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Who Was Joseph Goguen (of Cardano Fame)?

Updated: May 26, 2021

We've been on a fascinating journey of education and discovery while working on the Cardano Mythos Collection. Each of the people that Cardano has named their development phases after have been so interesting and exciting to read about! But when we started looking into Joseph Goguen, we felt like we hit a wall. There isn't much online about him, and what there is is spread pretty thin. But we did some legwork and pulled that info together into this post, and we believe we've ended up with the most thorough write up on Goguen as a person that exists online! In the end we learned that Goguen was as important and interesting as any of the other figures, and we've learned from him through the works he left behind.

Joseph Goguen was a visionary computer scientist who left his mark on the fields of algebra, logic, and others beside. He was a professor at the Universities of California and Oxford, and held research positions at IBM and SRI International. Goguen approached life and work with an open mind, and as a result was able to find connections between things that others missed. Through his focused yet expansive vision, he inspired his collogues to greater heights.

He invented Initial Algebra Schematics, the Theory of Institutions, and the OBJ programming language. Each of these things are as important as they are confusing to the layperson, trust me!

Prof. Grigore Rosu worked with and was inspired by Goguen. Rosu says Goguen taught him what NOT to work on. "It's very tempting to work on any problem that makes sense and you feel like you can solve it. But Goguen asked Rosu to think "what is the BIGGEST thing that you could do in your area?" "Once you crystalize that in your mind" Rosu said, "you start wondering 'why should I work on anything else, then?'"

This is a POWERFULLY important message that encourages innovation in such a direct and effective way. Goguen reminds us to keep our focus on the important things, to aim for the stars, and not to sweat the small stuff. And in true Goguen fashion, we should look at applying that idea broadly across our work and life.

All aspects of existence follow patterns, and those patterns tend to branch off into a fractal infinity. Knowing when a certain branch is on a path to your goal and when it's just a fascinating tangent is a powerful ability.

Goguen helped Rosu to develop this ability, and infused in him the idea of a universal language framework. Rosu went on to develop the K Framework, a universal framework for programming languages. Rosu says Goguen would have called it "OBJ++." Goguen would be so proud of your accomplishments, Professor Rosu!

Goguen thought outside of the box. In 1994 he became the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. This journal asked "How does the mind relate to the brain?" "Can computers ever be conscious?" "What do we mean by subjectivity and the self?" and examined them in plain English.

we think it's important to note that unlike many other journals, the Journal of Consciousness Studies incorporated articles from fields outside of the natural and social sciences, such as humanities, philosophy, critical theory, and comparative religion.

Goguen practiced Tibetan Buddhism for much of his life, and was a faculty member of the science program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. This was the first accredited Buddhist-inspired academic institution in the USA.

Joseph Goguen passed away in 2006 at age 65. He left behind a shining legacy of inspiration to those who knew him and many important contributions to computer science.


Our Goguen NFT is unique in the Cardano Mythos Collection, because it's an original image of Goguen! There are only a couple pictures of him on the internet and they are very low resolution, so we used a combination of Adobe Photoshop and AI driven tools on top of an existing oil painting of another person. What came out of that process is a portrait of a smiling middle aged Joseph Goguen that we're very proud to have brought to life!

Base Artwork: Stanisław Mniszek by Gérard, ca. 1803

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