The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The flaw in Modern Man.

There is truly something wrong with Mankind, when a seven year old child expresses disappointment at humans.

Today, my two elder sons, Ainan and Fintan (seven), loaded up Gran Turismo 5, on the PS3 – a present, from my mother to my eldest son.
Together, they watched the opening video, which was an extended tale of how cars were built – from the melting of metal, through to the polished artifact, at the end. The actual process of manufacture came as a surprise to Fintan. He really perked up when he saw the intricate dance of robots, in the automated factory.

“Cars are built by robots?”, he asked, in absolute incredulity. He seemed utterly stupefied at the idea.

He stared at the screen in disbelief that such a thing could ever be.

“Humans are SO lazy!”, he judged, appalled.

I saw, then, his disappointment. I rather felt that he had had this idea that cars were built by people who really knew and cared about the machines and who did so with the greatest of skill. He had imagined cars as being a handmade, human manufactured product, built by skilled artisans. To see them built by unthinking robots, was shattering for him. In an instant, all the romanticism that he had built up inside him, about the origins of cars, evaporated. So, too, did much of his faith in the abilities of individual people.

There seemed to be a view, implicit in him, that skilled, difficult tasks should be done by people. To learn that some are done by machines, did not fit his view of how people should be. He thought, I believe, that everything important should be done by humans – and, to him, building a car was an important, difficult matter. Fintan does not understand the economic advantages of robotic “staff” over human staff. All he sees, is that people are seemingly so lazy, that they would go to all the trouble of having machines do the work for them.

Fintan is right, of course. There has long been a tendency to automate whatever can be automated. Were computers as smart and flexible as humans EVERY task in society would be automated. Humans would then have nothing to do. Indeed, that is the logical end of all our technological development. Eventually, not only would humans be “lazy” but we might just be pointless too. What point is there in a human, when the machines do a better job, in all instances, more cheaply and inexhaustibly?

Fintan, of course, would be aghast at such a future. Yet, I fear he will see much more automation in his life, than I have in mine. He will also, I fear, see an increasing laziness of the human populace as more and more tasks are taken over by machines to leave less and less for us to do. In the end, perhaps, there will be nothing left for humans to do. What then, would life be, for such people, in such a world? I fear they would do what Fintan would most disapprove of: laze around all day, to no purpose and no end “enjoying themselves”, without, perhaps, truly knowing how to do so, with no real purpose to fulfill. It could, in fact, be an end to the world, in a very real way. People without any purpose, are not really people at all.

Fintan has seen the beginning of the end. It starts with factories that make cars, on their own, without much input from people at all. It ends, with a world where no-one quite knows what to do with themselves, anymore.
I hope, Fintan, that you cling onto your own purposes in such a world – and ignore the culture of “laziness” you see all around you.

Perhaps I should find, for him, a workshop, where cars are handmade, just to restore his faith in people. Does anyone know of one? Please post below.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:42 PM 


Blogger Alex said...

I completely agree with you and Fintan. A few months ago I watched a program on inventions that will be available in the next decade or two, and though on there own these inventions seem interesting and exciting, seeing all of these together, and knowing there are many others, makes me think that our world will turn into a boring place with no purpose, and humans doing nothing. They may not be capable of doing anything, as robots will be doing all work for them. I hope people begin to think like Fintan and recognize it before it's too late, as once these future robots are used, it may be hard to take them away as humans would have adapted to them.

Hopefully kids like Fintan will be able to show others what they are doing and to prevent humans to literally be taken over by robots.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think many people are well on the way to becoming useless, as it is. How many young people, nowadays, are competent in mental arithmetic? I have known supposedly educated individuals, with more than one degree who have to reach for a pocket calculator to do simple multiplication of small numbers. They just don't know how to handle numbers on their own.

Yes. If Fintan's outlook were more widely adopted, there would be no danger of humans becoming outmoded and incapable...but I fear that is not how the powers-that-be see things. With regards to implementing automation in the workplace, all that they can see is "efficiency" and "profit"...they can't see the ever increasing uselessness of Man.

Fingers crossed for a Fintan style future of purposeful humans!

12:07 PM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

I read in the news recently, that there's a new kind of machine that can cook noodles. Machines reduces manual labour, but it really takes away the fun of the hands-on process. I hope cooking doesn't reduce to another mechanised activity although it seems like it will in the future. Fine culinary art will be gone...

I'm glad that at the moment, machines can never replicate the emotion brought upon by music and art. Otherwise, humans truly no longer have any purpose.


2:11 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If computers ever do feel emotion, it is likely that it will be different to ours, unless the machine is an exact functional replica of a human brain. So, at the level of being different, at least, humans will still have something in this area.

You are right to worry though. When immortal machines can do all that we can; humans will look rather pathetic by comparison.

4:31 PM  
Blogger CLains said...

No! Be very aware that the less luddite his mindset, the better off he will be.

This century is not going to be about humans, and the quicker he comes to realize it, the better.

Letting kids today come to think that unenhanced humans amount to anything special without the help of technology is as bad as telling them that we all have a soul and will live happily in the ever after.

I have a hard time dealing with these things myself, but I would never for an instant let my failure to emotionally embrace the time we live in, and will live in, infect my children.

If you want to do something for HIM, then take him to a LAN-party, explain to him synthetic biology, take him to see various breeding competitions that create new dogs and chickens, get him interested in how these machines work, take him to see positive sci-fi movies and series, show him the promise of stem-cells, show him how paralyzed people today can be directly wired to computers, show him the new types of art that synaesthetically mix picture and sound, show him all the great things that only a child can absorb without emotional retardation.

Waaaaaaahhh! Apparently I'm passionate about this. :D

5:24 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

Ehh. NO to the poster above me. I'm no expert but.. how about putting it like this. During the Industrial Revolution, there were a lot of inhumane conditions for factory workers such as child labor, unsanitary conditions, and injuries due to body parts being caught in machinery. The advent of robots in replacement for humans in this process assures high quality, high efficiency, repeatability and lower chance of human error, making vehicles safer for passengers and the process safer for the technicians involved. This isn't to say that robots should be used for everything. There will always be a delicate balance required between technology, art, nature, and a bunch of other factors I can't think of off the top of my head right now.

However, there are still people world-wide that treasure the hand-made, crafted product. I don't know much about cars, but there are websites like Deviantart: where people produce their own art. Try looking up 'steampunk' under artisan crafts, for example. (Note: This site may not be entirely appropriate for kids).

Apparently there are still issues that the world needs to address such as the ones the previous poster mentioned. I'm hoping humanity will eventually find a moral, ethical approach to tackling the problems mentioned. I think this is better than overwhelming a child with various, morally ambigous problems that haven't been solved yet.

P.S. The world you painted in your post sounds a bit like that Pixar movie, Wall-E. LOL.

4:49 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

An additional comment. I hope this doesn't come across rudely, but I believe that people like the previous poster are one of the reasons that Americans have such a negative view of science.

11:39 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

One last thought. While I admit some of the issues/suggestions raised were good ones, the underlying mentality behind 'CLains's post is, I believe, wrong. That is, to punish imagination by quickly forcing reality on a child.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

CLains, it is funny that you equate a failure to embrace the unemotional world of machines as "emotionally retarded". I would have thought that it was the other way around. Those, in fact, who do embrace machines heavily, do, from observation, tend to the emotionally retarded among us.

As for being a Luddite...I am not one of those, either. I appreciate what machines can do and what they are for...however, I also understand what humans, particularly the more capable humans, have to offer. That is something you don't appear to grasp. A genius is, presently, far more than any machine could be: so how can you say that the unenhanced human is nothing without machines? It seems to me that machines are nothing without humans.

I do let my children see positive science fiction. They enjoy it. Science is something they are aware of. Thanks.

Should a time come when unenhanced humans do amount to nothing, it would be a sad day for the human race.

8:23 PM  

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