Alan Kay at MIT Media Lab 5th Anniversary Event (1990)

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never know what Nicholas was going to say actually the turned out that the
bearnaise on the hot dog didn't sell well if I remember we're no longer on
that board anniversaries get people to
think of other anniversaries there lots
of them happening this year one of them is the 50th anniversary of Fantasia and
Fantasia I think for many of us in this audience and at MIT and elsewhere was
something we grew up on as a kind of a
dream of bringing our ideas to life and a lot of us saw the computer is a way of
more quickly with more depth more
dimension more meaning to be able to project ideas that we had within within
ourselves into this magic new medium and have them come to life just as the
disney people did with great art but much more laborious lee many years ago I
think a good way to start this this lecture is to think 40 years ago not 50
the 40 years ago was the when two very
diverse very at opposite poles machines
were introduced to the to the world and
one of them of course was the UNIVAC one the first commercial digital computer
thing that a digital computer its people's minds it had whirling tape
drives the first whirling tape drives and it predicted an election not long
after that on television and so it became in the public's mind what a
computer was all about now in the other
machine that was at the farthest pole of
thinking from the univac one also came about 19
50 and I actually spent quite a bit with some assistance this summer trying to
find some film footage of it because I was sure that some must exist and after
much scurrying around in England then looking at old newsreels and so forth we
finally found what i think is the earliest footage of this machine which I
think symbolizes the transition from the
UNIVAC 12 what's going to happen over the next 10 years and i think i need the
the slides off because i'm going to show some video thank you
in a simple Ville on the outskirts of Bristol lives dr. grey Walter a
neurologist who makes robots as a hobby they are small and he doesn't dress them
up to look like men he calls them tortoises and so cunningly have their
insides being designed that they respond to the stimuli of light and touch in a
completely lifelike
this model is named Elsie and she sees out of a photoelectric cell which
rotates above her body when light strikes the cell driving and steering
mechanism sends her hurrying towards it if she brushes against any object in her
path contacts are operated that turn the steering away and so automatically she
takes avoiding X
mrs. Walters paid his elma else's brother in the dark abyss he works in
exactly the same way
dr. Walter says that his electronic toys work exactly as though they have a
simple to sell nervous system and that with more sellers they will be able to
do many more tricks already LC has one up on Elmer when her batteries begin to
fail she automatically runs home to her kennel but charging up and in
consequence can live a much gayer life
so I officially present this footage to
Nicholas Seymour Papert and Marvin Minsky for it means something to each
one of this this is the original tortoise that inspired the logo turtle
and it also inspired a lot of early work
in artificial intelligence and what's interesting about the way the last 40
years have transpired is that digital computers have taken over but in fact
where things are going now are much more towards the kinds of control systems
kinds of what you might call wet mentalities that device like the great
Walter turtle has well the biggest
problem with with computers is that they
were larger than than human scale and the mechanisms we have in our mind for
dealing with things are larger than human scale are those of religions so of
course we had a priesthood and special
time special rituals all of that stuff and a lot of what has happened in the
last 40 years has been to try and find ways to bring the machine into human
scale without losing any of its promise
what I'd like to do is give you a couple
of ways that I think about this stuff and one of them is thinking in general
terms about the way humans have extended themselves over the last several hundred
thousand years and of course the first one that we think of is that we extend
ourselves through tools levers screwdrivers wheels and so forth less
often we think of language and
mathematics as tools but they also are ways of creating objects for things that
we want to deal with and we manipulate them and all of these tools allow us to
extend various of our senses and for a long time we thought of the computer as
a kind of a tool and one of the ways that we've grappled with it is to try and make it
act more like the kinds of tools that were used to now less often thought of
extension is one that was identified many years ago by mumford who said for
most of the history of human beings most of the machines that we've built have
had other humans as moving parts he called these mega machines and societies
groups an organization like this the media lab all of these are a consequence
of our ability to take on other people's
goals our interest in taking on people's goals and our interest in getting people
to take on our goals of course agents
can take on a goal and can manipulate tools to carry out our wishes while
we're doing things but more importantly an agent can deal with other agents and
I think of the the M word here for
agents as being management so to me a tool is something that we look at and we
manipulate and an agent is something that looks at us and we manage the agent
and of course the mainframes were neither and so the struggle was started
in the 1950s in 1962 try and find a way of bringing this into some sort of human
scale now I like to show you a couple of early efforts
here's a picture that could have been taken in somebody's office here at MIT
but actually it was taken in 1965 this
is Douglas Engelbart sitting at his
first version of a what you might call not a personal computer but personal
computing he has a mouse he has a black on white 19 inch screen and here's the
kind of media that he dealt back sat
exactly branch on me and let me look just that low and I see it oh I can say
I'd like to see one line only I can see
but there's another thing I can do does room twice that i have here
so here I'm it i'll need a different pictures of you so here's what i do with
a picture drawing capability here so slight and lamp if i start from work and
here's the route i seem to have to go to pick up all the materials and that's my
plan for getting home tonight but if I want to I can say the library what am I
supposed to pick up there I can just point to that you know oh I see overdue
books and all while there was a statement there with that name go back what if I once my supposed to pick up
the drugstore hmm I see you interesting all right market can do things if I want
to just say I'd like to interchange projects and can materials bingo and
they're all numbered right if I care to look interchanging them very quickly
cans are going to get interchange with products they do it and all gets me
numbered so that's a very tool based way
of thinking about things you're indicating things on the screen moving
them around Engelbart was one of the of
a number of people in the 50s and 60s that realize that although you could
drop a computer and break it just like you can drop a book into a fire and burn
it that the contents of the computer or
of the book can be a story or a description of things that can't exist
physically in the world you can have a story in a book about a place that has an inverse cube law doesn't seem to
exist in in this world the computer can
add more dimensions than this world has to a way of looking at data and so that
if you have a 15 dimensional space of
interesting things the computer can give you 16 dimensions and bring all of the
interesting points together at one one place and that led to a number of
different ways of thinking about the
computer Engelbart's metaphor was the computer as a vehicle he thought of the
big mainframes as being like railroads that were owned by institutions and the
institutions decided when you could use them and decided what you could use them
for and Engelbart wanted to be Henry Ford he
wanted everybody to have their own vehicle used to say phrases like we need
to deal with thought vectors and concept space I don't think he knew what that
meant we certainly didn't but it sounded
great and it gave rise to this notion that in order to bring the computer down
into our world we have to have some way of interacting with it in a closer
fashion and so the the urge was to bring the computer cycles closer to the user
and that's what gave rise to machines like this and this is one that I
designed it's a picture of it on its own display back in the late 60s and it even
had a user interface on it although back
then there's a wonderful phrase about user interface user interfaces was
called it's when the flesh hits the steel and that phrase is very much about
because there's really no notion of there being an intermediary between you
and the hardness of the machine and this this machine have multiple windows and a
number of other ideas on it but it was a little bit like trying to make an apple
pie from random ingredients bound in the kitchen you don't have any apples so you
decide to use bananas you don't have any flour so you grind up Cheerios and so
forth I randomly substituting for all of the ingredients in a typical pie you can
make something but in this case this
turned out to be a bit of a mess only
graduate students liked it sort of the
kiss of death for any computer system
reason of course as graduate students are going through a rite of passage when they're trying to prove how smart they
are and how many amazing things that they can remember and so they turn out
to be pretty much the world's worst user interface design right I was a graduate
student when I designed this so I'm speaking with authority now right about
the same time that this was going on there is a whole different way of looking at interaction and one of the
ways that I used to illustrate that is some film footage taken at rand
corporation on a system that they made
for Rand economists and other non computer types The Economist's of course
are that group of people that if you lay them end to end they still won't be able
to reach a conclusion and the Economist
didn't even like to type they like to write things on legal pads and they said
the RAM people can't you do something about that so here's an example of something that was adapted from some
early work here at MIT by Marvin Minsky and war entitlement to do a system that
would interpret gestures as expressed on
a data tablet so here's what that looks like
first we erase a flow arrow then move
the connector out of the way so that we may draw a box in its place the printing
in the box is being new commentary only in this case the box is slightly too
large so we may change its size where modern day window control came from
literally then dry flow from the connector to the box attached a decision
element to the box and dry flow from it to scan we then erased the flow arrows
attached to the process post new area and move the box to a new position this
allows us to draw a new box well that
was a tremendous change in the way we felt about using computers I had a
chance to use that for half an hour in 1968 and felt like I was thinking my
hands right through the glass of the display and touching the information
structures directly inside unlike Engelbart's system which I had called a
personal computer this to me was
intimate this is an intimate way of interacting and so for me and for a
bunch of other people in the 60s 1968
was my year for thinking about the
possibility of there being three major ways of interacting with a computer of
three paradigms three frameworks for thinking about interaction and the thing
that clinched it for me was seeing going
out and visiting Seymour's one of Seymour's first installations in a
school watching them use the logo turtle
the descendant of the Great Wall dyrdek asimo had this terrific idea that
wouldn't it be great to let kids actually build the kinds of mechanisms
that would animate a turtle around and they would learn a lot about their world and
a lot about thinking about the world from from doing that and I've never
recovered from that because once I saw that to me the computer was no longer a
vehicle in the nation at risk report the
recommendation is that every child in the US should have one semester of
computers in their senior year of high school that's their strong
recommendation about computers and that's driver's ed that is treating the
computer like a vehicle it's not the cars aren't important it's that they
aren't central the central things to us are the media the intermediaries with
how we work with the world and if you can get rid of that slide that'd be
great I think everybody has figured that
out by now thank you the that led to
thinking of a computer in a completely different way this is a cardboard model
I made in 1968 just since become known
as the dynabook and we actually loaded
this cardboard model luck with a variety of lead pellets to try and find out how
heavy it could be before people would always take it with them not find an
excuse to leave it behind and turns out
that the weight that we determined has not yet been reached by any computer company so this machine is still a bit
in the future but it expresses a different kind of relationship with the
machine and something that wants to start much earlier in the life of a
human being and so one of the ways of
thinking of it is if we compare these three
ways of looking at it we can say well where is the computer in the past it was
in the glasshouse today in personal computing it's on our desk and in the
future it's going to be with us all the time in California will weave it into
our t-shirts Nicholas said 10 years ago
that will know in the future appears when our cufflinks committed communicate
with our watched by means of satellite
it's when such hyperbole is not outrageous that you know a paradigm
shift has actually happened and as an interesting analogy here to the history
of publishing in 1400 AD there are three
hundred ninety two books in the Vatican Library one of the largest libraries in
Europe and in 1452 or thereabouts--
Gutenberg printed his first Bible and
that Bible the 42 line Bible was as big as the hand-written manuscripts that
have been so laborious Lee copied by monks during the Middle Ages and the
reason it was that big is that that was what books worth if you look at pictures
woodcuts or you visit the modern
recreation of what a library was like then they didn't shelve the books most
libraries back then had so few books that each book had its own reading table
and the books were chained to it you look at this table table book with
chains the thing that comes to mind inescapably is a time-sharing bullpen
because these are institutionally owned items and Gutenberg didn't know what
else to do but to make them that size and much more interesting revolution
happened a few years later when Aldous now has a company named after him Elvis
minus dias who was a Venetian publisher did two remarkable things first he was
one of the major driving force behind publishing things other than
Bibles and he isn't he and his sons over the next century published 40,000
different books most of them from gathering up Greek and Roman writings
spreading them all over Europe he did one other thing that will forever endear
himself to me he decided that book should be this big and he decided they
should be this big because that was the size that saddle bags were in Venice in the 1490s in other words eldest realized
something very important and that is the books could now be lost and because they
could now be lost they could now be taken with they now could go out and
become a mass medium now again we're in
this interesting stage because we're not in a place where r we're willing to have our computers be lost watches their $10
swatch watches or something like that willing to have them be lost maybe a
pocket calculator it's not a tragedy if it gets lost paper and pencil it's not a
tragedy but still with our multi-thousand dollar computers sitting
on our desks we're actually still in the Gutenberg era and the interesting thing
about history is that nothing that happened between Gutenberg and Aldous
counted none of those behavior patterns
had anything to do with what happened in the post aldous area as we went into the
16th century so drawing curves as a way
of predicting the puter doesn't work very well when you're in these interesting transition periods well
another way of looking at these three
paradigms is to ask what kinds of information do we use letter and numbers
with institutional computing fonts and graphics on modern personal computing
and as Nicholas likes the show with his imploding his teething rings for the
media lab as he likes to call them that it's going to be all media coming together because the computer is a meta
media its content is all media all
intermediaries that one is pretty much of a no-brainer but it's amazing
how long it has taken for that to even that simple idea to sink in how do we
print impact printing big laser printing
personal laser printers with personal computing and no printing as we move on
into the next ten years because the information is going to be too
interesting to destroy by printing it out right now is an index of how paltry
our use of the computer is that we can actually print it out and feel good about it we actually haven't heard
anything because our information for the most part is not in dimensionally
intertwined it's not in the form of a dynamic simulation it's not any of the
things that the computer is really about
field of interaction feels like line editing on institutional computing
layout on computers like the Macintosh
moving things around but in the new
paradigm it's going to feel more like conducting because we're going to move from passive information to active
information we're going to move from objects to ages and so it's going to be
a little bit more like summoning forth lots of assistance at different times
and checking out what their goals are and our they're checking out what our
goals are and and so forth so each one of these is a completely different way of thinking about it and one of the ways
of thinking about the differentiation between the institutional and the
personal here is that even when graphical interfaces were done in the
60s for the most part all interfaces were thought of their main task was
accessed to function so this notion that
inside the computer is sort of something like a big nuclear reactor or a power station there's all that function and
what we need to have is a way of getting to each of these pieces of function will
map them into control keys and and double control meta y keys and that way
of thinking about things and the revolution that made the second
paradigm the personal computer paradigm is going from that stance to realizing
that the main job of the user interface is to make the user aware of what the
possibilities are in other words the user interface now goes from being
control of function to a learning environment and of course I should
mention that the the main job of the
intimate computer user interface is to do a lot of learning itself so we go
from no learning or learning of the most back-breaking kind to making it easier
for the user to learn and then finally we want the system to learn how do we
give commands we have to remember everything and type C in point where we
are now and in the future is going to be asked and gesture because the computer
is going to be watching us not us just watching it what kind of languages do we
program it in weekly modular data
structured procedures cobol one of the surest predictions that we can make
about the future is that 10 years from now there will still be a lot of COBOL programmers this personal computing way
of doing things is pretty much object-oriented after right far fewer
lines of code and there's a new kind of programming that people are starting to do called agent oriented programming and
one way of thinking about all of these paradigms is to compare them with
architecture of taking a civilization like the Greeks whose main way of making
big buildings was post and lintel pilot block box like that and you get
buildings about this size and if you
want to make a building a lot bigger and let in more light this architecture doesn't work you have to change to a
different kind of architecture like the gothic arch and if you do that you can make
buildings much larger with about the
same amount of material and when they say just about somebody he doesn't have
enough bricks to make a wall that might not be a slam because you might have
enough bricks to make an arch he's got enough bricks to make an arch she's a
lot better off than people who only have enough bricks to make walls and of
course the big change in the last several hundred years is going from structures that just push against each
other to this notion of the higher
strength of materials under tension if you get materials that you can tense as
well as compressed you can make structures like geodesic domes that will
fit over all of the cathedrals that have ever been made in the world and these are completely separate ways of thinking
about things and one of the answers to the question that's the title of my
lecture is what is the next computer
revolution going to be like well it's going to be technologically it's going to be like what I just told you that
we're going to intimate machines they'll always be networked there will be
information utilities the systems will
learn and so forth now for many people this is big news but in fact if you go
back in the history of computer science you find people like Marvin Minsky and
John McCarthy writing papers in the late 50s and early 60s about this this
happens to be not just the fifth anniversary of the media lab but it's
also the 20th anniversary of Nicholas's book called the architecture machine
which is all about this third way of looking at things now for my standpoint
since I am not particularly enamored of technology this is a very incomplete
answer and I would like to try and go to
a different way of thinking about things that involves people much more strongly
and to do that we have to have some sense
of how people's minds work this is for
many years and in engineering is where the rubber met the sky because engineers
tend to like controllable elements and people aren't all that controllable and
as a behavioral mechanism we are exasperating and so there's been a
tendency of actually trying to get people to be more like machines rather
than the other way around and give you an example of why this is difficult to
deal with take a look at one of my favorite pictures here and what you see
here let's pretend we're in school because actually we are in school we're in a university let me give you an
English sentence about this picture what we've done with this picture is to take
a picture of a young girl extracted her eyes and mouth turn them upside down and
put them back into the picture and then turn the entire picture upside down that
sound reasonable to everybody okay so
having said that you should be completely prepared than for what it looks like right side up I'm going to
turn this back because I've discovered nobody will listen to me when it's on the other way so this is one of the
flaws of trying to give lectures in English because a nation is actually not
convertible except outside of the human
domain within the human domain we actually have different parts of our
brain that respond the things in different ways and this is one of the reasons why McDonald's doesn't run print
ads saying if you eat a McDonald's hamburger you'll become a better looking
person because in English it's absurd so
instead what they do is to run an ad showing pictures of really good-looking people eating McDonald's hamburgers and
a different part of your mind takes that
information and makes a different kind of inference the kind of inference that the ad people want you in fact we have a
part of our mind that thinks things are more true if they rhyme so if I were to say to you
a big mac and fries will slender your thighs down more convincing the whole
idea here is that as people started to
suspect about starting about a hundred years ago with Freud Piaget Brunner
Minsky and Papert that what we don't have inside of our head is the oneness a
vast beautiful seamless fabric of
mentality but instead what we have is something much more like a patchwork quilt and in fact the patchwork quilt
has little mechanisms that pop us from one part of the quilt to another
whenever we get too close to one of the boundaries and it's you have to do things like this to show that there is
an actual patchwork quilt there so we have this idea of multiple mentalities
and Piaget was one of the first to study
the very different ways that children have of dealing with the world as they
move through stages of development early in a child's life an object is to grab
it a hole is to dig it thinking is doing
in many ways later on the child is more
visually centered child says there's more water in the tall glass when you
pour from the squat class the tall one because it looks that way and then
finally it around 11 or 12 there's a
facts and logic stage where logical operations are carried out and the child
can make deductions based on facts like there can't be more water because where
would it go where would it come from so forth now of course at least this was
true in 11 and 12 year old Swiss French kids in America there's a lot of
evidence that American kids never get to this facts and logic stage
now brunner in the 50s and 60s we did
some of pjs experiments but he added some twists so he took the water pouring
experiment and after the kids said there's more water in the tall glass
runner put a cardboard so the kid couldn't see the tall glass anymore and
the kid would change his mind back say oh there can't be more and then Brenda
would take whip Brenda would take the cardboard away and the kid would say oh
but look there's more water Brenda would put the cardboard back and the kid would
change his mind again so if you have any six-year-olds you'd like to torment and
what runner was in his way was getting
closer to this idea of multiple mentalities as well that it isn't just a
metamorphosis like a caterpillar into a butterfly which is pretty much the way
Piaget thought of it but actually different modules being able to deal
with it within different ways and a change in dominance to express the
piaget expression now there are many things that you can do with this suppose
you wanted to design a user interface for a computer that was like a tool and
we have to think about what each of these mentalities actually does so an
example the body-centered one is the one that knows where we are in space we can
close our eyes and touch our nose when in touch our hands behind our back if
you blind us we can still orient ourselves but if we aren't as
unfortunate enough to suffer a brain lesion that takes part of a limb out of
our body map then even though it's physically attached to us it's like
somebody else's so this orienting
centering groundedness is something that the body mentality brings to us the
visually sent mentality is wonderfully
adept at dealing with various kinds of tricks for instance if we were to put a
hundred images of animals on a wall you'd be able to find the elephant
almost four times as fast as you could the word elephant if the images were
replaced words now let me try and experiment this I realize that this is a very academic
body here but let me ask how many people
here watch television be honest okay how
many people flip channels all right how
many people have ever flipped a channel randomly into a movie they haven't seen
for 18 years how long did it take you to
recognize that you'd seen that movie before how long yeah somewhere between a
half a second and a couple of seconds think about what that meant 18 years ago
you saw a movie you didn't know you're
going to be tested on it you randomly
without any preparation pop into the middle of it and all of a sudden in 30
frames or so of seeing that movie you suddenly recognize what it is think of
what that means in the context of your entire life most people can remember
what's going to happen next if you stop the movie after they've recognized that
they know what the next scene is going to be so that is a mentality that begged
to be exploited and what it says is that
we should always be able to present about a hundred things in the visual
field because the user can be aware of them subliminally and if we present them
in recognizable scenes the user can store hundreds thousands millions of
different scenes and remember that they
were there before then finally the symbolically centered mentality is much
more interested in changing things so if
its biggest problem is finding the right context because it is not a context
chooser so if your visual mentality work
the way your symbolic one the first thing you opened your eyes and saw in
the morning would be what you'd be staring at several hours later that
doesn't work so well so we have a grounding mentality we have a flitting
around mentality that's aware of lots of things and we have one
likes to make chains and somehow we should be able to put all of those things together here's one of the ways
whoops sorry can you turn that off please that's the end of the slides we
want to be able to put these things together and if we do we'll find
ourselves fitting much more closely to the way human mentalities work
so this is a 22 month old little girl and she has never lived in a world not
densely populated by Macintoshes her
mother is my accountant both her mother and father work at home each of them has
a mac this is back five years ago in 1985 and when I found out the little
girl was interested in computers I gave
her an apple to which she rejected she
wanted what her folks had now I have to warn you hear that not to be impressed
because this is not her first time on the machine she's been using the
computer for about six months so she's actually a fairly experienced user and
long time ago we designed this user interface for children but never any of
this young so it's really interesting to see a child used the machine that was
actually designed for them and so here
she's using the visible menus of mac paint and I saw it I thought all right
this is impressed i've i've never seen a child this young is this machine before but ok I it should work but then what
happened next really amazed me she wants a fresh sheet of paper so she goes to
the closed box on the window she saves her old drawing with a pop-up and she
goes to the pulldown to get a new one
well that was pretty and that was a home movie made by her father and we did
about another 10 hours of testing this child on various Macintosh applications
and we discovered it across applications she was about seventy percent literate
that is she could take a really complicated application like aldus pagemaker a desktop publishing
application started up make marks and it print the marks out save the marks away
get the marks back about seventy percent of the things that Macintosh users
expect from application to application she in her horizon already by age 22
months okay so that answers one question
about this notion a computer ously see
one when we're talking about situations
like literacy and illiteracy they don't really obtain when the object in
question is a professional that we don't
have a term called health orosi and ill-health orosi because medicine is a
profession there wasn't a term called literacy and illiteracy back in the
Middle Ages when writing was a profession as soon as you spread it out to the public you start getting
interested in these notions of can people access things made for them by
others that's like reading but what about the more important thing can
people make things that are like the things that other people make so here's
an example of something that we did about 15 years ago
and this is the logo turtle with a different architecture and it's a little
application like Mac draw object oriented illustration system designed
and built by 12 year old so this is an
end-user program not a program that you'd buy in a store for ninety-nine
dollars from egghead software has lots of features you can change size and move
things around because of the change in architecture of going from normal data
structure and procedure programming to object-oriented programming the amount
of code she had the right to do this application was only about a page long so this is not a large program and one
of the things that you have to do when you're working with any kind of novice user is make sure the programs they
write are not terribly long well so that
was an attempt to get kids and users to
be both able to access and able to
generate the same kinds of things that we're going to run on their paradigm of
computing but now we have a new paradigm of computing it's going to involve
agents and artificial intelligence so a
few years ago I got interested in the idea of trying to set up a design a
system that would allow children to do artificial intelligence kind of
programming in other words they would be making things now much less like robots
and much more like the gray Walter turtle things that mimic life in a
number of different ways I like to show you a bit of that project this project
is done in a rather large scale we have an entire school it has now 375 children
12 teachers and we've been working there for about five years and one of the
things that we found is that technology is not something that you can put in
like raisins and upon pudding there's
all this other stuff is the entire life of the child that you have to consider
and the framework of the school we're lucky to find a terrific school
to Los Angeles bussing school so it's a
public school and the children are all shapes sizes colors Creed's ethnic
backgrounds bust in most of them for more than an hour to get to the school
those of demographers paradise and we
found it very interesting to introduce ideas into the school in a gradual
fashion I'd like to show you some of those
so that the kids are all kinds of kids
and one of the things they've done here is to tear up part of their asphalt
playground and build a garden this
garden was actually designed by the children you'll see a little bit you'll get an idea of how children could design
something like this in in just a minute
and because we're studying animals as
well as plants they have a pond that has
all kinds of life forms and the children actually built this garden themselves
now I'm not going to explain to you what's going on here see if you can
imagine what it is now I'll tell you in a bit what are they doing with these
balloons well what they were doing is designing a city and one of the reasons
we do some of the design work with balloons is because urban renewal is
really easy the idea of to know the
world one was constructed because is strongly tied into designing a
programming environment for children because what we wanted to do is not so
much experience things that other people have set up to be more like experiencing
a television program or maybe an interactive video disc we want them to
actually make the simulations themselves because it's in making the simulations
that the active design is most powerful
now next few minutes I'm going to show you three large-scale projects that
we've been doing at the school one of
the things we tried to do here was to both challenge the kids and to go much
deeper than they ordinarily are asked to go by the state educational board this
first one is a year-long project in city building and
the kids that participate in it our third and fourth graders so there are
seven and eight and nine years old in
this project starts in September and runs through the entire year and this
will give you an idea of it I think this
is all almost all no no mrs. hansal tool
I know but they still are everything explored of it everybody say I know but
they're already something you should make something is already Salinas joris
the penis is already something every single after everything this is only
styrofoam nobody lady out of something I
know every as late as something accident
from a balloon doesn't mean we don't have a design knowledge now to make
buildings exactly like they would have to make it a hundred years we're making
models ideas for what buildings could be
like in a hundred years we don't have the materials we're going to happen 100 years I did red stripes right
okay did you get that color name red red
what do you belviq i'm doing a factory
wait do it again and stay here and do
the character park you'll be the building y'all be the building yes why
on the prison and he's the building these the buildings okay welcome to
fantasy mall we have lots of stuff the
building collapsed he was trying to see the moon and there nothing collapsed my
apartment building and on the top is a
swimming pool never got this is a cold day in rainier so you can have an indoor
central and it's a hot you open it up and you can I here down here tomorrow
he'll be our future city is opening as you can see i'll transfer k our monorail
has just been strong
and all the buildings are beginning to look like buildings all the buildings
are being checked and painting now our
he cannot pick up the site husband useful because of the monorail and
transportation we now have these things on our site everybody that wants bad air
transportation land on your site must cabinet right Iggy foxes out
Commissioner tova cats design this whole
monorail see what household monorail and monorail station the Commissioner of
lands who doesn't exhaust you all for helping us with sidewalks these are my
sidewalks my bold earthquake tested and
alarming teleporting man he puts ebook
paper towel rolls on our site static patella to have it be a teleporting
station their cities he's getting to look like a real City try getting to
look like Judy Landers on the monorail calvada getting to Los Angeles cuz of
the help crowd is starting today less
crowded than it was when we were making our study models
I level or I level 1 inch tall but will
question building so that's a very okay
as see more I'm sure will echo when when you actually go into a school and start
working with the kids the first reaction is one of shock because the enormity of
the experience the amount of energy the amount of body learning that the kids
need to do completely dominates all the things that you wanted to do with
computers and the first thing you realize when you actually go into school
and do this stuff for real is that you better worry about curriculum far
outside the media that you're going to use because there's so many different
dimensions and this is a project in which most of the things that are
available on computers now are of almost no use the kids do a little bit of work
with Macintoshes in doing this but 99%
of it is this huge experience with doing
things with their hands and their bodies and crawling over the thing and so forth
so one of the objectives in this project
was to develop I don't want to say the word peach but develop every child as a
designer and it takes about three years
to get a curriculum like this self-sustaining so people who put try to
put curriculum in a school and measure it after the first year are making a big
mistake takes about three years to get something like this going and
self-sustaining now another thing we started about four years ago was to develop every child in the school as a
musician you may see some commonality
between those two ideas because music is
another one of these things that has lots of things interacting with itself
part of it is in the interest and what each individual thing is doing and part
of the interest is and how they interact we want the kids to be able to think about their world in those terms and so
we did each year we put on a musical
this year it was pirates of penzance and
this was the best one that we've ever ever had i have a few excerpts of it to
give you an idea the the oldest child in this is 11 the youngest child in it is 6
was completely voluntary the pool of children we had to work with for this
was about 150 children 120 of those 150
possible volunteered and appeared in the show they insisted i'm doing the entire
Pirates of Penzance line for line we
started off with one that was broken down they constantly wanted more we
wanted to go back they insisted in singing in four-part harmony where it was called for this is a perfect example
of something that the kids worked like dogs for four months on and put on a
fantastic show one of the best theatrical presentations I've ever been to hear some of excerpts
what I know what is it I met along and
revelry but I can talk site I'm now the
run home from a shadowy one such affairs are sorties and surprises I more wary ax
and when it opens Leslie what is meant
by common their progress has been made
it modern gunnery on the object another
in a nunnery in short one of smattering
of elemental strategy
I'm telling a Terry story but it doesn't
although our darker rear sometimes involves the crime of stealing squealing
although my stripe we're always sorry to
you may go Liberty our pirate rules protecting and kind of remembers our van
we do unless you are you x is as useful
things to be an orphan boy
oh happy days
oh happy day
oh happy
me I you haha
so Joe Johnson said about thinking on
its hind legs well but one is amazed to
see it done at all and the trick in doing these kinds of things with kids is to get beyond that stage the only way
you can do it is by having something like music being a part of the child's
life all the way through their experience this is the first year in
which we all the children in it had been part of this enrichment now that's the
second way of dealing with complexity let me show you the third way and this
is because the computer some good and
here are we studying animals and we try and get the children to program not
robots but things that are much more biologically acceptable
now you might wonder where are the computers in this classroom well one of
the problems with these computers is that they're bulky so we took every
horizontal surfaces in the entire school out and replace them with tables that
have Macintoshes under them so there are hundreds of Macintoshes in the school
but they're all underneath the surfaces so the teachers don't want to move them
out of the classroom the teachers don't want to shove them around to the side they're just part of the normal working
environment of the school and they're on all the time no computer classrooms no
shoved against the wall
guys these are some animations we did a
few years ago and HyperCard just as an idea of what things might look like
eventually there's no intelligence behind these models hey guys i am going
for a swim in the scene
if you're asking for every player has agent needs food and the whale come up
the way I also have some Asian food all right let me tell you why because when
the agent looks in his world what we're
seeing here is a they have seminars where they talk over different problem
solving strategies the teacher this particular teacher happens to like to
solve problems and she likes to discuss them with the kids then the kids have to
go off and figure it out for themselves it doesn't look at himself it looks at
the world beyond him so that's why it
only looks at those players who have food but it doesn't count himself but if
he asked for every player in the universe it would include himself and
this is kind of important for you to think about because when he when they
have to start giving birth to eat to themselves so they won't die off they
have to be able to count everything in the universe why Dean Cain
50 count how many there are like if
there was only one left in was himself competative journalist and then he left
bar and then he got true protein what's
my friend it was a whale who lived to know Jay just off the Pacific coast it
is the time of year when the whales migrate down to Mexico to me and to give
birth to their babies who were conceived the year before I do that you don't want
emotion thank you okay go to the top
works with those two on and I move away
now here's a more complicated one these these models use the Minsky and Papert
Society of mind architecture applied in
a language for children that was developed in part here at the Media Lab by Mike Travers one of the graduate
students here's a more complicated one the clownfish in the lower left is just
going about its business feeding one of the things that they do is to find a
favorite see an enemy and acclimate to it that's what it's doing now they spend
a little more time in the monks to poison of the enemy and gradually get
immune to it so that they can use it as a place to hide when some predator comes
a lot the shark right now is quite a distance away and it doesn't notice the
clownfish and the clownfish doesn't notice it
here's some more acclamation closer into the tentacles this time
now this lucky clownfish is been doing
it often enough so it is actually acclimated to the anenih me so when the
shark sees it and starts pursuing its
able to run back to the enemy and the shark can only get so close to the enemy
report backs off but of course it wants
to come back again
so computers are media to think with as
Seymour said so eloquently a long time ago in Nicholas's book 20 years ago he
said he dedicated it to the first machine who can appreciate the gesture
and I think he meant not the gesture like this but the gesture of having a
book dedicated to it he also said in the
preface of it that it was all beginnings in no end well I think that's the perfect definition of a research lab a
my answer to the question of what is the
next computer revolution it's the one in
which happens in the context of the
whole person and in the whole person's world that it's not just something that
we apply in isolation to solve small problems but it's one that like media
surrounds us as we've tried to do with the children thank you very much and
happy 5th birthday ok