He's Wired Wrong

The words every parent wants to hear about their child …. My journey started in Mumbai (Bombay) in 1957 as a severely premature, 2 pound 3-ounce newborn.  Slightly longer than the palm of my father’s hand, I was given a few hours to live.  But I made it home in my mother’s arms and began a life of “it can’t be done.” At age 20 (months, that is) I went off to kindergarten; by the time I was 8 years old I knew where I wanted to attend college.  The standardized IQ tests at age 13 indicated I had an IQ of 36 but my mother pointed out I was ranked 5th in my class at a highly-regarded Jesuit high school.  By then I realized I viewed the world from a different lens and needed to find the environment that would allow me to find my calling and grow as a human being. My first visit to the United States was in 1970 to the riot torn city of Detroit.  I stayed in a duplex on Puritan Avenue and learned that my gift, like those around me, was that of survival in a harsh environment.  I instantly knew this was the country I would spend the rest of my life in.  A couple of engineering degrees from the University of Michigan and a management training program at General Electric brought me to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the place I call home since 1982. I realized over the course of my education that I “saw” things differently than “normal” people.  I could read the contents of an entire page at once, and instantly identify a mistake; it was as if every word had its place and some were “out of order.”  Imagine working for a person like that! Numbers had relationships, and I could see the error in calculations right away.  HP sent me a fancy calculator in 1983, when I identified an erroneous equation in a software package I bought for my new personal computer (floppy disks only).  I still use the calculator, not the computer. I was wired wrong. As an engineer, I quickly realized that my strength was not in designing or building things, but figuring out why something did not work.  I looked for connections, relationships, ideas rather than a pre-determined area of failure.  And, inevitably, I found the most common point of failure to be tasks performed by a human being.   What I clearly understood then, as I do now, is that processes that require humans to perform activities they are not ideally suited for are the root cause of such failures.  Making decisions, being creative, exploring our minds and our bodies are strengths; consistency of performing routine tasks, collecting data, showing empathy are weaknesses.  So, I started connecting the dots and wondered, could a device truly interact with humans with empathy and be of service to them?  It gave birth to a company that builds avatars …. More next week on why an “avatar.”