Saturday, February 16, 2013

80. The Glowing Colours of Perception



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The rather long short story that has been accompanying you over the past two months or so is coming to an end. Sure enough, matching the written expression, the audio and the video episodes has taken some time, but let's say it's quite all right now, as long as you kept downloading the episodes and listening to them again and again. And even if you don't say so (which would have been an expression of acknowledgement I would have highly appreciated), I do hope you got the message of all this: that learning means, for better or for worse, accepting linguistic reality. But well, the merit is all Daniel Keyes's! 
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http://db.tt/GcyPF6uW
Flowers for Algernon (11)
Daniel Keyes
May 29—I have been given a lab of my own and permission to go ahead with the research. I’m on to something. Working day and night. I’ve had a cot moved into the lab. Most of my writing time is spent on the notes which I keep in a separate folder, but from time to time I feel it necessary to put down my moods and my thoughts out of sheer habit.
I find the calculus of intelligence to be a fascinating study. Here is the place for the application of all the knowledge I have acquired. In a sense it’s the problem I’ve been concerned with all my life.
May 31—Dr. Strauss thinks I’m working too hard. Dr. Nemur says I’m trying to cram a lifetime of research and thought into a few weeks. I know I should rest, but I’m driven on by something inside that won’t let me stop. I’ve got to find the reason for the sharp regression in Algernon. I’ve got to know if and when it will happen to me.

June 4
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LETTER TO DR. STRAUSS (copy)

Dear Dr. Strauss:
Under separate cover I am sending you a copy of my report en­titled, “The Algernon-Gordon Effect: A Study of Structure and Function of Increased Intelligence,” which I would like to have you read and have published.
As you see, my experiments are completed. I have included in my report all of my formulae, as well as mathematical analysis in the appendix. Of course, these should be verified.
Because of its importance to both you and Dr. Nemur (and need I say to myself, too?) I have checked and rechecked my results a dozen times in the hope of finding an error. I am sorry to say the results must stand. Yet for the sake of science, I am grateful for the little bit that I here add to the knowledge of the function of the human mind and of the laws governing the artificial increase of human intelligence.
I recall your once saying to me that an experimental failure or the disproving of a theory was as important to the advancement of learn­ing as a success would be. I know now that this is true. I am sorry, however, that my own contribution to the field must rest upon the ashes of the work of two men I regard so highly.
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Yours truly,
Charles Gordon
encL: rept.
June 5—I must not become emotional. The facts and the results of my experiments are clear, and the more sensational aspects of my own rapid climb cannot obscure the fact that the tripling of intelligence by the surgical technique developed by Drs. Strauss and Nemur must be viewed as having little or no practical applicability (at the present time) to the increase of human intelligence.
As I review the records and data on Algernon, I see that although he is still in his physical infancy, he has regressed mentally. Motor activity is impaired; there is a general reduction of glandular activity; there is an accelerated loss of co-ordination.
There are also strong indications of progressive amnesia.
As will be seen by my report, these and other physical and mental deterioration syndromes can be predicted with statistically significant results by the application of my formula.
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The surgical stimulus to which we were both subjected has resulted in an intensification and acceleration of all mental processes. The un­foreseen development, which I have taken the liberty of calling the Al­gernon-Gordon Effect, is the logical extension of the entire intelligence speed-up. The hypothesis here proven may be described simply in the following terms: Artificially increased intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase.
I feel that this, in itself, is an important discovery.
As long as I am able to write, I will continue to record my thoughts in these progress reports; it is one of my few pleasures. However, by all indications, my own mental deterioration will be very rapid.
I have already begun to notice signs of emotional instability and for­getfulness, the first symptoms of the burnout.

video

Thursday, February 14, 2013

79. Gestalts


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What better diagnosis for Charlie’s evolution than Algernon’s own behavior? Confusion, listlessness, urgency and – above all – a decrease in general motivation will make us understand how much of Algernon’s latest manifestations might be foreseen for Charlie.

There have been few women in Charlie’s life, and their passage through Charlie's existence mean so much to him - in fact, to all of us: his mother, his sister, and the traumas inflicted upon Charile; and now Faye and, of course Alice, and the dichotomy love-sex. Charlie, still at the peak of his intellectual capacity, finds a way to shape his emotions in words: deep, heartfelt words.
  
Linguistic Gestalt:
Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang
 The words here are pure Art. Techniques like this one, which Daniel Keyes has taken to perfection, have been initiated in Ancient Greece while perfecting the art of Oratory (i.e. the art of speaking in public). Timing what you say and how you say it, and devising the speech with which you persuade the audience that what you say is true have been developed along the millenia. But shaping through words the process of becoming of a human being has only happened through Keyes's work.
Flowers for Algernon (10)
Daniel Keyes
May 23—It happened today. Algernon bit me. I visited the lab to see him as I do occasionally, and when I took him out of his cage, he snapped at my hand. I put him back and watched him for a while. He was unusually disturbed and vicious.

May 24—Burt, who is in charge of the experimental animals, tells me that Algernon is changing. He is less co-operative; he refuses to run the maze any more; general motivation has decreased. And he hasn’t been eating. Everyone is upset about what this may mean.
May 25— They’ve been feeding Algernon, who now refuses to work the shifting-lock problem. Everyone identifies me with Algernon. In a way we’re both the first of our kind. They’re all pretending that Algernon’s behavior is not necessarily significant for me. But it’s hard to hide the fact that some of the other animals who were used in this experiment are showing strange behavior.
BBC World: Scotland
http://db.tt/csqzBNvC              
Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur have asked me not to come to the lab any more. I know what they’re thinking but I can’t accept it. I am going ahead with my plans to carry their research forward. With all due re­spect to both of these fine scientists, I am well aware of their limita­tions. If there is an answer, I’ll have to find it out for myself. Suddenly, time has become very important to me.
BBC World: Aurora Borealis over Scotland

Monday, February 11, 2013

78. The Great Awakening



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Flowers for Algernon (9)
Daniel Keyes

May 20—I would not have noticed the new dishwasher, a boy of about sixteen, at the corner diner where I take my evening meals if not for the incident of the broken dishes.
They crashed to the floor, shattering and sending bits of white china under the tables. The boy stood there, dazed and frightened, holding the empty tray in his hand. The whistles and catcalls from the cus­tomers (the cries of “hey, there go the profits!”... “Mazeltov!” ... and “well, he didn’t work here very long ... “ which invariably seems to follow the breaking of glass or dishware in a public restaurant) all seemed to confuse him.
When the owner came to see what the excitement was about, the boy cowered as if he expected to be struck and threw up his arms as if to ward off the blow.
“All right! All right, you dope,” shouted the owner, “don’t just stand there! Get the broom and sweep that mess up. A broom ... a broom, you idiot! It’s in the kitchen. Sweep up all the pieces.” 
The boy saw that he was not going to be punished. His frightened ex­pression disappeared and he smiled and hummed as he came back with the broom to sweep the floor. A few of the rowdier customers kept up the remarks, amusing themselves at his expense.
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“Here, sonny, over here there’s a nice piece behind you ... ”
“C’mon, do it again ... ”
“He’s not so dumb. It’s easier to break ‘em than to wash ‘em ... ”
As his vacant eyes moved across the crowd of amused onlookers, he slowly mirrored their smiles and finally broke into an uncertain grin at the joke which he obviously did not understand.
I felt sick inside as I looked at his dull, vacuous smile, the wide, bright eyes of a child, uncertain but eager to please. They were laugh­ing at him because he was mentally retarded.
And I had been laughing at him too.
Suddenly, I was furious at myself and all those who were smirking at him. I jumped up and shouted, “Shut up! Leave him alone! It’s not his fault he can’t understand! He can’t help what he is! But for God’s sake he’s still a human being!”
The room grew silent. I cursed myself for losing control and creating a scene. I tried not to look at the boy as I paid my check and walked out without touching my food. I felt ashamed for both of us.
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How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes— how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelli­gence. It infuriated me to think that not too long ago I, like this boy, had foolishly played the clown.
And I had almost forgotten.
I’d hidden the picture of the old Charlie Gordon from myself because now that I was intelligent it was something that had to be pushed out of my mind. But today in looking at that boy, for the first time I saw what I had been. I was just like him!
Only a short time ago, I learned that people laughed at me. Now I can see that unknowingly I joined with them in laughing at myself. That hurts most of all.
I have often reread my progress reports and seen the illiteracy, the childish naïveté, the mind of low intelligence peering from a dark room, through the keyhole, at the dazzling light outside. I see that even in my dullness I knew that I was inferioi, and that other people had some­thing I lacked—something denied me. In my mental blindness, I thought that it was somehow connected with the ability to read and write, and I was sure that if I could get those skills I would automat­ically have intelligence too.
Even a feeble-minded man wants to be like other men.
A child may not know how to feed itself, or what to eat, yet it knows of hunger.
This then is what I was like, I never knew. Even with my gift of intel­lectual awareness, I never really knew.
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This day was good for me. Seeing the past more clearly, I have de­cided to use my knowledge and skills to work in the field of increasing human intelligence levels. Who is better equipped for this work? Who else has lived in both worlds? These are my people. Let me use my gift to do something for them.
Tomorrow, I will discuss with Dr. Strauss the manner in which I can work in this area. I may be able to help him work out the problems of widespread use of the technique which was used on me. I have several good ideas of my own.
There is so much that might be done with this technique. If I could be made into a genius, what about thousands of others like myself? What fantastic levels might be achieved by using this technique on normal people? On geniuses?
There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin. 
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

77. Living with Algernon



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By now you must have grown fond of Charlie, for sure. 
Those of you who have read more than half of the short story and listened to the audio episodes already uploaded must have felt at least a bit of tenderness for a man – a Human Being, as he says – in his search for answers to existential questions. 
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It is now that Charlie passes to action. What better companion than Algernon for Charlie to catch a glimpse of his own evolution?
Lots of questions are still unanswered. I’ll take it as proof of interest if any of you will kindly try to understand what is happening in the story.
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 Happy audition!