Breck Baldwin, 46
Driggs Ave between North 6th and 7th Sts.
Wed Dec 9 2009
Photograph: Jay Muhlin
Going to a science fair? No, I'm going to McCarren Park to do a test flight of this airplane. It's made of greenhouse roofing. We'll be flying it at a post--Burning Man party called Decompression at Floyd Bennett Field.
Are you a Burning Man freak? More nerd than freak, but yes, I'm a Burner. I've been eight times.
What is the appeal? It's amazing how decent 50,000 people can be to each other.
Living in New York makes you that hungry for human decency? [Laughs] No, I find New York to be a very humanly decent place. I'm from the South, and I've never seen people as polite as up here.
What do you do other than fly planes? I'm the president, founder, whatever—chief janitor—of a small software company called Alias-i. We do computational linguistics. We try to make text more understandable to computers.
So you're teaching computers how to think like humans. Well, we've got a ways to go—
Before they take over the world? [Laughs] Yeah. The singularity—you know, when artificial-intelligence computer programs assume control of the planet—won't happen in our lifetimes.
Bummer. So will you at least create a plane with linguistic capabilities? That you could talk to? Well now, that's interesting. You'd say, "Fly over those Burners and help them with their chemically enhanced experience!"
More from Breck
"In the South, we get called by our middle names. Mine is Breckenridge— it's an old family name, not a place name. Despite popular belief, I was not conceived on a ski lift in Colorado."
"If people want to fly airplanes, [my group] will actually teach them how. [For more info, go to brooklynaerodrome.com.] Our goal is to get 50 airplanes in the air at the same time. I think we've had four so far [Laughs]."
"Someone once said Burning Man would be the perfect place for an alien abduction to actually happen. You could land the mothership, herd in the Burners and take off, and everyone'd be like, 'Wow, that was a great performance!' And the abducted Burners would probably be into it, probing and all."