The Unabomber Couldn’t Kill David Gelernter. Now Gelernter Supports Donald Trump

David Mikics in Tablet:

DavidA few weeks ago I visited David Gelernter in his home in Woodbridge, near New Haven, Connecticut. Gelernter, who teaches computer science at Yale, is probably best known for being the victim of a mail bomb sent in 1993 by the Unabomber (now the subject of a new Discovery TV series premiering tomorrow night); ever since then he has a reconstructed right hand covered by a black glove and a chest that, he once wrote, looks “like a construction site.” Gelernter is a brilliant iconoclast. He foresaw the World Wide Web and social media in his 1991 book Mirror Worlds, and he has written books about a wide range of subjects, including Judaism and the 1939 World’s Fair. He is also an outspoken conservative who has flirted with the idea of working for President Donald Trump. Some see Gelernter as nothing more than a right-wing grump—he loves to rail against liberal pieties out of nostalgia for the small-town America of his youth (he is 62 and grew up on Long Island). For others, he is a brilliant thinker about everything from art and music to cognitive science.

…I mentioned that children at my son’s elementary school in Brooklyn are taking coding classes in third grade. “It’s absolutely asinine,” Gelernter scowled. “You could also teach a third grader how to drive, using a miniature car, but why would you? Teach them discrete math, logic, graph theory, not baby coding. They have to work up to the coding. In America these days we don’t like working up to things.” Gelernter’s own classes sound very Italian Renaissance. He preaches the need for “elegance, boldness, surprise, and beauty” in graphical user interfaces. The ancient Greek vase painter known as the Berlin Painter figures in his computer interface class, as do Gothic cathedrals, Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio, and the trailblazing industrial designer Raymond Loewy. IBM, he said, introduced playfulness and beauty into computing in the 1960s. “Steve Jobs deserves respect,” he admitted. “He was an interesting guy. But there’s no way he was the father of bringing design to computers. IBM was the key force. They’re the ones who discovered that the computer was a way to communicate with people.”

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