I teach vocabulary and testing strategies at College of the Sequoias, a class that helps prepare court typists for certification. It’s the perfect class because the English vocabulary is, quite possibly, my first special interest.
I’m not sure how old I was when I transitioned from the refrigerator alphabet magnets to Dr. Seuss books; but not long after that, I developed this mad crush on my great-grandfather’s lawyer dictionary, which my mom kept high up on a chest of drawers.
I used to stand on a kitchen chair to flip through my great-grandfather’s thousand-vellum-paged lawyer dictionary, which was propped up on a wooden book stand, similar to what you might tuck under a Bible.
I’d memorize words and, more importantly, the prefixes, suffixes, and roots of words—pieces of language, like Legos, Duplos, and Lincoln Logs—all throughout elementary school. (As a consequence, the dictionaries at school never agreed with my exquisite palate in language arts.)
I absolutely marveled at how bits and clips, sounds and phrases could turn into squiggles that formed words and meaning, definitions and rules, as stubby as a two-word sentence, as wide as book-length stories…
And all you needed to learn this word-magic: Practice. Patience. Perseverance.
🤓 Today’s Asperger Video
🤔 3 Takeaways
- The “chameleon factor” is very real; autistic women, especially autistic young girls, pay attention to the social world around them, and feeling at a loss to adapt naturally, they instead mimic the behaviors of others, reaching for the demands of their family, friends, and communities through mimicry; so when autism is diagnosed early, and a teenager can say, “It’s fine that I’m different (@2:20),” that’s a boon. It’s certainly healing for me to see our society moving this direction.
- When I played Dungeons & Dragons, shapeshifters were my character archetype of choice: dragons, doppelgangers, changelings, and the Polymorph spell; and every fantasy and science fiction story I’ve written, to this day, includes some kind of metamorphic character to embody my perpetual feeling of living as a chameleon.
- I don’t think we’re in an autism epidemic. I don’t think more people are born with autism every year. We are, however, improving diagnostic methods, which means we’re finally identifying autism in women. What would it mean statistically if, in the next year or two, we confirmed autism is not four times more prevalent in boys…it’s just 3 out of 4 autistic women have no idea they’re on the spectrum?
3 Definitions of Art
I use my special interest in vocabulary to help define the borders of my other special interests. This helps me understand the relationships one interesting subject may share with another, so I can explore secondary and tertiary interests.
For example, to define my special interest in artificial intelligence (or AI), I look at these three definitions (also, note the prefix “art” means “skill,” such as artisan and artist):
The conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects; skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.
Clever or artful skill; ingenuity.
Humanly contrived, often on a natural model; an artificial limb.
Based on these definitions, it feels like artificial intelligence is “the skill of intelligence,” or “humanly contrived intelligence,” yet if artifice is “ingenuity,” could you go so far as to say artificial intelligence is “the ingenuity of intelligence,” or, “the ingenuity of genius”? Therefore if I study more about genius, I may learn more about artificial intelligence.
Why Artificial Intelligence?
Three years ago, I was sitting like a frog in my papasan, television a few feet ahead, cat in my lap, my toes and the cat’s toes blocking part of my view of the screen—propped as we were—when I found this series called Humans in my PlayStation 3’s Amazon app.
Then I further snowballed into science fiction loves-of-the-past, including a remake of the Sega Genesis Phantasy Star IV. I watched YouTubes of artificial intelligence. And I read the book that would spur me into writing sci-fi:
The Technological Singularity by Murray Shanahan (MIT Press) was an extraordinary yet accessible read. Here I felt privy not to fortune tellers and soothsayers, but reasonable futurists who were looking at anything from 2021 to 2045.
I’ll write more about the technological singularity and artificial intelligence in my next post, including how I’ve channeled this special interest into the productive energy backing up the projects I’m working on today. Then I’ll shift gears (and not as radically as it may sound) into my special interest in light, especially as a vehicle for spirituality.
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Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.