Sometimes when a blogger goes offline for three months – my last post was April 18th – it’s because not much is going on. And sometimes it’s because a whole lot is going on.
Two weeks ago, my agent finalized a contract for me to write my second book, whose working title is World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines. The publisher is The Free Press, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It took me three years to reach this point. I’m incredibly grateful to my agent, who shepherded me through half a dozen drafts of the book proposal, and to my family, who supported me in all sorts of ways. The book’ll come out in 2010 or 2011.
I’m writing this entry in Washington D.C., where I’ll be living for the next 10 months. I moved here three days ago. I’ll be a visiting professor at Gallaudet University, along with Josh Swiller. Together we’ll teach a course on how minority groups have adapted and survived in challenging times. The idea is to foster creative thinking on how Gallaudet can re-imagine itself in a time when technology is transforming deafness.
We’ll look at several ethnic minorities, but we’ll also discuss the survival of companies like Apple, languages like Welsh, and biological species such as black peppered moths. Josh and I are putting the syllabus together now, and we’re both very excited about it.
My life’s changed so fast that it’s been like jumping out of a plane with my shoes untied. I look out the window of my sixth-floor dorm suite, which has a beautiful view of the football field, and I ask myself, “What just happened?”
And, “What have I gotten myself into?” I’ve also committed myself to learning a new language – American Sign Language. I can fingerspell slowly, and I know a few dozen signs (day, week, month, and Thank you have proven especially helpful.) I’ll be starting an intensive ASL course on Monday.
I’m acutely aware that I’ve stepped into a whole different culture. I’m sure I’ll feel confused a good part of each day, and I apologize in advance for all the different subtle ways in which I’ll probably offend people (I understand that a certain sign for lunch, which I learned years ago, is out of favor; I have to unlearn even the little that I know!) But I’ve found that collisions with the new are the best way to keep myself alive and creative, and I’m very grateful to Gallaudet for welcoming me.
I gave a talk at Google just before I left, and you can see it on YouTube here. It’s a good preview of the themes of World Wide Mind. I’m well aware that the subtitle of my book is likely to perplex some people at Gallaudet, to say the least. But writing it here, where the integration of humans and machines is seen by some as a mortal threat, will keep me honest – and humane.