Alan Kay - Inventing the Future Part 2 (2015)

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see my passion for education
has been
education as a use
for going very
far from what a human being is
at birth and very far what a human
being is from a traditional culture to
what a human being can be from
taking on these elevated points of view so
schooling is
not found in any formal way in most
traditional societies because
most of the things that need
to be learned are learned
by watching what the adults do and there
some little
secret society things that are special schooling
for boys and girls in many societies but
the kind of formal schooling we're
used to actually got created
along with writing because
surprisingly enough and it's still a
surprise today when you think about it even
though writing especially our form of alphabetic writing
is nothing much more than writing
down the very sounds that we make most
when they speak are not even aware of they're making speech
sounds they think in terms of words and sentences and
so writing was actually a hard invention we
were on the planet for about a hundred ninety
thousand years before writing was invented it's
shocking and once
it was invented particularly
when we moved forward to alphabetic
writing one of the things that was surprising was
it's still hard to learn and
so schools
were set up to help learn this thing
which now is looked at as
much more of a skill learning than
what it takes for us to learn our native language or learn
stories that are being being
told and as schooling
progressed we had other inventions so we had the
inventions of
around 2500 BC and I've
been talking about science but the other thing that happened
in the 17th and 18th century was
inventions of new
forms of governments that tried to deal
with some of the ideas of what's the
trade-off between what's owed to the society
and what's owed to the individual and all of these
ideas are actually very hard for most
human brains to actually think about and learn
the idea of equal rights for instance is not
found in any traditional Society ever studied by anthropologists
and there are some that
have something a little more like equal rights but they
they almost never apply to women
and so this idea of
equal rights is actually an invention it's
not something we're born with and it
actually hard to learn it's hard to put into practice
and so the
when education was set up
particularly the parts
that Thomas Jefferson had to do with and also in
New England colonies
was set up primarily to teach
people who are mostly
agrarian farmers
how to read
how to learn from reading
what the main issues of
government are and not how to
agree to a party line because
diversity is the very soul of freedom
but how to argue with others to
make progress rather than to just win
and all of these things were part of the larger
sphere of how this country was
set up so the
one of the biggest
things that helped democracy along was
the printing press and
Marshall McLuhan pointed
out he said you can argue with a lot about
a lot of things with stained-glass windows
but democracy is not one of them and
our country was literally argued
into existence through writing
and especially through printing and
many people are not aware of it but even during
the Constitutional Convention when
drafts were done well
err between 30 and 55 people there at
any given time when a draft was
done how did all of them read it and the answer it
was typeset overnight and
printed the copies for everybody
were printed before the session started each
day when they had something to go and there some
of these interesting drafts
in typeset types
printed in a narrow column so
there's plenty of room for writing notes on them so
this idea of
being able to send out
ideas and send out
a few facets of an idea and then having
people be able to debate
these ideas and then
to find some accommodation as
part and parcel of why
the United States has survived and
prospered for so long so my interest
when we started
thinking about personal computers in fact
to invent personal computers both
in the Advanced Research Projects
Agency funding in the 60s and then
Xerox PARC in the 70s part
of the idea was the
personal computer if we could do it
is not just
something that can deal with old media but
it can actually deal with ideas
and especially new ideas in ways that
old media can't and in particular if
you think about some of the things that we're worried
about today they're all processes
not so worried about a single idea
that's just sitting there we're worrying
about global warming there's the population
explosion there
are the ability
to make extremely powerful
weapons for human beings and
you still have these cave people brains that's
all of us and so
one of the things that
mathematics was invented for was to be
able to do thinking about time
and space without having
to make things where are you making
lightweight things made out of symbols and if
your theories were good the mathematics went to a lot of
the work of making mistakes out in the real
world the computers can go much much further than
that in roughly the same way
and much of what we know about global warming is
actually due to computer simulations of
many different kinds it's a very complicated
area and
so an interesting question is
we used to teach children
reading for very
good reasons and most of them not having to do with
getting a job but for getting into the
issues of our time so I got
interested in the idea and I was catalyzed by Seymour
Papert of
inventing personal computing along with
some colleagues in order to put
children into the most important ideas of
our time using the most powerful modes of
expression and well
it hasn't really happened we actually have
the computers we
worked on the the
computer that about 11 years later became
the first Macintosh and a bunch of us worked
on the networks
large and small that we use today
and I'm has worked on laser printing
and a number of us work on many other parts
of this thing I actually
designed the early fonts
some of the descendants of which are used and
by people who read eBooks today and
in fact we weren't doing these
things in order to imitate old media we're doing
things to try to change the educational
system to make the ideas
more powerful to make the ways of learning them
sink much deeper
into the way children think
and the ideal was to
have as many children as possible
grow up thinking much much
better than most adults do today so that doesn't
happen and I think it will
but what we're doing right now because
of the way companies work and consumer
products work as computers are
being used primarily as
something that is not only directly
television but things that are like television
that is they're being used for old media
they're being used for old ideas they're being used
for things that every cave person would rec
recognize but they're
almost never being used for things that no cave person would
recognize like learning about how
cooperation completely
Trump's competition and
better ways to balance these ideas so
that the resources available are
much much larger for all so all of these ideas
have been thought about
for many many years but if you
think about looking forward to a future we'd like to live in
then the best way to predict
the future would be you invent it that's
going to be on my tombstone I think but
the future we want to invent is a
future in which humans
beings have finally grown up into real adults rather
the half adults we have today thank