David Hillel Gelernter
March 5, 1955
|Alma mater||Yale University (B.A., 1976)|
State University of New York at Stony Brook (Ph.D., 1982)
|Awards||Member of the National Council on the Arts (2003)|
He is known for contributions to parallel computation in the 1980s, and for books on topics including computed worlds (Mirror Worlds). Gelernter is also known for his belief, expressed in his book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), that liberal academia has a destructive influence on American society. He is in addition known for his views against women in the workforce, and his rejection of the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change and evolution.
In 1993 Gelernter was sent a mail bomb by Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber. He opened it and the resulting explosion almost killed him, leaving him with permanent loss of use of his right hand, and permanent damage to his right eye.
Life and work
Gelernter grew up on Long Island, New York. His father was computer science professor Herbert Gelernter, who taught at State University of New York at Stony Brook. David is the grandson of a rabbi, grew up a Reform Jew, and later became an Orthodox Jew. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Classical Hebrew literature from Yale University in 1976. He earned his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.
In the 1980s, he made seminal contributions to the field of parallel computation, specifically the tuple space coordination model, as embodied by the Linda programming system he and Nicholas Carriero designed (which he named for Linda Lovelace, the lead actress in the porn movie Deep Throat, mocking Ada's tribute to the scientist and first attributed computer programmer, Ada Lovelace). Bill Joy cited Linda as the inspiration for many elements of JavaSpaces and Jini.
In January 1993 in his book Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean, Gelernter wrote: "people and software work hand-in-glove--and sometimes hand-in-hand."
On June 24, 1993, Gelernter was severely injured opening a mail bomb sent to him by the Unabomber. He recovered from his injuries, but his right hand (which he covers with a glove) and eye were permanently damaged. Some in the press suggested that there were parallels between his thoughts on the need for a human element to computers and those of the Unabomber. He chronicled the ordeal in his 1997 book Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Two years after the bombing, the Unabomber sent Gelernter a letter, writing: "People with advanced degrees aren't as smart as they think they are."
Gelernter helped found the company Mirror Worlds Technologies, which in 2001 released Scopeware software using ideas from his 1992 book Mirror Worlds. Gelernter believed that computers can free users from being filing clerks, by organizing their data. The product never took off, however. The company ceased operations in 2004. In 2013, a related company that had purchased its patents, Mirror Worlds, LLC, filed a complaint of patent infringement against Apple, Best Buy, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo (United States), Lenovo Group, Microsoft, Samsung Electronic, and Samsung TeleCommunications in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Ultimately, the company lost at the trial level and on appeal. A petition for writ of certiorari to have the case considered by the Supreme Court of the United States was denied in 2013. In 2016, the case was dismissed with prejudice.
Gelernter has critiqued what he perceives as cultural illiteracy among students. In 2015, he commented, "They [students] know nothing about art. They know nothing about history. They know nothing about philosophy. And because they have been raised as not even atheists, they don't rise to the level of atheists, insofar as they've never thought about the existence or nonexistence of God. It has never occurred to them. They know nothing about the Bible." In 2016 he said: "The [Yale] faculty and the students don't have a clue what's going on in the world."
His paintings have been exhibited in New Haven and Manhattan.
Time Magazine profiled Gelernter in 2016, describing him as a "stubbornly independent thinker. A conservative among mostly liberal Ivy League professors, a religious believer among the often disbelieving ranks of computer scientists."
Endorsing Donald Trump for President, in October 2016, Gelernter wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling Hillary Clinton "as phony as a three-dollar bill," and saying that Barack Obama "has governed like a third-rate tyrant." In 2018 he said that the idea that Trump is a racist "is absurd." In October 2020 he joined in signing a letter stating: "Given his astonishing success in his first term, we believe that Donald Trump is the candidate most likely to foster the promise and prosperity of America."
Controversial positions on science
The Washington Post, profiling him in early 2017 as a potential science advisor to Donald Trump, called Gelernter "a vehement critic of modern academia" who has "condemned 'belligerent leftists' and blamed intellectualism for the disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values." Shortly thereafter, The Atlantic published a rebuttal of The Washington Post profile, saying it was "hard to imagine a more misleading treatment" of the "pioneering polymath" Gelernter.
Gelernter "expressed skepticism about the reality" of anthropogenic climate change, and said "I haven't seen convincing evidence of it." His view on climate change is out of step with the overwhelming scientific consensus.
In July 2019, Gelernter challenged Darwin's theories. In a review of Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, which Gelernter wrote for the Claremont Review of Books, Gelernter does not accept evolution "as Darwin presents it". On the other hand, Gelernter stipulates he "cannot accept" intelligent design either, saying that "as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go." In "A Response to David Gelernter's Attack on Evolution," Patheos, August 26, 2019, Bob Seidensticker writes: "Let's subtitle this story, 'Guy who made his career in not-biology is convinced by other not-biologists that Biology's core theory is wrong.'" Computer scientist and mathematician Jeffrey Shallit wrote: "Gelernter's review was not published in a science journal, but in a politics journal run by a far-right think tank. His review cites no scientific publications at all, and makes claims like 'Many biologists agree' and 'Most biologists think' without giving any supporting citations. So, not surprisingly ... Gelernter makes a fool of himself in his review, which resembles a 'greatest hits' of creationist misconceptions and lies."
Books and book reviews
|Booknotes interview with Gelernter on Drawing Life, November 16, 1997, C-SPAN|
Gelernter's book Mirror Worlds (1991) "prophesied the rise of the World Wide Web." Bill Joy, founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, said Gelernter was "one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time." The New York Times called him a computer science "rock star".
In The Muse in the Machine (1994), he theorized that creativity is based on the degree to which people focus their attention, arguing that "low focus," when their attention is wandering or emotions interfere with rationality, is when they are creative. His book was harshly criticized. Psychologist Stuart Sutherland, writing in Nature, called the theory wrong. Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, director of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, wrote: "It makes a great story, but if you look at the contemporary records and autobiographies, it doesn't work that way."
In his 2009 book Judaism: A Way of Being, Gelernter wrote that God has withdrawn from the modern world, that Reform and Conservative Judaism do not work, that the purpose of life is to marry and rear a family, and that the feminist effort for male and female equality: "is an act of aggression against both sanctity and humanity."
In his 2012 book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), Gelernter argued that American higher education no longer cares about producing well-rounded and cultured students; academics instead believe their role is to dictate how other Americans live and think. Scottish columnist Stephen Daisley wrote in Commentary magazine that Gelernter portrayed Obama's presidency as a symbol of the failure of American education and the success of its replacement with a liberal indoctrination system. As a solution, Gelernter proposed moving all of human knowledge to online servers so that the in-person college experience can be replaced by user-driven self-education. Daisley wrote, "America-Lite is lean, incisive, convincing, delightfully indelicate, and, in a break from the conventions of the literature on education, honest. It is a fine dissection—de-construction, if you must—of the corruption of higher education and the resulting debasement of political culture. If it makes its way on to a single college reading list, Hell will have frozen over."
Historian Russell Jacoby was critical in his review of Gelernter's book America-Lite, saying it contained insufficient arguments. Jacoby wrote that Gelernter blamed Jews for causing the breakdown of patriotism and the traditional family, writing "Gelernter is Jewish, and it is not likely that a non-Jew would airily argue that obnoxious leftist Jews have taken over elite higher education."
- With David Padua & Alexandru Nicolau. Languages and Compilers for Parallel Computing. Mass. Instit. of Tech. Pr., 1990.
- With Suresh Jagannathan. Programming Linguistics. Mass. Instit. of Tech., 1990.
- With Nicholas Carriero. How to Write Parallel Programs: A first course. Mass. Instit. of Tech. Pr., 1990.
- Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1992.
- The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. MacMillan, Inc., 1994.
- 1939: the Lost World of the Fair. HarperCollins Pub., 1996.
- Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Simon & Schuster Adult Pub. Group, 1997.
- The Aesthetics of Computing. Phoenix (Orion Books Ltd, UK), 1998.
- Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology. Perseus Pub., 1998.
- Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. Doubleday., 2007.
- Judaism: A Way of Being. Yale University Press, 2009.
- America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). Encounter Books, 2012, ISBN 978-1594036064
- The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness. Liveright, 2016. W.W. Norton. ISBN 9781631492495
Gelernter has contributed to magazines such as City Journal, The Weekly Standard, and Commentary which are generally considered neoconservative. For seven months, he contributed a weekly op-ed column to the Los Angeles Times. He has published in The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
- "Three programming systems and a computational 'model of everything'". in Peter J. Denning, ed., ACM's new Visions-of-computing Anthology, 2001.
- "Twentieth Century Machines". in R. Stolley, ed., Life Century of Change (2000).
- "Computers and the pursuit of happiness". Commentary, Dec. 2000.
- "Now that the PC is dead...,". The Wall Street Journal millennium issue, 2000.
- "Americanism – & Its Enemies", July–August 2004.
- "The Inside-Out Web". Forbes, April 2007.
- "Machines That Will Think and Feel: Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy—and that should scare us", The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2016.
- "Giving up Darwin". in Claremont Review of Books, Volume XIX, Number 2, Spring 2019
- "Unabomber's act still affects prof. Gelernter". yaledailynews.com.
- Henderson, Harry (May 14, 2014). A to Z of Computer Scientists. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438109183 – via Google Books.
- "A Life That Made Sense," by David Gelernter, The Weekly Standard, September 7, 2015, at 5.
- "Judaism: A Way of Being," by Juliana Ochs, Public Broadcasting Service, January 7, 2010.
- Markoff, John (January 19, 1992). "David Gelernter's Romance With Linda". The New York Times.
- "More than just another pretty name – SunWorld – August 1998". Sunsite.uakom.sk. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- Gelernter, David (January 28, 1993). Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195344851 – via Google Books.
- "Apple Challenges Big Award Over Patents". The New York Times. October 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
Professor Gelernter, a renowned technology pioneer, sustained serious injuries to his right hand and eye from an explosive package sent to him in 1993 by Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber.
- "The Images Dancing in David Gelernter's Head"
- Mullin, Joe (July 12, 2016). "Apple will pay $25M to patent troll to avoid East Texas trial". Ars Technica.
- "Mirror Worlds Technologies, LLC v. Apple Inc. et al". Justia Dockets & Filings.
- "Mirror Worlds, LLC v. Apple Inc". SCOTUSblog.
- "NEA News Room: Five New Members of National Council on the Arts Welcomed by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia". Nea.gov. 2003-04-10. Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- "David Gelernter on the Dumbing Down of the US, Computer Science,& Art".
- "Yale professor makes case for Donald Trump vote". Fox News. October 19, 2016.
- "Encounters with the Arch-Genius, David Gelernter". Time.
- Gerlernter, David (2016-10-14). "Trump and the Emasculated Voter". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
- Chotiner, Isaac (October 23, 2018). "The Yale Professor Who Knows "the Real Reason" Liberals Hate Trump Defends His Op-Ed, the President, and Birtherism". Slate Magazine.
- Gelernter, David (2020-07-28). "Eighteen Is Too Young to Vote". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
- Kaplan, Sarah (January 18, 2017), "David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump's science adviser", Speaking of Science, The Washington Post.
- Friedersdorf, Conor (February 23, 2017). "20 Ideas From the Mind of David Gelernter". The Atlantic.
- Yaffe-Bellany, Britton O'Daly and David. "A potential science adviser to Trump says he doesn't believe in man-made climate change". Business Insider.
- O'Daly, Britton (25 January 2017). "Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
- "Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change". yaledailynews.com.
- Kabbany, Jennifer (July 30, 2019). "Famed Yale computer science professor quits believing Darwin's theories". The College Fix. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
- "Giving Up Darwin".
- Examined, Cross (August 26, 2019). "A Response to David Gelernter's Attack on Evolution".
- Shallit, Jeffrey (August 2, 2019). "Recursivity: David Gelernter Makes a Fool of Himself Again".
- John Markoff, technology writer and The New York Times reporter in an interview with David Gelernter
- Schwartz, John. New Economy; Selling a Vision of the Future beyond Folders. NY Times, 7/2/01
- Steven Levy (May 21, 1995). "The Unabomber and David Gelernter". The New York Times Company.
- "Judaism: A Way of Being | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS". January 7, 2010.
- Daisley, Stephen (June 2012). "Reign of Ignorance". Commentary: 64–65.
- "Dreaming of a World Without Intellectuals". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2012-07-16.
- Mikics, David (July 31, 2017). "The Unabomber Couldn't Kill David Gelernter. Now Gelernter Supports Donald Trump". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved August 22, 2017.