Werner Erhard

He also has 11 grandchildren, and one of his current preoccupations is the numbing effects of digital technology on millennials. Warming to the subject, he read aloud another passage, this one from a dense Heidegger essay calling for a “comportment toward technology which expresses yes and at the same time no.”

”The cost to this generation is enormous,” Mr. Erhard said. “They are losing access to their humanity.”

Maintaining access to his own humanity may be Mr. Erhard’s biggest project. Floating around the screen of another computer was the word “impeccability,” a reminder, he said, “to deal with whatever I touch with care.” If he learned his lesson the hard way, maybe there is no easy way.

“Here’s how it is for me,” Mr. Erhard said, leaning in, giving his vocal cords a break. “When my integrity is lacking, I am clear that I just got to be a bit smaller as a person. And the thing you have to remember about integrity is it’s a mountain with no top.”

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