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Hero Sightings I

November 18, 2011

Retired computer science professor and science fiction author Vernor Vinge (pronounced Vin-jee) stops by the department at SDSU about once per semester to check his faculty mailbox, and today I was lucky enough to run into him on one such occasion.  Mind, having a chance encounter with one of the greatest visionary minds of the 20th century is not an everyday occurrence for me, but I played it cool.  I had met him once half a year ago at a party, and had run into him on campus shortly thereafter, and today he sort of remembered me.  When I spotted him heading towards the faculty mailroom I knew he would need someone with a key to let him in.  I made a detour to the mailroom, greeting him and pointing out the flier for his new book that had been posted in the department office.  At the same time I picked up an employee separation handout from my mailbox, a poignant reminder of my recent decision to withdraw from the university.  Coincidentally, we were both headed the same way (to the parking lot), so I accompanied him to his car.  I was pleased by how easily and naturally we fell into into leisurely chatting about the definition of life, the evolution of technology, and the subjective experience of uploading your personality into a computer.  One of the reasons I count Professor Vinge among my heroes is because his mind is constantly at work exploring fascinating questions, and it comes through in his personal presence as well as in his writing.

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