Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Helen Keller paper

by Rob - October 30th, 2013.
Filed under: Academics, Wake, Watch, Willett, WWW.

The 1996 paper “Helen Keller as Cognitive Scientist” was one of my inspirations for writing my WWW trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, about a formerly blind girl gaining sight via a post-retinal implant — while a nascent consciousness evolving on the World Wide Web learns to see the world through her.

The paper’s author is philosopher Justin Leiber, the son of famed science-fiction writer Fritz Leiber.

The linked PDF is an OCR scan of the paper, provided by Prof. Leiber; here’s the abstract:

Nature’s experiments in isolation — the wild boy of Aveyron, Genie, their name is hardly legion — are by their nature illusive. Helen Keller, blind and deaf from her 18th month and isolated from language until well into her sixth year, presents a unique case in that every stage in her development was carefully recorded and she herself, graduate of Radcliffe College and author of 14 books, gave several careful and insightful accounts of her linguistic development and her cognitive and sensory situation. Perhaps because she is masked, and enshrined, in William Gibson’s mythic and false _Miracle Worker_, cognitive scientists have yet to come to terms with this richly enlightening, albeit anecdotal, resource.

[The William Gibson mentioned above is, of course, the playwright, not the author of Neuromancer.]

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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