Fingernails, Pt. 1

I’m attempting to write a children’s book about a robot. I’ve been greatly inspired by the writings of Ray Kurzweil. In brief summation, Kurzweil believes that in the not-so-distant future humans will be able to destroy the disparity between technological and biological. To go further, it isn’t so much that humans will achieve this, but that this is the natural progression of evolution. And when we are all plugged in to the matrix, so to speak, we will have reached our own form of immortality.

In my picture book about a robot, I wanted to explain aspects of the difference between a physical and digital existence. There is a popular notion (of which I can neither confirm nor deny that I attest to) that when this radical change in mortality occurs, there will be those that choose to ignore the opportunity and live out their mortal existence, accepting death as a natural occurrence. The idea that both sides of this coin can appear “natural” is what fascinates me.

No, I don’t believe I can convey all of this information to a young child. However, after reading (yet another) Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast‘s–which continues to amaze me in its brilliant topic selection–most recent post about Kate Hosford‘s new book, Infinity and Me, I wonder if I haven’t given children enough slack. Her book tackles the incredibly difficult task of attempting to explain what infinity is. (She does this by recognizing this idea is not foreign to many children) My book’s current draft drivels on about what this particular robot prefers about the human race as opposed to its own. (One preference centering on a fascination with fingernails) The robot makes numerous comparisons between itself and its friend, Chuck (a human). Throughout the story, we see that Chuck is also jealous of the robot’s qualities.

Upon peer review I’ve done thus far, it would seem my story is filled with too many lists, which I at first attributed to it being overly complex. Here, I gave myself too MUCH credit. Instead, what I had done is droned on and on about things I believed could be matched with interesting illustration, and forgotten to focus on what it is that inspired my story. My hope is that my next draft will eliminate these troubles; however, I predict issues with clarity and understanding. It may just be that I continue to underestimate the intelligence of children. If they can appreciate the notion of infinity as Kate Hosford explains it, certainly they can understand the debate about accepting infinity in the form of immortality. The problem is that I must stop thinking of my topic in the eyes of a world renowned inventor/scientist/philosopher (i.e. Ray Kurzweil), and begin thinking of what a child understands about this subject.

For those of you with young children (whether your own or some other relation), I’d ask that you simply pose them this question: If you had the choice, would you live forever? I would love it if you could post their responses in the comments section below. Not only could it inspire my writing, but hopefully it could inspire us all.

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2 Responses to Fingernails, Pt. 1

  1. Kate Hosford says:

    Thanks so much for the compliment. It sounds like you have a wonderful topic here, and one that children would really like. When I was trying to figure out whether the infinity book would work, I interviewed lots of children about how they define infinity and imagine infinity. I didn’t use their answers in the book directly, but it sort of set the stage for my thinking. I think you will get back a bunch of great answers to the question about living forever. I will ask some children here, and report back if they say anything interesting.

    I once tried to write a picture book called “Do Sneakers Die?” (a question my son asked when he was three), about determining whether something is alive or dead, but couldn’t really figure out how to do it.

    I look forward to reading your book someday!

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