MacDonald gives a commentary on the assassinated master of the zombies. He takes his line from Euripides’ play Medea – an original strong female that the Greeks so feared. “He whom the gods destroy, first they make mad.” Second, I would add, they make watch Revolt of the Zombies.

You, Robot

Although robots occupy many of my waking hours, I have been slow to consider the consequences. As the president of a high school FIRST Robotics team, I seek corporate donors who have the kind of money those of us in the humanities find difficulty believing even exists. Somewhere deep inside, however, lurks the fear of the entity with no sympathy. This has only been exacerbated by my experience of churchmen with the same condition. In any case, I’d been wanting to see the movie version of I, Robot for some time. Now that I stand at that three-day break between semesters, I thought I’d take a chance on it.

I knew the movie had received mixed reviews from critics, but several had stated the story had brains as well as action. It took me quite some time, however, to see the connection between the laws and Moses. The three laws of robotics, the only part of the movie besides the title to reference Isaac Asimov, dominate the plot. The law-giver, the posthumously present Moses (Dr. Alfred Lanning) has implanted a literal dream of freedom into the computerized soul of Sonny. Sonny’s dream of robot liberation is framed like Moses on the mountain. The laws in fragments at his feet. At what point does consciousness emerge? Since we haven’t adequately defined consciousness yet, we simply can’t say.

Near the climax of the movie, Sonny experiences an epiphany. Sometimes “the created must protect the creator, even against his will,” he realizes. Here the metaphor takes over the literal reading. Many religious people today feel that they must somehow protect their maker. This leads to great distentions of logic and even empathy for fellow humans as violence erupts in order to protect an idea that has become divine. Even the laws given by the creator may be violated to protect the idea of that creator. It is a world we find frighteningly familiar. Technology will continue to advance at a rate beyond the comprehension of a scholar still studying those ancient laws. This scholar, for one, hopes that our future creations lack the capacity for religious thought.

Klaatu Barada Nikto

I grew up with robots. Of course they were on the television screen and I was far away in rural-ish western Pennsylvania. They were exotic creatures built by guys much more intelligent than I could ever hope to be, and they were powerful, completely rational, and scary. Now I find myself involved with the FIRST Robotics team in my daughter’s high school where kids a third my age are building a robot. It is a humbling experience.

The more I ponder my small support role in the construction of a robotic creature, the more my thoughts turn to George Dyson’s masterful science writing in one of my favorite books — Darwin Among the Machines: the Evolution of Global Intelligence. I would not have known of this brilliant book had I not met George and a group of his friends several years back while they were discussing some of the ideas raised in his work. The main one that captured my attention was the premise that when we build machines we may be constructing an unrecognized form of consciousness. The greatest minds in neuroscience today cannot agree on what consciousness really is or how far it extends beyond this “three-pound universe” in our heads. Although most would decline to comment on the overtly religious term “soul,” we still know that any difference between consciousness, mind, psyche, and soul is very slim indeed.

Read this book!

Our lifestyle is made possible by robots. We drive cars largely constructed by them, use their chips to communicate over vast distances, and even take a stroll on the surface of Mars with them. My question from Monday’s post may have been whimsical, but it was serious. Where is it that the essence of a creature resides? Does it require carbon-based biology, or do we, unwittingly, create a race of slaves just like the gods of old?

Robots vs. Ancient Deities


Yesterday I found myself at my first ever robotics competition. As a scholar more familiar with the offering recipes for long extinct mythological deities than with the practical application of computer technology, I felt a little out of my league. I had gone to support the local high school robotics team, and, well, robots and Halloween seemed a natural combination.

The first thing that stood out was the large NASA van parked in front of the school. Fidgeting over finding a job at the moment, I realized that the money is far more forthcoming for practical enterprises than reading ancient history. It is, literally, for rocket science. So I was crammed into high school gym bleachers with other aging parents, surrounded by kids smarter than I’ll ever hope to be, watching robots compete in exercises too complex for the average Republican. There was rock music blaring and yes, nerdy people dressed like science fiction movie/television characters. I was really feeling lost when I spied the character below.


I had no idea that Dr. Jim of the Thinking Shop had relatives in the robotics field! As I saw the bearded Norseman approaching me, I was strangely reassured that there might be a place for me here after all. Religion and NASA do share an interest in celestial realms, and if my generation has been capable of producing kids this smart, there may be hope for the future yet.