Alan Kay at the Media Lab 30th anniversary (2015)

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credit for inventing the personal
  computer the dynabook in 1972
Alan Kay  has said that his goal was to
make a  personal computer for children of all  ages
and he was a precocious child he
tells us that he learned to read  fluently at age
three reading about a  hundred and fifty books
by the time he  reached first grade after
done a book he  went to Atari he
was a leader in  object-oriented programming the  developer
of the squeak programming  language the basis for the
programming language he was on the  founders
working with Nicholas  Negroponte E on one laptop per
child  please welcome Alan
You Willie send me that video of  Seymour
a couple of days ago and
it very  much / muted this
talk because I thought  the video
could not be less  characteristic
of what seemed war was  about and
since C
moire was such an  important part not just of
our lives of  people who knew him
but also
one of the  most
important voices in thinking about
  what learning is all about what
are the  goals what does it mean to grow
up in  the 21st century I thought
I would say a  few words and I put
this picture of  Seymour and Marvin
up there together  because the two
of them for many years  were one
of the most vital forces in
  thinking about what
the future could and  should be like
one of the reasons they  were able to do this is
because they  were not bound
in any
hidebound way to  the present
they didn't think of the  present as reality it
was just one of  the possible ways it
could have been and  this allowed them the freedom to
about that the future did not have to be  just an extension
of the present and  because
we've heard from Marvin I
thought I'd say a little bit more about  Seymour we're aware of his
work with  children but
again there's always more  cast
of characters this is Cynthia  Solomon there's see more
without his  beard back when they were doing one of
  the very first explorations
of what it  would mean to use the computer as a
  medium for children not to teach them
programming so they grow up to be  programmers it
wasn't about coding it  was about using
the computer as a kind  of a vehicle for
hanging on the most  powerful ideas
  of our society and in
the brief time I  have I thought I'd show you a little  example
from one of the papers written  back
then the title of this paper was  called teaching
children to be  mathematicians versus
teaching children  math and
the difference there is that
  most subjects like math and science
are  rather in schools today are
rather like  music appreciation you
sit in a class  and you learn about some
listen to some music but you don't ever  get to do any music
now it turns out  music appreciation is
fantastic if you  happen to be a musician so
if you  develop into
a musician than learning  these things is very useful but
in fact  you hardly get to touch music otherwise
  and so see war was proposing was
that  young children could
have authentic  experiences with intellectually
honest  versions of real mathematics and
that  the computer could actually help
this and here's an example of one of the  ideas of the
thing children like to do  which
is balancing things it's easy to  balance a
broom it's hard to balance a  toothbrush and
when we do this we don't  generally
think too strongly about
what's actually going on we're occupied  with doing it
so the next idea was well  make a little thing
like a cart put a  rod on
it put a movable wait so you  could see where
the center of gravity of  that it move
it have the kid move it  back and forth and now you're actually
disconnected enough from it so you can  start getting a
sense of what you have  to do to
balance that rod and
then the  famous turtle
first one was about
this  big if you put that rod on
top of it you  could now think about
actually trying to  tell the turtle how to
balance that  stick in order to do that the
turtle has  to sense where the stick is  just
as you do with your hand and
in the  version of logo at that time
program would look something like this  and it's very easy
to read you want to  see if the angle
of that stick is more  than 10 degrees
you want to move forward  the turtle so
it's going that way we got  to move it forward
and if it's coming  back
too much this way we have to move  the turtle back and
we put in a little  delay there
and then we do it over and  over again so
that's all there is to it  it's but it's sensing
and where the  stick is at any given time
is not  repeatable it's dealing with
the way the  real world handles things
but it's  dealing with it in a form that's
relatively controllable using feedback  so this
is an example of a powerful idea
  not the idea of testing
something not  even the idea of being able
to move the  turtle forward with the idea
of feedback  and that idea
pervades both nature and  biology
pervades engineering it pervades
the internet it's one of the most  powerful ideas and what
Seymour was  about was not growing children
up to be  programmers but growing children up to  be powerful
thinkers and this has gotten  lost over
the years and it's kind of  discouraging
more almost 50 years later  now that
the schools are
yes they are  saurian to grapple with
computers but  they're grappling with
them in the same  old way that they grapple with them for
  media namely is a convenient way of  dealing
with media that we already had  like words
and pictures and movies and  videos and recordings
of music but these  other things that the computer
are  special about that Seymour wanted
pay attention to and he was one of the  most to articulate and
beautiful spokes  person for this now
this other little  thing I put up there is that
this  program is not
perfect just as no
description of nature can be perfect and  so there's
this opportunity to debug the  things
that have been left out in the  program to refine the program and
this  iterative process is
dealing between  nature and our
symbol symbolic ways
of  representing things is the very essence
  of what science is about
so we want to  think about what that
means it doesn't  mean a job in the future
but that's irrelevant  but
what it mine me it is a powerful  citizen
think you're in the future a  powerful parent
so here's another way of  expressing something
you've heard a few  times already and that
is this complex  intertwined
set of systems we live in  the
natural systems the social systems  that
middle fear their technological  systems
that is a self-portrait of the  internet and
then all of the systems we  are not
just physical but also mental  systems and
in order to try and deal  with this
we have our same old brain and  it's
full of this pink stuff the  technical term for the
pink stuff they  are label beliefs the technical
term is  bullshit  basically
we have about three pounds of  porridge
like bullshit between our ears  that
we think is reality has really
been a few hundred years ago that  science was invented
to help negotiate  between our tendency
to make stories and  narratives out of
things and so we can  say what a
restatement of what Seymour  was out after is
this thinking is not  remembering
thinking is not doing logic
  thinking is a negotiation
between what's  going on
which we can't get to directly  and our
poor abilities are noisy  abilities to
represent what's going on  so this is a very
very big deal it's one  of the biggest deals
it was one of the  foundations both Nicholas's
lives life  in my life and the life
of hundreds of  others were changed by being
around  marvin and see more
okay this is my  music room
the but the music isn't
in  the pipe organ there's one right up  there
I guarantee you there's no music  in it
somebody gets up there who can't  play it where
somebody gets up there who  plays it mechanically still
not going to  get music but what you have
is something  that actually provided
a vehicle a  motivation
a reason for composing some  of the greatest music
that has ever been  composed and the parallel
idea here is  the computer is an instrument whose
  music is ideas so
you can't just put  children next to a musical instrument
and have music happened it happens in a  musical
the trappings of a  bicycle
this is a real bike has training
  wheels on it gigas it's like putting
  frets on a violin it's exactly the wrong  way
to learn these are real
that's not a joke  who in their
adult lives have do races  and stuff with training wheel
bikes that  they learned real
way to learn to ride a  bike is on a get a little bike
has no  pedals on it it's so low that the
kid  can just put their feet down and so
they learn to do is to glide and turn  into the turn in balance
all the things  that have to do with real bike riding  and
so very young children can really  learn to ride a bike
this is a metaphor  for the
fact that user friendly is not  always
then we have this  problem that Einstein
is right love is a  better teacher than duty
what does that  mean
means that boy if you like it  you're
going to work at it great
idea  what the problem is what
if the child  doesn't like reading what
if the child  doesn't like science
things that the  society needs
them to like
so a  Montessori had a
way out of that because
  children learn the
culture around them  she said look don't try and teach them
  these big epistemological ideas
difficult to learn just embed them in  the culture and they'll
learn them  because they're set up by nature to  learn the
culture and this was an idea  that Seymour was very
deeply part of and  it's really part of the whole media
lab  way of looking at things ok
  these are the tinker toys Marvin once  made one
of the world's highest  structures ever made in a
Tinkertoy when  he was a kid Legos
and the  reason these are important
is we make  things not just to have them not
wit just to play with them but to  understand them
you can think of this as  being a little bit like learning to
play  music and then Mitchell
Resnick and  others had the idea of what if a child
  could actually make a turtle
  now the technology is much less  mysterious
and that turtle can be  programmed that
led to the idea of Lego  Mindstorms and
I'm going to bring  on
the CEO of Lego
canoed store and
  I'm going to bring on
should have  asked her how to pronounce your last  name
but I'll just guess it's bad ear  who did
a lot of work here in the media  lab about learning
what you learn when  you take her around and
with that I'll  conclude Mike a
little talk here and  bring on Jurgen