Alan Kay: Big Ideas are Sometimes Powerful Ideas

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so we
actually are dealing with an  academic hour here
and be fitting with  our school setting
marvin minsky once  said school was the greatest
invention  anybody ever came up with to keep
you  from staying interested on anything for  any reasonable
length of time because of  course
it has all these schedules in  assembly line movements
and we have one  of those today and
I also wanted to  leave time for
questions but one of the  ways I want to leave time
for questions  is to encourage you to ask questions as  I
talk so I have no idea how long this
  talk is and I am going to stop after
50  minutes and regardless of what what
  happened so please don't be
shy ask  questions as we go if
you like and  because this talk is
not for me but for  you
so it's
in a series of ideas which  are
somewhat connected I hope so
one  contrast
I'd like you to think about is  the notion beach of
common sense that
  most people take
the world around them  as reality I
once came up with
at said technology is anything that  happened after
you were born because
the  technology that you're born into is
part of your world and it's taken to be  normal there and most
internet Prince the Internet is one of  the great inventions
of all time not the  web but the internet itself
one of the  great maybe one of the greatest  engineering
feats of all time and
it  worked so well that hardly
anybody  appreciates it particularly
in computing  where they should pay more attention to  why
it works so well so here's a
  common-sense deduction that
has been  made by most
people on the planet for  the slightly less
than 200,000 years  modern humans have been here
and that is  something like a king
  natural and normal
extension of the head  of the family
hunted leaders
of hunting  groups and etc etcetera so
this is just  regarded as common sense
and in fact was  not regarded as it as an idea
it was  just part of the part of the world that  people
lived in then in
January 1776  Thomas Paine
wrote a book which he  ironically titled common
sense everybody  here has heard of Tom Paine's Common  Sense
but he had a big idea in it which
  was instead of having the King be
the  law we can have the law be the king and
what he meant was we can design a much  better society
than the what the natural
  seeming hereditary monarchy as we can  take our
future into our own hands we  can come up with a better plan
this is  an idea that surfaced
a couple of times  in Greece but not
not before not after  and
this book
which pain published at  his own expense initially
just gave it  away had a press run
between six hundred thousand and nine  hundred thousand
in six months so
that's  a lot by today's standards and
there  were 1.5 million non
slaves in the  thirteen colonies
back then and so this  press run
encompassed somewhere between  almost a half
to more than a half of all  men women and children in
all 13  colonies so imagine just trying
to reach  that number of people today
there is no  medium that you could do it with except
  with the internet I try
to get sixty  percent of
300 million people no
  newspaper could do it so
so this is a  big idea but
  the powerful idea
and this is the  distinction I want to make was the
  Constitution as a
big idea is kind of an  insight and
often insights insights
are  wonderful but they're
lightweight  they're relatively easy to have compared
  to doing something about it so the
  Constitution said
we should shape  society into a self-organizing
  self-correcting shared idea and resource  system
and that is a very radical
idea  even for today for instance most  Americans
have no idea what the design  of the
United States was or is it's
imply not taught in schools it's not  the way American
history is is taught  and
most societies on earth haven't
  gotten this idea even at the societal  level
most human beings on earth don't  have this
idea but this is one of these  powerful ideas
that makes qualitative
  differences in almost every
area of life  and it's related to an even
bigger set  of ideas so
another common sense
  another another
common sense notion  which is
actually with most Americans  today according to the surveys
I've seen  which is the world is pretty much as it  seems
so we this
is what our nervous  systems are set up to do we're
basically  weren't set up by nature to think
we're  set up by nature to cope and so
primary mechanism is whatever  environment we
find ourselves in so the  answer anthropologists
know that you can  take a child at
birth from any culture  on the planet and take
on the planet  that child will grow up as
a member of  that culture you took it too that's
  because humans are rather more similar
  than they are different we have about  300
traits that anthropologists have  identified
that seem to be quite genetic  including
things like language having  culture telling stories
and those  mechanisms
get embodied with the
local  varieties of those and so the
reality  you grow up within the language you
grew  up with is the language and
the reality  of the culture you you're born in Q
now this big ideas
have been had a  number of times in history I happen to  like the
Talmud version of it
we see  things not as they are but as we are
so  this is a bit I'd love to know
what  actually
happened to the person who came  up with this
idea did they take it to  its logical conclusion
considering and
was interesting that was published in  this Talmud is part
of the commentary
  but this is one
of the great big ideas  of all time this
is a really hard one  because it
completely relative izes  what's
going on however it's not a  powerful idea
but had numerous
times and
powerful idea came in
the 17th century  and you
could point to a number of  people and you could point to various
  societies but
17th century has a has a  perfect
bomb place where science  started
because we had Galileo
and  Kepler and maybe Copernicus
beforehand  and a few other people but in fact
when  Newton did
the Principia he actually  revolutionized
human thought and it's  probably the largest leap in human
  thought of this kind that we know of  historically
this is why most scientists
think of Newton as being the greatest  scientist
and he was almost the first  scientist and
not just in
relative terms  but in absolute terms the amount
of  distance he was able to cover not just
in terms of knowledge but in terms of  about look and
the powerful idea of  science
is not so easy to state  everything
else comes out pretty nicely  as slogans and
there's more to science  than just
this but this is one half of  it which
is science is not about  knowledge  as
niels bohr said science is not there  to tell
us about the universe is what  most people think
most non-scientists  most kids in school
are taught what is  called science
as in roughly the same  way they learn religion in
when they go  to church or
synagogue or mosque but
in what science is at all it's not about  knowledge
it's about relating the
stuff  we can do and can't do in here
all the  things that we can do with
our  representational systems to stuff
out  there that we can't get to directly  because
everything we do is filtered  through our nervous
systems as filtered  through our culture's is
filtered for  through the the difficulties
we have  with making relationships
about things  and this was not an
easy idea to have  we'll
see in a bit but
what's happened  in the last 400 years in
many many  dimensions
has been more than has  happened
in the rest of the 200,000  years and you
know the cliche that
most  scientists 90 more
of all the scientists who ever lived  you're alive today
and most of the  things that
are happening today and some
of the problems and some of the  solutions to those problems
are all  caused this by different way
and much is made
particularly in the pop  culture of
bringing bright
this is  because pop
culture's or cultures  without a lot
of developed knowledge  basically
live by their wits and so you  out
with each other and you
compete at  the level of width but
imagine being  born with an IQ
of 500 who knows how
  smart leonardo was let's
just no 203 who  because
those figures don't what does IQ  me in any
way but let's just say hey  suppose
you're just a hell of a lot  smarter than anybody who ever lived
but  you were born in 10,000 BC
how far you  going to get so
you can probably out wit  everybody around you before
they burn  you at the stake
but in fact Leonardo
  who we know is very very bright could
  not invent a single engine
for any of  the vehicles that he designed so
he's  famous for designing things that look
like planes and things that maybe look  like helicopters
and I'll and they're  wonderful and he did a lot
hings but he couldn't make a single  goddamn one of
them work that is and  that's
because he wasn't smart enough to  think himself out
of the era he had been  born into as
far as we know if nobody  has the closest person who's ever
thought himself out of the era he was  born into his
Newton so
you have this  odd paradox
that whoops sorry that
Henry Ford who is not nearly as smart as
Leonardo just happened to be born in the  right time and
so he did revolutionize  one
of the areas that Leonardo wanted to  revolutionize
by being able
to do  adaptive engineering and a little
invention to the stuff that was already  around
so his knowledge was
processed  knowledge and this was very powerful and  what
was the difference between these  two these
two guys was this
change of  outlook that Newton
was one of the  promulgate errs of
so one of the ways I
  when I talked to grabs grad students
or  children I say well knowledge
is silver  but outlook is
gold our
world is built  on changes of outlook that was what the
  Constitution was that was what Tom Paine  did
and that's what science did and
IQ  is led
because there is no
we know of no  developed field knowledge in
which you  can get by with just talent there's
no  developed sport in which you can get by  with
just talent and some of the most
  difficult sports have been
excelled in  by people who are not as athletic
so for  instance Chris effort
as an example who  is not a particularly athletic
tennis  player but man that you know
how to work  and so she got very very
good at it and  most things have
this thing an Outlook  also
tells you what kind of knowledge to
  go after because of course every group
in history had a zillion amount of not  you going to the
Australian outback  without a
native Australian there
to  help you you're going to die whereas for
  them is just a walk in the park because
  everything is food they know how to get  water and
it's there just they know  where the dangers are they
it's no big deal  so every group
has lots of knowledge the  real thing to think about is
what kind  of knowledge is that what's the quality
level what's the level of flexibility  what can you
you do with it and these  outlook
changes are more pine Steiners  another
one so about a hundred years ago
that Newton in a
slightly  different Einstein was quite sure that
  Newton if he lived longer and had not
  been put in had a head
of the Treasury  in England that Newton would have  actually
come up with a theory of  relativity I don't
know whether he could  have could have actually
done that  because but Newton
didn't know that
he  thought it was ridiculous that his  equations
had action at a distance
so he  said so in letters as just
that nobody  could measure well enough
and what they  did measure the
gravitational forces  seem to
transmit instantly but
from  Newton standpoint that was ridiculous
okay so that was
the first section so  the second section is to look at
children can actually do under ideal  conditions and
this is not easy to find  so
a couple of these things are results  of
just dealing with hundreds
and  hundreds of teachers over more than 40
  years and in this case this was an
  accident because we were working in the  fourth
and fifth grades in the school  and of course I started
wandering around  the school and I happen to poke my
nose  into first grade and
what I saw was  quite shocking
to me i should mention I  have a
degree in mathematics and another  one in molecular biology
as well as the  computer science degrees
so when I  walked into this math this first grade  classroom
and SAT there for a few  minutes
  I gradually realize
that this teacher  was doing real math with
first graders  not school
math but real math the real  deal and
as I got to know her Julia  nishijima was her name
I found she was  that
she have not taken any math in  college but
she was like one of these  musician friends you
might have who was  just a natural musician she
was a net  she just saw the world in terms of math  and
her outlook was in the world of the
  kindergarten and first grade child so
  over a couple of years I saw some
most amazing things I've ever seen in  any classroom at any age
this one was  done after the kids have been there for
  about three months and the school
is a  busing school in LA and what
that means  is that the children in order
to induce  the parents
to get on the that have
their children but if you think about  bus driving
a car in LA as ridiculous so
  let's put our children on buses twice
  twice a day to
try and deal with some of  the racial imbalance
problems and but
  they did and there was
interesting inducements to get the  parents to do that but
the law was that  for each of the busing
schools had to  have the same demographic
as the city as  a whole so
these busing schools were the  perfect place for doing
educational  experiments because the city
forty-five percent Hispanic until you  have forty-five
percent Hispanic kids in  there and
just down the line in these  schools so
here's the thing she
had and  this is not unlike a lot of the things
  that she did with the kids so this one
  was fine to shape you like a square  diamond
a triangle a trapezoid and
make  a progression
of shapes just using these  shapes
so  next
larger size next larger size next  larger size and trapezoids
are coarser  are a tricky but
so 30 kids in the class  and
they all pick
the ones that they  like they all did did something and
then  she did something
that seems a little  strange to me which was to have
him now  go from these easy to handle wouldn't
  manipulatives to cutting
out the same  shapes out of cardboard so I asked
her  afterwards why she did this and she said  well little
kids are always jumping to  conclusions and this
part now that  they've done the thing I want them to  think about
it so this part slows them  down so the idea here
is make a we're  going to make a little thing to free to  take
home to your parents to show what  what
you're doing and so here's one of  them and
Laura in here
on this sheet she  wrote down what she
noticed that the  first diamond
here took one diamond the  total number of diamonds
was one and  then she had to add three
more diamonds  to get the next
diamond shape and the  total was four and then she had to add
  five to get the next one the total  number of tiles
was nine and she could  see
that she was adding to each time
  it's get the first column and then
up  you can see
she wasn't quite sure what  six times six was
but she knew the  square numbers
up to five times five
  then she worked this all out so this is  her sheet
then the teacher
julia had
kids all bringing their projects up to  the front of the room
there it is
look to each other's projects and  they looked at the little
tables and  they went holy shit
technical term
  because everybody had filled
same table regardless of what the shapes  were the
growth laws were the same so
  this was hugely exciting I was there
I  just happened to be there that day and
I'm looking at this stuff with tears  running down my because
this is one of  the best mathematical
things I've ever  seen done in any classroom at any age  and
some of you
are we'll
have some  mathematical background and
realize what the kids were doing is  actually
deriving to
differential laws  one
is the differential law for smooth  progressions
sometimes called linear  progressions
that's that first column  and
of course if they used instead of  using two
they used one it would have a  different growth
but it would still be  smooth and linear
they could use three  or they could use 3.5 so
basic ideas are  just adding the same
thing in there and  in math that's
called the first order  differential equation if it were
in a  continuous space like we like
to teach  in school but for the kids this is the  screen
and there's a math for that its
a  math we don't teach but it's called a
  first order differential discreet  relationship
and the second one is
all  the square numbers
it's a quadratic one  so this is
called the second order  differential discreet
relationship and  it's built on the first an important
  thing here is that virtually everything
in high school physics and most things  in your first physics
course in college  can be handled with no more
mathematics  than this this is
actually the real  basis of the calculus
wind  using in high school and college his
  calculus has nothing to do with algebra  even
though it's cloaked in algebra for  historical
reasons most Mountain  mathematicians did not realize this
what  calculus is is actually an idea
quite  separate from the symbology that's
used  on so
and of course the kids could  calculate with this
so the
little rule  they had was you start with
one piece  and then you add to the new new pieces  column
add to each time and then you
add  from that column to
the total column to  get the next one and
a few if you act it  out you get something like this
so you  start off with ones and
you do a plus  two to get
the next guy there and then  you take that guy and the preceding
guy  to gets the next guy in okay
so that's  called a second
order differential  machine
it just happens to be what
  Babbage member Babbage what
did Babbage  do then the invented computer so first
hing he did was to actually make a  machine for computing
exactly those  numbers and it
was just he did it so you  could compute seven stages
of them  because again in mathematical
terms this  is a way of computing all of the values
  of all of the polynomials of up to a  certain
order and Babbage did it because  when he was
a kid he was 19 or 20 there
  were so many errors in his mathematical
  tables booked in the early 1800s he
  screwed across the room and he said to  his friend
herschel who became a great  astronomer he
said I wish to god these  calculations have been executed
by steam  meaning
gee whiz people make
so many  mistakes we can build a machine to just
  compute all its math we can
machine to compute all this duck  so
that's what this teacher intuited  from
these kids and now let's take a  look at
to the world that  you're more familiar with and
going to do is go through this thing  again and just watch
where the points
  are and I've drawn a line through
the  curves are so start
off again so there's  the ones
okay there's
a3 and a4
so you  can see the quadratic one is growing  very quickly now
it's next one will be  out of sight there
the difference here  is pretty interesting because
this way  of looking at
it is simply not what you  do in first grade because
the looking at
all the values at once which is the way  classical mathematics
likes to look at  them
in this case requires  multiplication
so even in the simple
guy  you have to multiply the slope
times X
  to get each succeeding y as you go  through
there and you have to square you
have a squared term to get the quadratic  so so this
way takes it completely out  of the child's world and yet the
idea  and the capturing
of what change is  actually is more fundamental
than the  algebraic way of looking at it
because  we've made a machine we
don't have to  solve in equations we can generate the  answers
in other words we can  mechanically in calculus terms
we can  mechanically integrate these things
instead of symbolically having to  integrate them and it just changes
  everything round this was see more paper
  it's great insight not this particular  example but
another one this this is an  example I did
  but the basic idea is if you have a  machine that
can help you do the  integration then all
of a sudden you can  chop ten years and change
outlook to  teaching
real math in terms that are  built into human beings
so one of the  reasons and it happened science
thinks  of math this way
scientists are  lazy mathematicians that's
because it  takes so much energy to deal with the  real world that
you don't want to spend  a lot of time messing around with
  mathematics so everything in science is
done by just adding things together and  these additions
are quantities that are  called vectors you've heard
of those but  there are fairly simple generalizations
  of what numbers are so this
whole area  is incredibly fruitful for
dealing even  with very young children
and of course  we have computers
so we can do things
  with them based on these ideas
and we're  used to using computers
in school not  for this stuff we're
used to using it to  imitate paper
in fact
it's expensive paper with a  little bit of magic
in their pay a  little extra money and we can run a  movie
in our book and we
can go look at  something in a library that spread
out  over the entire world rather than going  down the
hall to do it but by and large  pretty
much every use of computing in  most schools particularly
in elementary  schools is to do what business
people do  with their computers which is not to use  them for
anything interesting it's  basically automating the past
but if
take a look at what computers actually  are so
we can get our selves a little
  paint palette here
and I'll
make a  little car
and obviously
i'm not using  powerpoint here but
you can think about  this as a teacher as to whether
you  would
when you're trying to help
  children with examples and stuff you
  kind of would like to just be able to
  make things on
the fly because you do  have a dynamic medium
this has been one  of the hardest idea
is to make happen  because people
okay I've got my little  car and
the thing that's understandable  it's sort of a graphical
object and I'll  just call it a car here
and but I can  also look inside it and here's
something  that's a little less usual for
instance  here's cars heading it's
where the car  is pointing and if I click
over here and  start changing the angle you
can see  it's changing the car and conversely if
  you look over where it says heading and  notice
what happens when I change it
so here I have a visual representation  where
the car is pointing and here i  have a symbolic 1 and
similarly I have  little behaviors car
turn by five car 4  by 15 and
those of you tried logo you  recognize these are standard
logo ones  if I want to make a little script
  to take advantage
of these I can just  pull out some tiles and
now I've got my  car going and maybe
I'll get it to go 10  at a pop
okay so
in fact that I can  steer
my car so for instance if i
want  to make the car go straight i can take  it down to
zero that's a big one for  kids go
the other direction turned it in  the negative direction
so very young  children just
get a sense of concrete
  magnitudes and numbers but
driving a car this way is a little bit  like kissing your sister
so what you  really want to do is make a steering
  wheel so we'll paint another
little  drawing
and these drawings were all the  same entities and
when I look inside  this wheel I
see the same thing and
if I  turn this wheel
can see the number going  up and
negative and stuff and if you  remember the number
i put in here  determine
which way the car was going  which direction
to turn and how much so  it's kind of a invitation
to take the  name of those
the turn numbers coming  out of the wheel
and just dropping it  into the script here and
now as I change  the wheel
we can see that
the car is  turning by whatever the wheels heading
  is so here's an interesting thing to  think about
if you've ever had trouble  with teaching children about variables
a  child who learns variables this
way  learns it the first time and forever
  it's not the variables are hard for
children it's just that the way they're  taught is completely
unseated yes
  oh this so this is called squeaky
toys  if you go to squeak LAN
org runs on  every it's
yes that was so both of  these the
scratch was not the media lab
  and was also done on top of squeak so
  scratch and e toys or to scratch
was  done kind of four teenage
after school  kids as
a media thing they're both  relatively similar
and you can both do a  lot of the same things here
so the basic  idea
here is that you're trying
to  situate a
motivation if I want to I
to drive this car with a steering wheel  and
the fact that the number is coming
out of the steering wheel are going to  be different and so it makes sense to  have
them name and this script
icking over and over again so this  could hardly be simpler
and one other  little
thing is the car is a little  difficult to control
here and so
to the kids will want it why don't you  just put a gear and a
gear here being  for example dividing
the number coming  out by three
now you have to turn
the way the wheel  much further in order to get the same  influence
on the car so most 5th graders
have no idea why they should ever learn  how to multiply or divide
because in the  world that they're taught in school
math they're taught it's not  about scaling
it's about solving other  kinds of problems but
in the world of  science and
engineering it's not about  scaling
not about
multiplying as we as
we generally do but it's about scaling  things okay
so let
me try another little  idea on you i'm going
to make a little  script here so
i'm going to set cars  speed to 30 and
going to
set say
  increase the cars
horizontal position by  cars speed each time
so if I just do  this
or if I just let it go
so does  does everybody see that
this is that
  first column that the six-year-olds did
  what I'm
increasing is the position
where they are so the
car is doing a  uniform
speed and these little dots i'm
dropping help us see the uniformity of  it but
what if i say okay instead
of  instead of doing that what
if I okay
look at this one really carefully now  what if I increase this by 30
each time  alright so the speed is going to start  off
0 36 d all
right so now the speed is  growing and
then I'm going to whatever
that has grown to i'm going to then bump  the car ahead
right so you see this is  the two columns
so the car is going to  go exponentially
so if i go do
it cow
and this gives us a visual way of
  thinking about acceleration because the
  distance between those two dots is the  distance
travel per unit time and the  distance travel
per unit time is the  speed
right so many so much distance
per  tick 30 miles per hour
and so what's  happening here is we can see
accelerating and the fifth graders love  to
know that the term for this is  acceleration
okay we have a question yes  I
your your commentary is focusing  on math
but my question has
to do with  the kids response to reading
and writing  or reading and typing in this case do
  you find that the kids
are more do they  get the transference from being able
to  use this high place and I try that after
that's a good question though
reason I'm hurrying along here is I'm
going to be cut out regardless of how  interesting this talk is
it's going to  end at 10 minutes to
the hour okay let's  move
so I want the only comment here
is  does everybody
see that what you're  doing on the
computer can't be science  but
is only math that you can't do
  science on a computer
I can simulate any goddamn thing I
  want on a computer I can live up one  side
and down the other so it's just all  math is is
a story that's consistent but
he problem is the degrees of freedom in  in any reasonable
human language are  larger than those the universe has
and  so this is this is why the Greeks
quite invent science except maybe  Archimedes
and the reason is they  thought God was a mathematician and
thought if they started off with  self-evident
first principles that they  could just
deduce the universe the same  way God did
could be true because that  this is a
lot of physicists think this  might
be true I doubt it so
let's take a  look let's look at the kids in the world  now
so you're a bunch of objects objects  that
you think will fall to the earth at  the same
oh do not pay any  attention to
what anybody else the  grapefruit now
you two levels of shot  put sponge balls
are a couple
sleep  janet
is up on the roof  because
stopwatches by
the way to do it  but
when do you really not go
together  so put a sponge ball
okay I think we  should do the shot
right and the sub  ball because
they're two totally  different ways and if
you drop them at  the same time but they'll drop
at the  same speed drop
okay so
if you do this  so Aristotle
did not ask any children  when
he came up with the wrong theory of  this he
just deduced it using
a using a  wrong a common-sense way of thinking  about
what's actually going on but we  found that one
child in 30 roughly so if  you if
you have a class of 30 kids
you've got an excellent chance that one  child will do what that little girl
did  which is to pull the Galileo and just
  cut to the chase and say hey wait
a  minute that's
the I'm already in the
where all I have to do is just  listen and of course the
scaffolding in  the Leaning Tower of Pisa was
what  Galileo listen to it was under repair at
  that time so
but that's
quality could  call that a big idea
can also do  something
a little bit more here so we
  take a video these
might look like funny  video frames but video is just
part of  the objects that these this language  deals
with so we can make the frames  convenient to take every fifth frame
you  can stack them sideways or
you can stack  them like this if
you look at this what  do you think the kids say
when they see  that pattern
acceleration four months later
so four  months previously they did the  horizontal
thing with the car four  months later remember the
visual path  what kind of acceleration
so well
let's  measure
so we measure from the bottom of  one
guy and so we can just use these  little
translucent rectangles to do it
pre-measured these so
i don't have to  fiddle while I'm rushed
for time as it  is but then the cool thing
is i can just  stack these up
okay what do you think these
things mean  what are these
these are the differences
  between the speed at each time tick
  right each rectangle is the speed at
  each time tick in i'm doing a visual  subtraction
there and what i'm showing  is their progressive if I just subtract
hem off they're all the same what kind  of acceleration is
that acceleration
so  the kids immediately write this
little  script right here
let's listen to Tyrone  here
and to make sure that I was
doing  it just right I got
a magnifier which  would help me
so I figure out if the  size was just
right after I'd done that  I would
go and click on the little basic
  category button and then a little mini
  would pop up and one
of the categories  would be geometry so I click on that and
  here it has many things have
to do with  the size and shape of
the rectangle so
I  would see with the Heidi I kept
going  along the process until I
had them all  lined up with their height i subtracted
the smaller ones height from the big one  to see
if there was a kind of pattern  anywhere there
could help me I'm not as  this worked so
in order to show that it  was working
i decided to leave a doc  copy so that it
would show if the ball  was really the exact right speed Henry
  simulated ball is tracking the movie
  this is how he's showing that his model
  is in accord with the real world at
least two within a pixel so what you got  here so
here's something to think about  lily and mcdermott of
Washington is a physicist who looks at  college kids seventy
percent of all  college kids including science majors
in  this country fail to understand Galilean
  gravity that's what this is ninety
  percent of the children going doing it
  this way actually derive the equations
themselves actually  make the simulations from scratch
  themselves and show within
the limits of  the accuracy hear
that their model is an
  accord with physical reality and in fact  the difference
between Galilean gravity  14
feet above the ground and Newtonian  gravity is only one part
in a million  and so we can think of get
Galileo is  very lucky that
he couldn't measure that  one part
in a million or he would have  been very confused right
this way had to  be done first before the
Newtonian way  hat okay so let me I think I'm
getting  to the point where I have to finish up
let's think about serious stuff now
live inside of systems and we are  systems so
it's a nice unification  through all of the
sciences engineering  and art
so if you're going to make up a  middle school science
curriculum for say  the eighth grade I would
not pick a  science like biology but I pick
a  uniform unifying rubric
like systems and  I teach all of different Sciences
the  systems aspect of those and
use  mathematics to deal with those
things  and my romantic ideal
would be the  planet is in trouble and we need to  learn
how to save it
what we've got  going in general is
something like this  if you hit
this mystery object with a  hammer it
returns to equilibrium but if
  I raise it up far enough it
doesn't come  back
what we got here
the most systems
are  like this the equilibrium
they have is  actually dynamically
stable but not  statically stable so
if you just tap  this thing
it won't do anything but if
tap it enough to get it passed its  center of mass bunk
thing to  understand here is that's
that's what  we're doing so what we're doing is  stressing
the earth and
little bits of  stress like
burning the river in  Cleveland can
be fixed up in large  amounts of stress
can topple the system and think
about  systems is when they get toppled they
  don't stop but it's in a new state
now  and it's going to resist
getting it back  it could so
for instance when the  climate has toppled in the past
aken between ten thousand a hundred  thousand
and five hundred thousand years  to restore all
of those numbers are a  lot larger than our lifetime
let me  just try it
what we've seen here is a Jerry
  Bruner idea but I've tried to show you
  is that the
most important idea here is  that you have to heed the level of
development of the person you're trying  to teach and
if you know yourself like  it doesn't
make sense for a non  mathematician to try and teach math to
a  six-year-old it just doesn't
because the  six the
six-year-old doesn't think in  the same way as a teenager or an
doesn't if you want to teach real math  you
have to be a mathematician or have a  mathematician
in the loop because the  mathematicians job is to figure out what
  kind of real math is within the  wheelhouse
of the six-year-old
that's  really the job
so discovery learning so
here's the thing we have two poles in  the United States back to
basics and  discovery learning
both of this both  these are absolute
vs it
so it's very  complicated going into a meeting with
educators because they tend to polarize  long those and you
know any scientist  and mathematician guys think Oh No
and  the
the joke here is about discovery  learning is is
whoops is the teacher
saying oh no they're discovering the  wrong things why
are they discovering  the wrong things well consider
our  200,000 years on the planet
we had to go  almost all the
way to the present to  just do agriculture Greece was
only  2,500 years ago that was modern math and
  real science was just 400 years ago
  think about that the
u.s. know a stable
  dynamically stable democratic government
is only a few hundred years old these  ideas are
not easy so what you need is a  guide
it's not Hillary climbing  Everest it's Tenzing
and Hillary and
  sure we'd love to have Socrates and  Fineman
as guides but these guys don't
scale this is one of the problems with  school
books are great because you can  get some
of Fineman and Socrates but
I  used books a lot but I needed to have
real teacher that teacher had something  libraries didn't
have which is a table  full of junk you could make things and  learn things with
libraries should have
these but they don't know that they  should and I have
my dad who is a  physiologist to ask questions of
so what  we're thinking about
today is what
kind  of use could we make
out of the computer  since it has booked like properties
but  it also is active enough to
be able to  sense what the user is doing
so here's a simple
thing that's very  popular guitar hero
so the interesting  thing
about guitar hero is that people
don't have to go to school to learn how  to play it like
most video games
now the  bug with this is that
real guitar I used  to be a professional guitar
player jazz  guitar it's just
like a thousand times  harder than guitar hero guitar hero
is  it like simple drumming if
you ever  tried drumming is very like
just having  a snare and a high hat
and that's tricky  enough if
you've ever tried it you have  to get a couple of things going it's  tricky
you can think it's the entire  world because
this trick Ian of itself  and there's all these great sounds
coming out but it's absolutely a snare  and a delusion and
most here's the  prediction most schools
States are going to wind up using  computers in
classrooms to do a form of  guitar hero
for most of the important  subjects
because most teachers in
the  united states are not guitar players
alright so this is a huge
problem and  yet
replacing humans it's
  absolutely possible to make some
a  fantastic tutoring system for learning  any level
of guitar playing at any level
without having to have a human in the  loop that's what's interesting
you don't  get everything you get with
a human but  you get about ninety-five
stuff that you need to be able to do  anyway you
can do it and that's what
I  want you to think about is not replacing  teachers
here but to listen
to our  smarter than the average President as
talked to the National Academy last  spring he
gets it the
only way we're  ever going to get enough science
savvy  knowledge into schools is to help
existing teacher with media that  understand
  the science as children can practice it
  this is going to be a revolution
going to happen over the next year and  it is a grand challenge it's
as  difficult as the challenge that we faced
  40 years ago where the challenge was  everybody
should have a personal  computer pervasively network worldwide
we have the funding for it and
we  were able to invent it now several  billion
people have it and it's time to  use the computers
for what they're  really good for what
do you think thank  you very much