June 8, MMI.
To whom it may concern:
I recently had the pleasure of attending a performance of Tom Sgouros' ingenious and delightful show entitled "Judy, or what is it like to be a puppet?" As I listened and laughed, I was strongly reminded of my own dialogues and writings that grapple with the profound question of where consciousness and the sensation of having free will come from. Not only did the puppet/human interaction wonderfully engage the audience, but the deep questions emerged in a totally natural, unforced manner. And as I implied above by saying that I laughed a lot, the show is extremely witty and deliciously permeated by self-referential and frame-breaking jokes.
I took my two children -- Danny, age 13, and Monica, age 9 -- along to the show, and afterwards they repeated many parts of it to each other with great amusement. And they argued in the car about what certain events and statements meant, and what actually happened and what only seemed to happen, and so forth. It was obvious that the show had engaged them throughout, and that it had certainly made them think.
This is the remarkable achievement of Tom Sgouros. In one and the same show, not only can he amuse and provoke the most general audience, but he can also profoundly engage the minds of the most serious professionals in the fields of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and robotics, and make them think new thoughts about issues with which they have grappled for decades. There is no denying that a great deal of highly sophisticated intellectual thinking went into the development of the "Judy" show, but also such care in making it general and "light" at the same time. What an amazing thing!
The show in Bloomington was sponsored in part by Indiana University's Cognitive Science Program, and I feel that this is very sensible. I would also think that a philosophy department would be an equally reasonable sponsor. The point is that this show functions simultaneously as humorous entertainment for a general audience and as a profoundly stimulating colloquium for a technical audience. In my opinion, the more that such a show can be put on around the country, the more it helps to improve the overall intellectual climate in this nation. To be sure, each show is but a drop in a vast bucket, but sad to say, the bucket these days is very close to dry, and so every sweet drop is truly savored.
(Author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach", "Le Ton Beau de Marôt", "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies" and so on.)