David Karparov was born in rural, upstate New York to a Russian-American father and Liberal-American mother. He spent his formative years in the country, primarily isolated from urban society. His parents, Dmitri and Patricia Karparov, relocated to the country from Cambridge, Massachusetts after Dmitri published his first book, the dense, science-fiction epic “Finnegan’s Zoo”. His mother, Patricia, was a philosophy student at Harvard University before taking a job at a community college upon relocation. From a very young age, Robert was taught to examine the confluence of humanity and science.
Dimitri Karparov was an accomplished science fiction writer, revered for his adherence to real science and moral certitude. His work often dealt with dystopian futures where scientific advancement had gone unchecked. He was raised in New York City, but studied at MIT. He was a PhD candidate in Genetic Engineering before dropping out due to what he saw as an appalling lack of ethics in his chosen field. His novels “The Memory Dam”, “Electric Heart, Empty Soul”, and “Tinker Tots” all stem from his disenchantment with what he called “the vanity and folly of humanity’s quest for perfection through science.” Although none of his work was widely read at the time of release, it is now considered to be ahead of its time.
David’s mother, Patrica Karparov nee Childress, received her Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Harvard University. Her thesis was on “Personal Responsibility and Existential Absolution”. After graduating, she took up a position in the philosophy department at Maidenstone Community College. She taught the Existentialists – Schopenhauer, Sartre, DeBeauvoir, etc. and had a profound influence on her husband’s writing.
Patty changed the way I thought about things. She took what I was interested in, the things that concerned me, and put them into perspective. I started writing “Finnegan’s Zoo” before meeting Patty. That’s why the book is 1800 pages long. I was circling something and couldn’t quite get to the point. There’s a lot of abstraction in that book. Some people called it poetic. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.. It was during my second year as a PhD candidate at MIT. I was disgruntled, confused, and at odds with many of my colleagues. When I met Patty, I immediately dropped out and left Massachusetts. The move to the country provided clarity to my future work. Patty provided focus.
Patricia was also a published author. Her book, “The Ethical Impetus of the Scientific Avant Garde”, was widely read at Maidenstone Community College and taught in all of her classes. Despite the heady subject matter, Patricia was known to have a wicked - and sometimes low brow - sense of humor.
Says David of his parents:
“My father’s books really opened up my imagination. I didn’t understand them until I was in my teens, but he would still read them to me as a child. I would ask all sorts of questions and he would give me all sorts of answers. More than anything, he made me think of worlds beyond my own experience. My mother, on the other hand, taught me that a good fart joke was, at it’s core, existential in nature.”
David attended Pembrooke Elementary School. Unlike the typical elementary school, the class was comprised of children from Kindergarten to Grade 8. From the very start, it was clear that David was not like the other children in his class. By the time he entered school, he was already reading at the level of a thirteen year old. Because of his advanced intelligence, he was often bored with the school’s curriculum and would question his teacher, Mary Devonshire, on any point he thought was under-articulated.
Remembers Ms. Devonshire:
“David was a difficult student, bright and universally gifted, but difficult nonetheless. One time I was teaching the students about Thanksgiving and he said that the holiday was nothing more than the “genocidal feast of colonial tyrants”. Then he began talking about the eroticization of Pocahontas in the Western mind. Try explaining the words “genocidal” and “erotic” to a bunch of elementary school kids. Not an easy feat. The PTA meetings that year were brutal. I almost lost my job. I was so happy when he graduated that I collapsed on the floor and wept like a baby.“
In high school, David excelled in all the sciences (he graduated at the top of his class), but his real interest was in the dramatic arts. In Grade 10, he wrote a stage adaptation of one of his father’s books, “Tinker Tots”. The play was panned by the school’s newsletter and misunderstood by just about everyone who saw it. Bruce Knietz, the school’s drama teacher, found the play a challenge to produce.
Remembers Mr. Knietz:
“Tinker Tots” was the most difficult production I’ve ever had to direct. David was very specific about what he wanted the play to be ‘about’. I don’t remember exactly, but it was something along the lines of the “prospect of eugenics in a post-fascist world”. You have to understand, at that time genetically designed children were not on the public radar. I think a lot of parents were appalled, but I thought it was fascinating subject matter. The hard part was getting the kids to memorize all those scientific words”
Although David loved the dramatic arts, most of his friends in high school were self-professed ‘science nerds’. He found that his fellow drama students would rather practice crying than engage in serious conversation. With the ‘science nerds’, David would spend hours arguing about things such as animal rights in relation to frog dissection or the moral imperative of chemists in contemporary society. Upon graduating, David received a full scholarship to MIT, just like his father.
David’s time at MIT was marked with the same frustration as his father before him. What were once enlightening arguments in high school became heated exchanges at university. To vent his anger, David started his own show on the campus radio station. “I Know You’re Wrong, You Know I’m Right with David Karparov” ran for three years. The show was created as a platform for David to interview fellow students and professors. He would rail against those he thought were overlooking key ethical areas of their research while championing those whom he felt had altruistic intentions.
However, the show became known for vicious on-air bickering and mutual condescension. In the third and final year of the program, David got rid of the talk-radio format and began writing radio plays that exemplified the points he was trying to make. The change in format breathed new life into the show, so much so that David was given a Sloan Foundation grant to further develop his ideas. Out of this was born “Here Come the Humans with David Karparov”.
“Most people ignore the ethical implications of their actions if it’s in their own best interest to do so. This is an innately human impulse. We are a selfish species. Perhaps our sense of humor is our only saving grace”
“The brain is the most complex and mysterious of the human organs. This is why we often hear things like “I don’t know what I was thinking” or “The defendant pleads insanity”. It’s also why human beings lie on average four times a day, although that in itself is probably a lie. The truth is, our minds are what make us unique, unpredictable, and dangerous.”