Alan Kay Keynote at NATF 2013 Part 1

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now I'd like to welcome
our last guest  keynote speaker of the day dr.
Alan Kay  Ellen is the president
and founder of  viewpoints Research Institute here's
of the pioneers of object orientated  programming personal
computing and  graphical user interface design
dr. K's  contributions
have been acknowledged  with the Charles stark draper pryce on  the National
Academy of Engineering the  am turing award
from the association of  computer machinery and the
kyoto prize  for inamori foundation here's
an adjunct  professor of computer science at
UCLA a  visiting professor at Kyoto University
  and an advisor to the one laptop per
child for more about Alan you can read  full bio on
the website but for now  welcome Alan thank
sorry i was  asking
to pointed questions
but just  take me a second to get set
up here
so  one of the things i noticed i was asked
to give a talk on sustainability because  it's in the
the title of this conference
and I've been here for most of the day  and I haven't heard
a single talk on  sustainability it wasn't
the word wasn't  mentioned I listened very carefully the
  last panel and Nicholas didn't mention
  it and so
I but
I'm going to give a talk  on sustainability
the few things I've learned in my  culture and at
some some point
the  sustainability idea just never
the top of the list you ever noticed  that
it's something
that is actually a  serious
problem but a very different  problem from
something that can be fixed  with
Tecna I will do that in a sec you  know thank you
just trying to get organized here before
  I fall apart cuz I
I actually thought I  was going to have a second
to do this  beforehand
but instead I just kept  talking and
yeah okay all
right now
they they said you have to talk on  sustainability
I thought boy I just
  don't know anything about it
except what  I've read and
when I started thinking  about a little bit more I thought
I  could at least say something about human
being sustaining our ability to think  about things
and maybe look at that a  little bit and
so just to start off with
  with something simple I'll start
off  with something that's not a human being
  and it was discovered maybe
70 years ago  or so that
if you take
a frog's natural  food which are in
this case our flies  and paralyze
them but keep them alive  paralyze
them with a little chloroform  you can drop
this food all the way all  around the
fly and it will just  absolutely not eat them it will fact
  starve to death in the presence
of its  food which is still alive
but not moving  if
you take this very same fly and you  toss
a little rectangles
of cardboard  like that one there
the frog will snake  out its tongue and eat every single
one  of them until it is full to bursting and
  all attempts
to train frogs differently  have failed
was studied rather  closely
in the 40s and in the 50s and
  was discovered that you
probably know  that the our retina
is actually  contiguous with our
brain it's not a  separate organ that's actually
part of  our brain and it does some
thinking and  it turns out a frog's
I'd does a lot of  thinking it actually does the  decision-making
as to whether it should  go after food
or not for efficiency's  sake it doesn't wanna because
only run  few hundred feet per second and
so all  of the thinking all of
the sensing all  of the visual processing is done in the  retina
of the frogs I and then bingo  okay well
of course we aren't rocks so  why am I even bringing
up this example  but
you know when I was thinking about
  sustainability I
remember that the  original Pogo cartoon
from a zillion  years ago I see people who
are in the  age range that I am people
are in the  age range i am reflect a lot of light
  either from white hair or no hair
and  people from that era
will remember this
is one of the most memorable lines  any cartoonist
ever came up with but you  may not remember that
it was in this  cartoon which
shows an enormous pile of  garbage around and so
this is an  actually a reaction of this cartoonist
  Walt Kelly in the 50s about what
he and  people in the 50s thought was
a serious  problem already of course that problem  is
compounded itself a trillion fold by
  now and the
when I started when I was  thinking about this talk
I thought well  you just really there just isn't much to  say about
sustainability from the  technological
standpoint you can  actually compute it
all out some very  smart people have
if you haven't read  amerie lovins
book called reinventing  fire it's
one of the best books I've  read in the last 20 years
or so he's the  head of the Rocky Mountain Institute  he's
a physicist he's been
at this for  40 years or so and this is a magnum opus  of
a book which takes every
part of the  energy spectrum and
looks at it
from the  standpoint of what if you could get
the  usual selfish motives
of human beings  and business people in particular
  motivated to actually do
  a the right thing for the wrong
reason  namely show them how they can increase  profits
by actually dealing more  sensibly
with energy problems and so  this is the result of
maybe fifteen to  twenty years worth of work of the
Rocky  Mountain Institute it's a masterpiece
  and I think everybody
will find it  really interesting
originally I was  going to talk about that then thinking
might be more interesting to talk about  why nobody pays any attention
to this
  this is always a problem this is
one of  my favorite shots because
once in  a while they get Spock to do this  because
Mary's supposed to be beyond  cool
being an alien creature and  non-human
but he had a human part and
  his human part was generally
reflected  by enormous emotions
when they were  finally boiled over and
okay here's if  if we had
more time it's
always  instructor to spend 20
minutes or so  just delving into what's
wrong with our  own brains yes and this won't
work thank  you so much for reading it though so
this is the thing that would be handed  out however
if you have something it has  text in front
of you make that the the
  dot and the plus about the width of your  eyes
so you know maybe two
three inches you can try it right now  it's not going
to bother me if you do it  and the
trick of it is is to keep the  thing on the desk
and you just move
into  it holding focus and
then what you'll  see is something like this
I'll show you why the dot goes away  when
you move in about 9 inches away for
  most people see
it somebody do it and  but
here's what's cool
there's no blank  spot
that dot went away but
there's  still some text their
text that you  couldn't see when
the spot was there so
that's what's interesting about the  blind spot experiment
and here's the way  it works in fact we were just talking  about eyes
a couple of seconds ago and
so if anybody
here is looking for  arguments in favor of evolution
here's  one if
you want to exhibit a  well-designed biological
I you can't  look at us you
have to look at the squid  squids have
cephalopods in general have  fantastic
eyes but if you look at our I
  somehow the blood vessels are actually
  in front of the cells
that detect light  rather than behind them
as own squid and  so
we're when we see something with our  eyewear actually the
image is actually  occluded all
over the place by all these  blood vessels
why can't we see the blood  vessels well because
we're filtering  them out thus
losing acuity and the  place
where the blood vessels
come from  the outside into the eye has no
light  sensitive cells at all so
if you can get  an image there like the dot then
you  can't see it there's
nothing there to  sense it and
this other part here which  you can't
see very well on the projector  is about
two and a half two
by three  degrees wide which is about the size of  a normal
english word
and it is where almost all of the
of your eye isn't this is why the eye  moves this is what
i was asking that guy  about because he's trying to track
yeah  well why is the eye moving at all we've
  got a retina that we
could image the  entire thing and the problem is is that  virtually
all of the acuity in the eye  is in there
and we are almost legally  blind right outside
of it and we are  legally blind just shortly
outside of it  so almost all of our peripheral vision
  is legally blind so
Northrop Grumman no  I'm sorry
McDonnell Douglas did a  head-mounted display years
ago in which  they tracked your eyeball hasn't
moved  and they put a million pixels which is
  easy to do today right in the fovea and  the
result is instead of seeing an
x vga  display like we usually see it
what you  see is no pixels at all because
there's  about a million sensors
in there and you  can give
the illusion of a
perfect but  but I'm digressing
so here's what  happened
as you move in you're  concentrating
on the plus at some point  you get close enough so
that the angle  places the dot over
where the blood  vessels come in and it goes away
so the  disappearance is easily
explained but  the problem is where did that other text  come
from that's a trickier thing
to  understand and here's the way it works  our
brain is a bit like a pachinko
  machine that's fun because
there's lots  of pachinko machines in Japan you ever
seen them that's you know the ball goes  in and it goes all
over the place and  it's very fun makes lots of noise and
so  it's sort of a vertical jukebox
a  vertical pinball
so we've got a brain and
a sensor  something comes in it gets
the visual  thing there are about 30 different
  places where the image is
split up and  sent for
various kinds of processing  some of it gets
to our consciousness but
  if you excise the part
of us that  recognizes that we're seeing images we
  think we're blind but actually but the  other parts
of the brain are still  seeing the image and you can
do things  without being consciously aware that  you're the
parts of your brain are  seeing things and
there are some so  we can think of this is kind
of a  hardware map and
then there's kind of  software
and database thing
which I'm  going to call the
ghost and the ghost
is  all the things that you believe in
all  the things that allow you to
navigate  around the world that
decide something as reasonable and  unreasonable
some of these are our  built-in
by your genes
some of them are  learn in your
culture but you learn them  because things are built
in and your  genes and
so this big pink manifestation
of things you just think of as our  beliefs and
we're not aware of this  because our
nervous system is set up to  look for differences
and the most  important thing
about us as human beings  is not what we think
we're seeing but  all the stuff that has been
suppressed  in order to look at what's
different in  other words we're interested in
news  rather than what
and then there's the dream which is  what's
happening right now this dream is  about
an eighth of a second to a  third of a second
lagging behind our  experience why it's hard
to hit a  baseball anybody who's
anybody here  tried to hit a fastball
when do you  start swinging
yeah yep you
have to  really kind of make a commitment to what
it is maybe you can see a little hole in  it that
indicates it's a curve or a  slider but
because it takes a  while for things to go through this  pachinko
machine you can't wait same
  thing when you're a musician you just  don't
ever follow anybody else when  you're a musician you have to
play what  happens is when multiple musicians
are  playing together they adjust themselves
  but if you wait to
make a decision about  what's going on you're too late
right so  you're basically casting ahead
trying to get your synchronization ahead  and so
what this is the thing that's  hard for people to accept
but just as we  have
dreams at night which are entirely  manifested
with our eyes closed some
them could be very realistic it's that  mechanism that
allows us to deal with  what's going on right now in
other words  we're not seeing what's there we're
seeing our interpretation of what's  there
and a lot of these are in terms
tories as we'll see in a second or two  and
we have the great misfortune
as a  species to call this dream reality
now  what if it were a reality
we would have  very little to argue with anybody
about  and especially between cultures  religions
couldn't be further away from  reality
and enormous
numbers of lives have been  lost over thousands of years by
people  deciding what they have is reality and
  what everybody else has is bullshit
the  truth is we all that pink
stuff in our  brain is technical word for
it is  bullshit that is what we have between
  our ears and getting it out
front in a  way that we can deal we
can't get rid of  it but we least have to
acknowledge it  so
here's a fun one another
one you can  do well take
two oranges to apples to  quarters
if you want to be precise you  can
put them on a mirror on a ruler
so  one is exactly twice as far away than  the other
by geometry and
by what  Descartes did
was actually took an ox I  from
a dead ox and peeled off
the sclera  on the back of
the eye so he could have  the ox I
look at things like a camera  and he
would see the upside down images  the oxide
because he was interested in  whether first oxide
worked the way ours  did because they had similar
structure  he was also interested in to as to  whether
Biological lenses work the way  glass
lenses did in the early
17th  century and yes and yes and
the  interesting thing is that people noticed  is
that wow I can prove by geometry  what's
going to go on the on the retina  and I can see it
that twice
as far away  quarter is half the size on the retina  but
what do we see when we do this
well  we got the same process
half the size  and the retina the pachinko
machine go  up to the dream the
dream knows these  quarters are the same size noses
the  oranges are the same size right
knows  the apples are the same size
  and here's what you actually see
I mean  this is the ghost did the dream you
see  the farther way quarter
is about 80% the  size of the
nearer one instead of half  the size and
that is because your  beliefs
in reality are
trumping what's  actually coming into
your eye this is  why it's so difficult to learn
paint should be able to do it right it's  right there
but in fact i order to paint  you have to defeat
all of these  mechanisms including
some deeper ones in  order to get at what the primary
sense  data this is also why science was
  invented so late if you think about this  as
a larger metaphor for everything it
  says that until you actually get
the  realization that what's between our ears  is
bullshit you can never invent science  because you
never even pay your like the  Frog with the Flies you never pay  attention
to what's actually around
you  you only pay attention so McLuhan
great line is usually said until I  believe it I
can't see it that's  definitely true of
the Frog and it is  actually much more true of us
than any  of us would like to admit
one last one I just
love these this  is Roger Shepard at Stanford and
here's  what's cool about this
shape the  exact shape
and size of the two  tabletops is exactly
the same and if
you  look at it hard to believe right
this  one looks kind of long and
skinny this  one looks kind of fat and
again if we  had more time we'd actually do this with  physical
things so you couldn't claim I  was cheating but
and so
I take a top off  bingo
still can't see
it right I've done  this a thousand times it's
one of my  favorite things to show an audience you
can watch it over and over again and it  doesn't matter
you cannot learn how to  see
this is why it's hard to draw in  perspective ok
I'll hollow it out so  we'll just have an outline
here so now  you can see
this is what so  and how do I know this is
because I made the second table from the  first I
make two tables i took i  made this one and
then I took this shape  from it
and rotated it and made this
that's why it fits so well because they  are exactly
the same and you can do it  over and over again with
your hands  tough beans
so these are just simple  things and
why do I want to get you to  accept for the rest of
the the talk is  just provisionally the idea is that hey
  the world isn't what it seems
it just  isn't
and what puck bent here is
it's  not that we're just
easily fooled it's  part of us to want
to be fooled it's  part of being a human being this is why
  we like stories my wife has a writer and
  one of her favorite books
about writing  is has a title
telling lies for fun and  profit
we see things not as they are but  as we
are I give anything to know what  happened
to the person who said that  right because
if you take it to its  ultimate conclusion it's
deadly for most  dogmatic
religions bingo
and here's  McLuhan again okay
so right Francis
  Bacon sum this up
in 1610 by saying  we've got four
things that are killing  us that we idolize
intrinsic to humans  one
is what's genetically wrong with us
  what things we make up inside
of our  head because
this thing is computing all  the time and the
simple difference  between paranoia and what
we call normal  which is slight paranoia is
the what we  call paranoid
delusions are simply a  person
who is putting much more credence  on their internal deductions
than on  evidence and there are
all gradations  for this
what's wrong with language the
way  language abstracts
things and
the what  he calls the
theater which we might call  academia today
Jonathan Smith the  guy who wrote Gulliver's
Travels was the  Dean of
University in Dublin and he
  called his professors the confederacy