They were applying his own paradigms for learning
July 15, 2008 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Papert, who was a professor of mathematics, education, and media technology at MIT, has devoted much of his career to learning: self-learning (he taught himself Russian) and learning about learning. He was one of the early pioneers of artificial intelligence, and he invented the computer language Logo to teach children about computers. Now he must learn something even more challenging - how to be Seymour Papert again.
posted by Horace Rumpole (18 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm just here to say thank you for mentioning Logo, as how to introduce my children to programming in the next few years has been very top-of-mind for me lately.
posted by davejay at 5:35 PM on July 15, 2008

Oh man, I didn't know about this. That's too bad. His work was also the basis (in spirit and also in name) of the incredible Lego Mindstorms as well as a program my 9 year old absolutely loves: Scratch. Oh and the OLPC, which both my 9 and 7 year old love.
posted by DU at 5:43 PM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

(davejay: definitely check out Scratch--it's 100x what LOGO was)
posted by DU at 5:44 PM on July 15, 2008

Oh my... I interviewed him for a term paper in college in the 1980's. He's one of those people who's so brilliant that you just feel completely inadequate talking with- but he never let me feel that.

I'm truly sorry this has happened to him, and wish him as fast and full a recovery as is possible.
posted by pjern at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2008

Learned Logo as a kid, loved revisiting some of the ideas when reading the heavily Papert influenced Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams 10 years ago. Just played with Scratch today for the first time. I'd love to have that mind well and able and with the world a bit longer. And it'd sure be interesting to hear his thoughts as a firsthand observer of his own recovery if he reaches that point.
posted by weston at 6:17 PM on July 15, 2008

Reminds me of Harvard neuroscientist Jill Bolte Tayor's autobiographical story (on mefi here) of having a stroke and re-learning, like a child, how to become cognizant again.
posted by ornate insect at 6:26 PM on July 15, 2008

Oh god. LOGO brought me into computers like so many others; this feels irrationally personal. I'd heard and read bits about Papert and his work since, but never really grokked the scope of his work.

TBIs scare me more than just about anything else. It's terrifying to have your seat of self be demonstrated to be physical, fallible and fragile so viscerally.

Every good thought I can think of to him and his family.
posted by Skorgu at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

MIT's Get Well Seymour! page is quite nice too.
posted by Skorgu at 6:52 PM on July 15, 2008

I'm rooting for him. Good luck Mr. Papert!
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:30 PM on July 15, 2008

Omg.. LOGO. So many memories of geeking out in elementary school.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:27 PM on July 15, 2008

Jesus Christ, what a waste of a brilliant, important mind. I hope he recovers.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:28 PM on July 15, 2008

Wow, this is tragic. Logo wasn't the first encounter I had with a programming language - it was far more simple than the BASIC I'd been exposed to at that point. I could still see the value in it to introduce a lot of programming concepts and I certainly absorbed something while using it.

Get well and good luck, Mr. Papert. I hope you find your way back.
posted by ooga_booga at 10:52 PM on July 15, 2008

What kind of wretched, trivial news was I reading, that I didn't hear about this till now? Papert is important.

I'm glad to see there is a devoted corps of intelligent people around him, giving him the best they can.
posted by eritain at 1:41 AM on July 16, 2008

Great Post. I also had not heard about this.
posted by wittgenstein at 8:42 AM on July 16, 2008

Thank you for posting this. I have so much sympathy for him and his family. When you have been defined by your intelligence all your life, and your intelligence is taken from you by a brain injury, how do you redefine your self? How do others redefine you? He seems like one of the lucky ones who is being redefined by the community of family, friends, and colleagues who care for him. If there's any silver lining to the tragedy of traumatic brain injury, it might be learning that the sum of your life is not just the intellectual contributions you've made to society (great as they are in this case), but that all these years you've managed to build up a massive network of loving relationships with the people whose lives you've touched.
posted by vytae at 10:22 AM on July 16, 2008

Hmm. Steve Wozniak says Apple II games helped him recover from his accident. I sure hope someone has Papert playing with Scratch or Logo ...
posted by eritain at 12:30 PM on July 16, 2008

Oh my god, I had no idea that Papert had been in a coma. This is terrible. I feel like I did when I learned that Terry Pratchett had Alzheimer's.

Here's a nice little story about Papert someone once told me. Papert and a few other academics had just arrived in England to attend some conference or whatnot. They rented a car and Papert took the wheel. Throughout the trip he drove extremely cautiously. Whenever he reached a roundabout, he had to stop, sit there, and think. "What's the matter?" someone asked when he was stopped at a roundabout. "Never driven on the left side of the road before?"

"No, I haven't," Papert replied. "Also, I was a subject in an inverted goggles experiment until yesterday."
posted by painquale at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2008

Like many here, I had no idea. Papert is a hero of mine, having based my most awesomest college paper on the Mindstorms hardware I read a bit of his stuff.

And yes, the dude is indeed important. Que mejores, Seymour.
posted by papafrita at 3:44 PM on July 16, 2008

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