Alan Kay at Marshall McLuhan Lecture (2003)

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well first of all we welcome all of you to the Marshall McLuhan lecture this is
the first year that's held at new school University we're very enthusiastic about it being held here our Media Studies
program was started in 1975 who was
inspired by Marshall McLuhan and his
teachings and his writings it is quite appropriate that this university that's
tried at its best to provide a forum for visionary thinkers to be a home for this
lecture series and to welcome Alan Kay who is one of the station's most
preeminent visionaries to speak to all of us this evening my task is now completed which was to
welcome you here in the first place and now to do my second mission which is to
say that it is a pleasure to be co-hosting this event with the Canadian
consul general who I will now welcome this podium please welcome Consul
General Michael Phillips [Applause]
it's my turn to say how delighted we are to be collaborating with the new school
and organizing this lecture now this is
the fourth year that this annual lecture is is being held but the end but it's
first time that's being held with the new school we're very grateful for the
enthusiastic involvement of the new school and also grateful that the new
school has lent its and prestige to to
honoring Marshall McLuhan the McLuhan lecture is a cornerstone of the
consulates yearly program called the upper north side get it to celebrate
Canadian achievement the lecture of
course is a yearly celebration of the intellectual heritage of our legendary
Canadian media visionary our aim is to
draw on contemporary innovative thinkers from many disciplines to stimulate
thought about how Marshall McLuhan's ideas continue to influence the global
village his very his ideas are very much with us today of course the only the
other day I saw an article in The New York Times discussing the tribute and
light near the World Trade Center and it
referred to McLuhan's idea that light is a pure communication medium on behalf of
the consulate I want to thank dr. kay for agreeing to this lecture the first
he's following in the footsteps of Tom Wolfe camille paglia
and Jerry Brown and I also want to thank
Terry McLuhan the daughter of Marshall McLuhan who's here tonight for her
helpful support she brings insights as
only a member of his family could thank you too
my my job is now finished now called dr.
Wilder Thank You president Kerry and
council Phillips in a book by Michael
Hiltzik called dealers of lightning which Alan Kay actually coins a title to
it about Xerox Palo Alto Research Center or Park as it's known in the trade the
chapter about Alan Kay is titled not your normal person more than anyone else
at the core of the computer revolution Alan consistently dared to be different
he dared to be ridiculed and eventually
he dared to be great the day that he was interviewed it's reported for his job at
Parc he was asked what do you think your greatest achievement will be at Parc
it'll be the personal computer he replied what's that once at Parc perhaps Alan's
quirkiest habit of many but was carrying around this contraption about so yeah
big that he called the Dynabook sometimes the mini-com or the kitty comm
it went by different names but generally that's called the Dynabook and for anybody who would listen he would flip
it open and say well here will be the flat panel display in the keyboard and
you'll have all your music and mail and films and everything right in here now
people would smile indulgently but he
never backed down from his vision and as we know the rest is history
not only did Allan have the idea of the personal computer but moreover he had
the idea of the interface that would make it usable for real people he and
his colleagues did a great deal of their research and still do with children
knowing that while adults will put up with almost anything they have to look
at windows for instance
he wrote if the medium is the message
then the message for children of low-bandwidth time-sharing is bla they
simply won't pay attention now I'm proud to say that at the age of about six my
daughter in the early 1970s was one of Alan's pioneering kid researchers that
parkour every Saturday she would go over there where Park employees would gather
it seemed like it was in a basement somewhere between mr. wizard and Mister
Rogers in this setup and and and these kids would do mysterious things all
morning so I called my daughter last night and said what were you doing I know it's a Saturday morning she said
well it was before there were mice was sort of like it was before dinosaurs
when dinosaurs ruled the earth so we had big turtles on the floor and we could
use the computer to make them move around and draw things so I guess instead of mice you know turtles we now
have mice so I guess I'd rather have turtles but in any case as you can read
in your program subsequently after the dazzling years at Parc Allan went on to
become chief scientist at Atari a fellow at Apple Computer of VP of research and
development at Disney and he's currently president of viewpoints Research
Institute still working on the cutting edge still working with children
he's garnered many many awards and and
memberships and all the rest Academy kinds of memberships but one thing you
may not know about is and he's one of the most professional amateur pipe
Organists you will ever you will ever meet Alan has spent his life promoting
the notion that the computer is a means and not an end
quoted in Hill six book he said he told
me today there was a better book about this but people get trapped into
thinking that anything in the environment is to be taken as a given
it's part of the way our nervous system works but it's dangerous to take it as a
given because then it controls you rather than the other way around
that's McLuhan insight he wrote one of
the bigger ones of the 20th century and on that note it is my great pleasure
to present this year's Marshall McLuhan lecture dr. Alan Kay
thank you it's a real pleasure to be invited here and I brought a few toys
along too to help with the talk but I'm
reminded by this this lecture of a story
that I that my old friend Neil postman told me Neil and his friend Charlie wine
gardener actually followed McLuhan around when they were students and they
said McLuhan was a really dynamic lecturer but he never answered questions
he was asked every time somebody had asked him a question he'd stop for a
second he'd say well how about this idea and somebody asked him a question about
that and he'd stop for a second you say well how about this idea so Marshall
McLuhan was a generator of ideas and
although I've never had the pleasure of being at one of his talks I presume that
they just started and he went through
one idea after another probably on somewhat similar to Buckminster Fuller
and then at some point the talk stopped
and that was the end of that flow I of ideas for that for the evening now in
this talk tonight I actually made up a beginning middle and end but we may
never get to the end and I think that's fine my talk actually starts with this
book how many people remember this
little paperback book here this is the one original one I had this is now
yellowed and I was an undergraduate at
the University of Colorado when I first tried to read this book and I actually
couldn't understand it and it was my I
read many books every year understood most of them but I couldn't understand
this book but I didn't think anything of
it because there's a wonderful saying that Leon Lederman the Nobel
prize-winning physicist once gave an advice to readers of one of his books
which is if you don't understand it don't worry just keep on reading and the
next time you see these ideas they'll be hauntingly familiar so my my majors in
college were mathematics and I had another one in molecular biology and the
year after I failed to read understanding media this wonderful book
came out by Jim Watson the co-discoverer
of the structure of DNA and it was mostly about tiny little bacteria that
exists in our gut ecoli and I was
fascinated because I was working also working my way through school as a
systems programmer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research so I'd
been programming for about four years by
this time and molecular biology the gene
was the first book that started really talking about the fundamentals of life
as though there are a new kind of mechanism not the kind of mechanisms we
associate with meshing gears and clockwork and the normal mundane
machines that we build but a new way of
propagating effects around complicated structures and I was fascinated to find
out just what kinds of things are inside this tiny little bacterium and I knew
that the cells in our body are about 2,000 times as large so we're a nee coli
has about five million proteins cell in our body has about 60 billion proteins
large molecules that do work and so in
any kind of computer terms even a single cell in our body was far
beyond all of the computers that existed on earth back then and I also happen to
know that our thumb joints have about a
billion of these cells and in fact your
thumb you'll never forget this now next
time you look at your thumb you'll remember forever that it's about a
thousand cells wide so it's almost
within the limit of being able to see those cells so it's about a thousand
cells by 1,200 cells by about 800 cells hi and Jim Watson like all of us has
about a hundred trillion of these cells in their body that has a lot of cells
each one of them was 60 billion proteins and here's the most interesting thing
that the atoms in our body don't persist
so even in our bones which we think of as being rather permanent all of the
atoms in our body are recycled about once every seven years think about that
for a second the blood set the red blood cells we have are recycled about every
hundred days large parts of our body
mass are recycled every few weeks and so
if you look at it if you ask what is a human being from the standpoint of
molecular biology we're actually a pattern we actually move through space
sucking up energy and matter
reformulating that into us continuously and leaving less organized stuff behind
us as we move through time and space and so we persist as well as we do for our
seven or eight or nine decades on this planet because we're constantly
rebuilding ourselves every second of every day
what does this have to do with this talk
well it it's a new kind of context and this talk is all about context so when I
went to graduate school the computers
were enormous on the outside and tiny on the inside and programming was actually
a lot like making a clock with gears so
the programs were small you could do precision work on small programs and you
could get them to run but what was happening at that very same time was a
kind of expansion that we're still in
the middle of today so the invention of computer graphics by heavens Sutherland
the invention I think of personal
computing even though I made up the term I always think of when I think of
personal computing I think of these two images here's Ivan sitting in front of
display screen doing interactive computer graphics in 1962 here's
Engelbart in the mid-60s actually doing
the kind of networked computing we wish we could do today
and here's West Clark with one of the
first computers that where the human was higher than it was in fact one of his
design goals was if you put it on a table and you sat down to it your head
would be higher than it so he didn't like to have the idea of computers
looming over you and so these three images were kind of the proto images of
personal computing and right around then
Gordon Moore's law which I think everybody has heard of in this room which is the prediction that all good
things in silicon were going to double
somewhere between every year and every two years and he made a thirty-year
prediction and that prediction was quite accurate so the doubling period for the
last 30 or 35 years now has been about
18 months and many other technologies that have doubled faster than that then
finally the graduate school I went to as part of the ARPA Research community
which was about 17 places some of them
universities some of them companies that have been funded in the public domain by
the Department of Defense to essentially invent computing and one of the
inventions that had was in the wind and
was the ARPANET which is what we call the Internet today and so as a graduate
student there one of the things that we
were told that we had to do besides work on our thesis was to figure out how we
could make a computer network that could have more than a billion nodes and yet
never break and of course I started
thinking of biological organisms because we don't have the same 300 or 400
million nodes on the internet as we did ten years ago but the Internet has that
never stopped and so what's happened is the Internet is I believe the only
artifact of humans that we know of in history that has
replaced all of its atoms and all of its bits at least twice now since it first
started working in 1969 and has never
had to be stopped so this is a new kind
of machine context the only the closest
thing to it may be the record holder could be the United States of America
which if you think of it as a system run
by the Constitution as its operating system has had this wonderful property
of being able to renew itself over and over again generation after generation
and has never failed completely has had
some disastrous chapters but is
basically held together and the system has prospered so all of these things got
me thinking about computing and I came up with a an idea that today is called
object-oriented programming in which
every little software thing that you
make things out of is kind of like a biological cell and you can control the
cells the cells are computing in parallel you can map them onto a vast
worldwide network or you can have millions of them inside of a single
machine and with that we thought we could do some nifty things like make a
desktop computer and this is the first
personal computer I made we we called it
a personal computer at uni and this is a picture of it on its own display so you
can sort of see what it looked like kind of modern for 1967 it had a tablet for
drawing into and multiple windows and a
start of a graphical user interface and an object-oriented operating system
and there was a pseudo semi professor at
Utah his name was Bob Barton and he was
there under duress he he was the world's greatest computer designer and was a
friend of the head of the department and he'd been talked out of out of industry
basically to spend a couple of years as a professor at the University of Utah and he didn't really like graduate
students he was a very mysterious character this is this isn't actually a
photograph of him I believe he's never been photographed so in order to depict
him I I found somebody on the net that
that looked kind of like him and then blurred
and he was really grumpy and the worst
thing was he didn't he wouldn't talk to the graduate students so I really wanted
to talk to him so I went and visited his
home and talked to his wife and I got a
few things out of her but the main thing I found out was that he liked McLuhan and so I made my project the summer of
67 that by god I was going to read and
be able to talk to this guy about understanding media so this time I try
to not quite a frontal attack I found the Gutenberg galaxy which may
be Marshall McLuhan's greatest book many
ways of thinking about it it's a fantastic book and through that I got a
much stronger idea of what McLuhan was talking about and that allowed me to
then reread understanding media and when I understood what McLuhan was talking
about in understanding media just blew my mind um having read the book a couple
of times since then I believe only half the things in it are true but if you
consider the area that Marshall McLuhan was working in a 500 batting average is
incredible because and so reading the
reading the book is an interesting challenge you have to read it in it in
the way every book should be read but really are which is to try and sift
through every statement and try and understand whether you know the
hyperbole was tuned into something
divine or was just a reverberation and I
believe that these books are the most among the most valuable books written in
the 20th century
now here's a quote I really love and an
interesting thing about this quote is I'm sure it was by McLuhan I think I
might have heard it from Neil postman it has various attributions people have
used this quote quite a bit if you look on the web there are various
attributions to it I have not been able to find this quote myself and any
written work of Marshall McLuhan so if somebody knows where this quote is I
would really love to track it down but
on the other hand you know this is like somebody once said if there weren't a
God we'd be forced to invent one and so
this is one of these quotes that if Marshall McLuhan didn't make it up so
what it's a perfect McLuhan type quote and it represents one of his main ideas
which is that the context which is what's really important in our life is
essentially invisible we're the fish and this pink water that it's swimming
around and isn't is something that the fish is not strongly aware of and once I
understood a bit about what McLuhan was saying it reminded me of a model of
creativity that Arthur Kessler had done in the act of creation also in the
mid-60s and I've colored it to make it
sink up with McLuhan idea so Kessler said yeah human thought is
kind of like a plane and with an ant
wandering around on it and the ant can have the illusion that it's making
progress that it's choosing goals and directions that it's solving problems
getting around obstacles but in fact everything the ant does is pink but
every once in a while and there might be a little blue outlaw idea but
we've all been to school we've got parents we go to church we live in a
culture so there's a lot of mechanisms
for doing this Chris flat in action as we'll see in a minute the kersplat is a
wonderful first order idea because most ideas are mediocre down to bad so you
absolutely want to have our kersplat and the reason that Chris flat has built
into us and into our culture is because most of the 80,000 years humans have
been around we have been a subsistence society and a subsistence society has to
be very careful about the experiments it makes so if you're living on the edge of
disaster finding out how your culture has learned how to live in this very
chancy way of doing things and then committing to it wholeheartedly is
actually a very good first order strategy it turns out it's a terrible second order strategy and it's part of a
large collection of strategies in which the first order strategy and the second
order strategy are both true but opposite but every once in a while when
you're waking up in the morning or out for a jog or taking a shower instead of
raucous splat you get a Kirpal how many people here have had a Kirpal so just
just to help you the technical term for a kerpow is holy shit
and how many people have had her Kirpal
okay seems to come from the heavens we
aren't aware of how we arrived at this Kirpal and in fact in the old days when
people had your pals they went out and started religions on the basis of it
only sometimes was this a good idea because like all ideas their pals
themselves are usually mediocre down to bad but they have this epiphany epifanov
feeling attached to them that makes them seems so true so perfect so apt so much
from God now today what we need to do
with when we have ideas like this is to use some of the methods of science to
try and deal with this new insight and
Cussler had a very interesting side comment they point out that the
emotional reaction connection connected
with the kur powers range from laughter to the ah-ha of science to the long
drawn-out sigh of art and so because he
pointed out that a joke is an example of
an act of creation where the purpose of the joke is to leave you lead you down
the pink pathway and then suddenly reveal it's about something blue and you
have this emotional explosion in science the AHA is often accompanied by laughter
and I wonder if anybody would be willing to I can barely see you out there but I
wonder if anybody has an idea about why scientists laugh when they make a discovery be so much more effective if
somebody in the audience volunteered anybody just hi
what's funny about it
yeah and it's I mean basically the ways scientists think about is the universe
just because they had an insight doesn't mean the universe suddenly changed to be
in accord with that insight and it was
always there that's what's cool about it
so science is all about dealing with stuff that's right in front of our noses
except we can't see it and this long drawn-out sigh about art Kessler pointed
out was that one of the great functions of art specially high art is to remind
us that there are other contexts because we basically pull into simple little
goldfish bowls for efficiency and we
need something to constantly remind us that there's a lot more perspectives on
ideas and then of course the last thing
is is that it really helps to have a lot of different kinds of knowledge because
then that gives you a way of colliding contexts that are normally not thought
to have any overlap at all and for the learning stuff that I've been interested
in for so long the kicker for most modern knowledge most knowledge that
happened after 1600 generally requires
an enormous amount of effort on the learner to understand it as indeed does
McLuhan stuff because the greater the
invention the weirder the discovery the
more effort the learner has to make in order to escape from the air pink plane
into the blue plane of the particular idea so I got one of these huge ones
when I visited Seymour Papert
he had been working with children he here's one of the first Turtles he had
papper it was a mathematician who'd spent five years with Piaget in
Switzerland and he had come up with an
incredible idea and we'll see how it's related
in a second so he had a turtle that could roll around on the floor and he
had one on the screen and so to get a child to write a little program to draw
a circle with with the turtle seamer
would have the child acted out with his body close his eyes move his body in a
circle and then ask the child what are you doing the child said I'm going a little and turning a little over and
over and if you type that into logo here
forward five is going a little right five as turning a little repeat is over
and over and if you say let's do that
then this turtle with its pen down draws
us a perfect circle without now you may
remember from school that you had to know something about x squared plus y
squared equals R squared in order to do this and there's none of that here this
is something that a six-year-old can do and the reason is that Patrick knew
mathematics and he was actually teaching children I was sitting there with
watching this with my jaw dropped he was actually teaching children the what is
called the differential geometry of vectors which happens to be the language
mathematical language that most of modern science is actually represented
in and I thought this was the greatest thing I'd ever seen
anybody use computers for because it could actually transcend all of the
algebra that normally is in the way in learning ideas like calculus and bring
it home to being a toy the children
didn't even know they were learning mathematics they were just playing with this turtle so on the flight back to
Utah I started thinking man forget about
that desktop machine we have to do a children's computer and this is what
Carroll was referring to as I made this cardboard model when I get back back to
Utah about what this machine should look
like and I knew this machine was possible because of Moore's law
so the interesting thing about being a prophet back then is it was easy if you
just paid attention to physics and people who understood physics so Gordon
Moore was a solid-state physicist and he
backed up his Moore's Law assertion the problem was that most most people
especially most business people did not understand his arguments and so they
were consistently wrong about computing for more than 30 years in fact still are
but if you actually follow this stuff you could plot out in time exactly when
you could build a machine like this they were already flat screen display so this
I don't think of this as much of a prediction but it was a great focuser of
romantic zeal because this is a very romantic thing the idea of children of
11 and 12 learning advanced physics by
programming up their own space wargames so they could play but basically in
using this notion of being in a world where math actually was a language that
made sense to talk was something that just completely gripped my imagination
or reminding me of musical instruments and so I thought of this Dynabook as an
instrument whose music is ideas and then
I realized that I might very well be dead by the time the computer has ever
used this way because if you look at the history of printing you have manuscripts
you have the printing press imitating the manuscripts as McLuhan pointed out
you have the Aldous books about 50 years
later cheap books that you could put in a saddlebag but the real printing
revolution trailed by more than a hundred years really started in the 17th
century to produce what we call modern
thought it's true there are important things deadly things life concerning
things in the 16th century like the Reformation the Reformation was an
attempt to and deal with problems that were of
great concern back here from the 17th century on the way reforms and so forth
were looked at was in a completely different direction forward so I had
this image of there being these big expensive mainframes the inevitability
of the desktop computer and then this Elvis like notebook computer and that
all of us would be long gone by the time stodgy humanity got around to using the
computer for what was good for so we actually talked about how people were
going to use this thing for imitating paper for decades now we didn't think
they're gonna use it to imitate paper for three decades so there was no way we
could be as cynical as what has actually happened now let's talk for a second
about what we were interested in and I want to relate this to McLuhan's ideas
because in thinking about what was going
on the key thing for me was that McLuhan
said no matter what else you think you're paying attention to just try and
invert figure and ground and try and see if you can pit parcel out what the
actual context is that's invisible while
you're being distracted by all these things around and so the part of the
invisible context of the printing revolution was the regularity of it so
it actually the regular area of it actually changed the kind of argument that people thought they could write
about and it changed the argument from being allegorical which could survive
many different slips of monks pens and
even telling the monks telling the stories differently to something where
the very galleys that you proved as an author where
guaranteed to be replicated thousands and thousands of times so this changed everything about the way
we argued and it took a long time for that change but the change was probably
the biggest change in human history now what were we concerned about so looking
ahead you have to ask questions about what is the invisible context that
computers could provide that could actually be beneficial from for
humankind and you also have to ask questions about what is the invisible context they could provide that will be
anything but beneficial for us so one of
the things that concerned a lot of us back then was how easily fooled humans
had been over their entire history and especially to us in the 60s and the
early seventies we thought pathetically
fooled and so we're very concerned about this notion of being fooled now my
friend Betty Edwards have teaches drawing I think everybody is familiar
with her drawing on the right side of the brain books and she has a wonderful
thing she shows her class
on the first day of drawing class she points out that the reason they're
having trouble drawing is not because they can't move their arm they're having
trouble drawing because they are too
quickly perceiving something about the objects in front of them the perceptions
of what they are and the labelings of them are so acute and so fast that they
never get a chance to actually look at them and so one of the many examples she
shows in that first day is this one where she shows these two tables and
says so for example the size and the
shape of these two tabletops is exactly the same and her class says no that
can't be possible she does this with cardboard but since I have a computer
here so I'll take that tabletop put it
right down there and then I'll rotate it and this is not
a trick people have accused me of it but
in fact all of the table tops in this drawing were made from a single table
top shape I've shown this hundreds of
times it's one of my favorite examples and talks and I still can't see that
they're the same shape however if you're
curious about this the slide is not gonna be on long enough but the way to decide that they are is you take a
pencil and do just what artists do to avoid being fooled put your arm out
straight and measure and you'll see that
they're exactly the same so the Talmud says we see things not as
they are but as we are and I'd really like to know what happened to the person
who made that statement in the Talmud because if you take it to its logical
conclusion it has some unsettling right
so so here's the way science looks at
the world this is a toughy and I'm gonna
spend a little time at it because it's one of the most important insights in
human history as a it's very simple in
one sense but it's very subtle in another it has to do with admitting that
we have three pounds of oatmeal inside of our head rather than an exact
duplicate of the entire universe so once
you once you work and this is it this is a tough one because it seems like we do
have something about the universe inside of our head but it's actually just a
representation so it's like something
written down in a book and you can write down almost anything in a book and that
we're talking at lunch about this movie A Beautiful Mind which is a very bad
movie about John Nash and a really bad movie about math but it's a pretty good
movie about schizophrenia but they missed their chance to point out that
everybody all of us are everyday both
awake and sleeping are dealing with hallucinations because that is how we
see the world the difference between us and a schizophrenic is how verifiable
the hallucinations are and they're less verifiable when you're dreaming
schizophrenia in part is doing things
while you're awake that are quite reasonable and natural
while you're while you're dreaming so and scientists have this problem too
they also have three pounds of oatmeal inside their head and what they try and
do a couple of hours each day is to remember that so here's the way science
thinks about out here in the world where
we can't go is something
some sort of phenomena and we don't know what it's part structure is we don't
know anything they don't even know what their parts mean anything but what we do
get to experience is some vastly reduced
shadow of this phenomena and we can look
at it more closely with specialized instruments like microscopes and telescopes so for example and then what
we try and do is we try and make a model in our brains that casts the same kind
of shadow and in science the criticize
the criticizing of this model both
intrinsically and compared to the shadow done by the real phenomena is what's
called knowledge so science is a relationship it's not knowledge itself
it's a relationship between the difficulties we have or with
representing things and what's out there
in the in the world that we can't get to directly so it's a lot like making Maps so let's suppose this is gravity the
bunny out there is gravity and our hand
puppet here is Newton's theory of gravity and it's pretty good we still
use it for space shots we used it to land on the moon and a little over 100
years ago they noticed that I'm the real bunny it had a round tail and when they
looked over here on newton's theory there's this arm sticking out
see how funny science is and they
realized that was going to really be a difficult thing to get that arm out of
his hand puppet and so they floundered around for a
while finally Einstein came up with a completely different way of putting the
tail on the bunny but he knew that he
wasn't finding the truth about the real bunny out there he was just putting a
tail on it so one of his beautiful short
lines is you must learn to distinguish between what is true and what is real
and this is as good as any anything anybody's ever said about this because
what he meant is the stuff that can be true is stuff that we represent in
language so we can write things in
English that are true and we can write things in math that are true but they're
only true because they're hermetically sealed they're only about themselves
they're not about anything out there the
stuff that's real out there is a different category of things and he had a longer thing to say he said as far as
the laws of mathematics refer to reality if they are not certain and as far as
they are certain they do not refer to reality so the cool thing here is and
that I I think this is one of the coolest thing that's why science is one of the great art forms is by giving up
all conceptions of truth the absolute notions of truth we find in the Bible
and in Greek thought by giving up those
ideals for instance science admitting it
really can't get at the truth can nonetheless look at a 12 year old with
diabetes diagnosed it and actually create the molecules that this child
needs to live so no other belief system on earth can do that and it does it
because it's trying for something else what it's trying
or is a highly criticized abou map of
the best that we know of these shadows and that has worked out to be much much
more powerful than protestations about
ultimate and exact truths now a real
character that how many people in this room have ever read anything by Alfred
Korzybski count Alfred course--it well nobody knows
whether he is really account if you know about Alfred course of skating so he's
his great book which is oh I'll match
his if you want a book that's difficult to read I'll match science and sanity up
against this any day of the week but
this is a great statement he said one measure of sanity is how closely ones
and journal representations of the world really resemble the world and by this
measure humans are at least quite unsane so this is a very useful word we are all
unsane just like we are all hallucinating now here's a here's
another idea which is that math is
probably the most dangerous thing to get good at if you don't also get good at science if you remember Socrates is
complained about this office anybody
here remember what that was so remember
he's complained about the Sophists as the Sophists taught the youth of Athens
to be able to win arguments regardless of whether they are true so this office
are probably an early form of lawyer and
and in fact learning how to reason brilliantly in a hermetically sealed
system like language is one of the most dangerous things we could ever get to do
because we like to rationalize everything we do and the better we get
at rationalization the more dangerous we are so math desperately needs science
reasoning deficit desperately needs science which this reminder that we have to keep on
checking out reality to see whether our brilliant inferences actually have any
kind of currency in the in the real world math is useful though because it
is so precise that it gives you a way of thinking about things that are
unthinkable in English for instance no scientist worries about whether a photon
is a particle or a wave probably everybody here has seen discussions
about the paradoxes of quantum mechanics but you have to realize that two
scientists they aren't paradoxical at all because scientists think of them
entirely in terms of mathematics and there's nothing paradoxical about the
mathematics I once heard Steven Weinberg trying to explain this to an audience
and I'm not gonna go any further with it
anyway deep Zen so when you think about this
and you've gotten through understanding media all of a sudden the realization I
had anyway was gee Montessori is maybe the smartest people person I've ever
heard of connected with education certainly in this century because her
notion was that children are set up by nature to learn through play and what
you if you want them to learn the 20th century through play then you have to give them 20th century environments and
this seemed like the best idea I'd ever heard and so she spent 20 years
designing toys that were designed to be treated as toys by the children but that
she thought would have powerful cognitive side effects on their common
sense and so we can ask the question is what should these thinker toys be in the
21st century but along with Montessori we have to
realize that the important thing for children to learn in their earliest
years is not a stencil knowledge the way most schools try to teach them and try
to test them the most important thing is for the kids to learn the uncommon sense
the new epistemologies for the new ways of thinking that have appeared
just in the last few hundred years this is what education is failing miserably on beyond miserably totally backwards
from what's actually important and so you get thousands and millions of
stories of children who have been through years and years of school being
taught facts and tested on the facts not having any kind of foundation to hang
these ideas on so right around this time
was when I first met Neil postman through one of his earliest books
teaching as a subversive activity and he
was one of the first people people to actually start proposing that teachers
set up contexts and teachers not try and lecture and teachers not try and do this
and not try and do that but to actually
change the internal foundations of the way students think by getting them to
think so it Xerox PARC looking at ideas
for childhood development one of the
things we looked at was PJs stages in which in early childhood a child makes
things with their hands and learns by doing and then there's a visual stage
where the child thinks there's more water in the tall thin glass and so
forth and then a symbolic stage which towards the end of PJ's life he wrote an
essay for UNESCO where he he said in the
essay that he believed more than 90% of all Europeans never got to the stage
someone that was wonderful and we got
attracted to Gerry Bruner who had written this marvelous book called
towards the theory of instruction and Bruner had retested some of the Piaget
experiments and he discovered for example that he could get the child to change their mind on the water pouring
experiment by just blocking the tall thin glass or taking it away and he
could get the child to say yeah there's the same amount of water in the glass because where would
it you know where were the extra water come from if he couldn't see the tall
thin glass and he'd change over if he could see it and so Brynner had this
idea that oh there's actually multiple men multiple mentalities existing and at
any given time and in any given stage of development you have many ways about
thinking about the world that was you know why this was even controversial I
don't know but Gerry did the experiments
and his personality was forceful enough to get people to start thinking about combining these mentalities so for
example you can get a child who's theoretically in the visual thinking
stage and by blocking their view like Patrick did when he wanted the kids to
make a circle with their body you can get them to revert to a kinesthetic way
of thinking or even leap ahead to the
symbolic type thinking that children are not supposed to be able to do with that age so this to us was a very powerful
model and we thought boy what we want to do is really combine these three ways of
communicating and we made up a slogan called doing with images make symbols
that you're basically leading by grappling with things kinesthetically
your understanding by configuration and
you're generalizing using using symbols
so at Xerox PARC we use these ideas and
came up with a lot of the technology that used today some of it was quite an
improvement on its successors because
the commercial world actually didn't care about why many of these ideas were
were done so the the overlapping window interface was designed for children to
learn in the space of a few minutes because we had some hard things we
wanted to teach them one of the supreme irony is that Microsoft Windows now
requires training courses in order to learn
now through these inventions from Adele Goldbergs and my point of view we just
gone to a lot of work to make computers that we could actually take down to
schools to see what the kids are actually doing now here's one where I
think Marshall didn't go far enough he wasn't hyper Berlocq this is a great
statement children are the messages we send to the future but not really they
are the future what does he mean by
messages there's nobody there to listen to them except the children of today so
they actually are the future we're sending to the future and so we have to
be very very careful about the kind of environments that we put children in
because it's the environment the environments that are absorbed into this
context that we're not aware of so for example television is the worst thing
that ever happened to higher-level education and parents should treat it
like a box full of loaded guns or a liquor cabinet and simply not have it in
the house this is an almost impossible proposition to put before people today
but because television is an incredible teacher but as Neil postman has pointed
out it can't carry the discourse of the
20th 21st century it can only carry the sum of its discourse and it's fantastic
at that and it's so pervasive it has
this way of creating an entirely new world in which people accommodate -
without even realizing it we can use that as a strength and I want to give
you a little sense of what this might be like so we've come into the present now
let's take a look at how a child might
play and learn advanced mathematics and
then maybe a little science so this will be the last part of this this talk here
now when I use the word play when I'm giving talks in front of educators they
are very upset because they and most
parents don't think education should be fun after all they
didn't enjoy it and look how successful
they are but the thing you realize is
and Montessori realized this is that she knew artists and scientists and
mathematicians and every single one of these as an adult professional was
having fun we still use the term playing music if you talk to a mathematician why
do you do it it's fun it's playful so many of these things that are the
hardest and least successful at being taught in school are being taught
because they're being taught as some sort of catechism of some new religion
rather than being taught through play like Montessori wanted so let's take a
look here from the child's point of view now so from the child's point of view
what we say is okay what would you like
to do if you could do anything and we found one of the things that they like
to do is they'd like to learn how to drive a car so we say okay dry yourself
a little car that you'd like to learn
how to drive and by the way once you do
that as looked at from the top so right away this gets them into a different
perspective than they ever had almost no children have ever looked at a car from
the top so it takes them a while to think about what it might look like and
both boys and girls have the same interest in this they both want to learn
how to drive and both boys and girls put on big off-road tires these day
because remember the the why or why do children want to do things no child
eighty thousand years ago he wanted to learn advanced mathematics and we have
the same genes as we did eighty thousand years ago as far as we can tell so so I
say okay that's that's good here's my little car it's been made from a
painting into a thing I can do things to this thing I can make it larger and
smaller so it's kind of a graphical object I can rotate it I can look inside
of it and now we see an interesting contrast the child's world is the
hand-eye world over here and math many
parts of math is best handled through symbols symbols are not the way what
they like to think of this looks cold and forbidding over here this looks hot
and interesting so our job in the true Montessori style is to keep them playing
and gradually let them see what the power of these guys are so you can think
of this as being like a trip to math land if you take a child to France they're gonna be much more interested in
learning French than they are sitting out in the middle of Idaho somewhere
right and as papri pointed out a long
time ago that when a when a child doesn't do well in math the schools
frequently say well this child is not math minded but if a child doesn't do
well in French they can't say this child is not French minded and if there's any
analogy between those then what the children need is a math land okay so the
first thing we do is get them to rename this so everything is has to do with
this car that they have get them to look at a property here's one called heading
I'll press down on this and the little number there is counting up and you can
see the car turning and look look right over here while I turn the car by hand
alright so this is the name of this property of where the car is heading and
I can influence it by changing these numbers here here's a little behavior
car forward by five click on it
over and over again the car goes forward car turn by five still pretty dull but
if you pull this out and drop it on the
desktop there it makes a little script for you car four by five car turn by
five and let's just start it ticking now by clicking on the clock
there and all of a sudden what have we
got well we've actually got a logo
turtle with a pin on it and a costume on
top of it so all of a sudden the child
has made the first step into differential geometry here
okay so I'll get rid of this but of
course the child wants to steer the car
so turning this down to zero the car goes straight negative numbers makes it
go in the other direction but this is not very exciting
real cars our lips come back here real cars are actually steered of the
steering wheel so we say to the kids okay paint yourself a steering wheel
and the steering wheel is the same kind of thing as a car so this is like old time Lego you can make anything out of
this stuff look inside it let's call it steer here
and it's got a heading and what do you
think will happen if we pick up the name of its heading and drop it right into
car turn by here well now we can steer
the car and the kid has just learned about variables something by the way
that most adults in America do not understand yet but here the variable is
actually doing work by standing in for all the numbers that are flowing out of
the steering wheel now it happens that the steering wheel is too sensitive so
it's hard to steer the car and the kid starts complaining after about 20
seconds of joy and this gives us a
chance in the classroom to give the kids a little bit advice but let's suppose the kid is not in a classroom where the
teacher doesn't understand this or the parents don't understand that the kid is
home what is the child going to do the child needs to get some advice from
somebody and the child can actually come over here and find a kid somewhere on
the Internet might be 5,000 miles away in Germany like Tommy is here and ask
Tommy some questions and I've got Tommy on this other computer here link through
the internet and so Sam who's our main
guy over there opens the chat to Tommy and says hi Tommy
and over the Internet it goes and shows
up on Tommy's machine so Tommy says hi
Sam they dialogue mocking back and forth and
this actually has this actually has
voice chat so they can talk back and forth while they're doing stuff and so
the complaint is what's how can I steer my car and Tommy says once you share
your screen with me and so Sam says
share down here and this allows Tommy over here to five thousand miles away
look at Sam's screen notices something
adults would like to do because adults work together with each others and if
you notice both of the kids cursors are
in here in both screens here so I'm not gonna be on Tommy's machine I'm gonna go
over here on Sam here and say okay now look inside here
once you try dividing that number coming out of the steering wheel by something
like three and Sam comes over here and
says oh yeah that's much better
and suddenly Sam for the first time in his ten-year-old life understands what
divide is good for I think about this as
a mathematician I view it as somewhere between obscene and a crime to not teach
math with understanding because its greatest virtue is that it's completely
understandable and so trying to teach a
concept that isn't pragmatically in the child's world there's a very ugly thing
that schools do and then finally it
would be nice if mcloon were here to see all this finally Tommy says okay let's
play and he just dumps his car onto the shared space 5,000 miles later it shows
up on Sam's machine and because it was
sent running it shows up running and
they can interact simultaneously this is always tricky for me because I have to
watch to Mission seems at once but and any number of
children can can do this so and the last
thing of course is to go to full go to
full screen so I'm going to
now what I'm going to do here is I think
now is a good time to make an ending and
I think what I'm yeah so I think what I think what I'll do here is just skip
ahead a little bit so I put in a whole
bunch of things that I of course wanted to show you but let's end with this so
here a bunch of little cars bouncing
around and you could do a lot of things with these cars you can pretend they're gas particles you can learn something
about kinetic theory of heat let's suppose they're people in a village and
what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn all of them blue but leave one red
infected one I'm going to let that in fact all the rest people always root for
the last blue one
hard to see what happened there so I'll get a little graph over time so you see
not a lot started at the beginning there let's try it this with a different time
constant and for the kids you can just change the kind of time concept by changing the little village that they
infect in so you see that had a very different thing I just changed it by a
factor of two and the infection here
what worked like this now here's the interesting thing that aids has this
curve typhoid and cholera have this curve this is the human pee hole of
human common sense and imagination cannot see that AIDS is a problem the
time constant is too long it's outside of our ability to assume danger whereas
we can easily see a typhoid or a cholera epidemic as something that needs drastic
attention science is an imagination amplifier so a
lot of different ways of thinking about science and I don't think teaching
children science in vocational training is a very good idea
the reason to teach science is it's an imagination amplifier the best one we've
ever come up with and it allows us to understand a disaster before it happens
most of the world however doesn't have that imagination amplifier and so this
graph was nineteen mill this was nineteen million when I first took this
article out is now up to twenty more four million people who have died and
most of these people who have died have died unnecessarily because they and
their politicians could not see what aids was before it happened to them now
five hundred years ago about a hundred
years before the printing press a much more interesting situation
happened where the bubonic plague came in from China through Venice and into
Europe and all told about a quarter million of the world's population died
but the interesting number here is that the hundred million people who died from
bubonic plague is about the number of people who are going to die from AIDS
because in many many cases if the best
things that could be possibly done in the world today we're done still about a
hundred million total people would die now these pictures of bubonic plague
were taken by a camera because plague is still with us but it's not dangerous in
this widespread non understood way
here's an irony for people who like irony's as the causes where the same
kind of causes that ignorant people have us been assigning for thousands of years
it was Satan the Jews enemies pointing poisoning wells remedies herbs aromatic
woods praying why I was praying a bad memory remedy because it got everybody
together in churches where the fleas could jump from person to person more
efficiently so now the point of this is
that five hundred years ago everybody in the world was in the same state with regard to dangerous things like this but
today large parts of the world almost a
billion people in the world one-sixth of the world's population actually has
defenses against this and understandings of it and the rest of the world doesn't
so if we're looking ahead to what the
biggies are in the 21st century the population problem aids this shows how
many people are infected now so on the order of 40 million people are infected
as of two years ago
if you ask a biologist what's the biggest health problem in the world he'll say drinkable water most people
don't have it and more people die from bad water in the world and all of the
wars that are going on right now and all
of the disease education of women is the key to most of these if you're looking
for a cause this is it and every single
one of these things can only be changed
by letting McLuhan be a presence to
remind us that it's not the things that
seem apparent to us that are the biggest problems it is the context that we
consistently overlook when we trying to
think about our problems so to invert our ways of looking at
things and look at context is the greatest gift that McLuhan gave us Thank
You Marshall and thanks all of you for coming
so questions yes
yes this this program which does lots
more is actually a 21st century version of the stuff we did at Xerox PARC
and it's free we gave it away to the
world starting about starting a 96 and
there are two sites if you're a hacker go to squeak it's called squeak go to
squeaked org and if you're a parent or
an educator go to squeak land dot org
yes not many
bill bill is enthusiastic but I don't
think that essay has a lot worthwhile to
be said in it actually yes
no I'm saying that the if you want to train the intellect you have to change
the heuristics that we use for dealing with knowledge we don't completely
understand so for example in after
Sputnik there was a lot of interest as
there is today and whether children are learning any modern knowledge so one of
the things they did after back then was to go to higher learning places like MIT
and Harvard and they discovered that if they took students who got straight A's
in science and asked them science
questions that they hadn't explicitly studied that their ability to answer
them was roughly the same as it would have been 40,000 years ago so in other
words they they were learning science in English but they were not learning any
deep ideas about how to think about the world this is generally true this is one
of the frightening things about the way we teach knowledge so the fact I have a
little video of it that shows
Harvard look to graduate some simple
questions in astronomy to test how a
lifetime of education affects our understanding of science we ask these
recent graduates some simple questions in astronomy consider for example that
the causes of the seasons is a topic taught in every standard curriculum okay
I think the seasons happens because as the earth travels around the Sun it gets
nearer to the Sun which produces warmer weather and gets farther away which
produces colder weather and thence and hence the seasons how hot it is or how
cold it is in any given time of the year has to do with the the closeness of the
earth to the Sun during the seasonal periods the earth goes around the Sun
and and it gets hotter when we get closer to the Sun and it gets colder
when we get further away from the Sun these graduates like many of us think of
the Earth's orbit as a highly exaggerated ellipse even though the Earth's orbit is very nearly circular
with distance producing virtually no effect on the seasons we carry with us
the strong incorrect belief that changing distance is responsible for the
seasons I took physics and planetary
motion and relativity electromagnetism waves I've never really had a scientific
background whatsoever and I and I got through school without having it I've gotten very far without having it I had
quite a bit of science in high school yeah through physics want first year in
two years of chemistry regardless of their science education 21 of the 23
randomly selected students faculty and alumni of Harvard University revealed
misconceptions when asked to explain either the seasons or the phases of the
Moon when it's further away from the Sun then it gets colder the earth
position interferes with the reflection of the Sun against the moon so there's
quite a bit more of this so this is this
is a part of a series called private universe you can type private a universe into
Google and you can get these video tapes
I think we can see that the real curriculum at Harvard must be confidence 101 because there's no way any of these
kids adults we're going to admit that they didn't know or couldn't remember
that it all been taught it I wanted one
interesting omission that in NSF made is there's an obvious next question to ask
anybody got a night what what question would you want to ask these kids is the
very next question yes exactly so so
what do you what he said is ask them about the southern hemisphere and that's
what I two weeks later I was giving a talk at UCLA and I found that the
audience was mostly seniors are going to be graduating and so I took about thirty
of them outside and went through these two questions and I I did ask the second
question which is to the ones you thought the proximity the proximity theory didn't have anything to do with
what they thought about the Earth's orbit it was actually the common sense
idea that as you get closer to a fire it gets hotter and as you get further away it gets so this is something it's almost
built into people's nervous system but it's a common-sense way of solving the
problem and of course I asked them well tell me this do you know you know when
it's summer up here in the northern hemisphere do you know what season it is in the southern hemisphere every single
one of the UCLA students knew it was winter and I believe by simple induction
that every one of the Harvard students knew it was winter I didn't know why
obviously but people tend to remember that because
it's odd and so they did remember that
and so every single one of these students that you saw here with
confusion about how this works was also
ignoring something that they had learned and knew and was unable to retrieve so
this problem was not a science problem at all the first problem was a kind of a math
problem they couldn't retrieve contradictory knowledge even though it's
indexed using the same terms and use it in their own theory I said they tried to
bullshit their way through and so so the
key thing if you want to teach science if you actually study a scientist and
try and understand what makes a difference about what how the scientist
does that scientists amongst a group of these Harvard kids probably didn't get
any higher grades in physics because
Harvard might not teach on real science but the difference between the
scientists and science type kid and the rest of the kids is the science type kid
can answer all manner of questions in the way any scientist would answer
including I don't know or I know how to find out or it's probably like this or
there's a whole set of rhetoric that goes along with the person who's
thinking that way these kids are not thinking that way so so they fail and
basically that would even be okay with me except that the the deep ideas about
how our country works are actually outside of the common sense of humanity
right let's just take a simple idea that does not appear in any traditional
society that we have ever known about on earth how about equal rights do you
think that's burned into our genes no way somebody had to invent that idea and
it's an idea that we try and learn and
teach and we're still not that good at it but it's an abstraction that's part
of this artificial structure we call civilization if you think about it civilization is a bunch of hard-won
inventions that go against normal human nature right let's not have
war let's not have crime let's let's not do this let's not do that let's not
discriminate let's let's be a different kind of person than people have been for
the last hundred thousand years that is an incredible thing and in order to get
it you have to get beyond normal common
sense or else you know you're on tenterhooks it's like being thrust out
on a pond on skates and not being able to skate yes yeah one of the earliest
ones I had was an encounter with a vacuum cleaner when I was about I think
10 or 11 my mother was truly wonderful
about letting me take things apart and I
cannot remember why I took apart the vacuum cleaner but I did and what was in
there wasn't what I thought was in there and I remember struggling with I don't
know what I said then because there's a vernacular of today that has worked its
way into this story right so I didn't I didn't say this but basically what I
said was vacuums don't suck because all
is in the all is in there as a fan and if you think about and the fan if you
look at the way the fan blades are set up they're bouncing air in one direction
and not in another and the direction
they're bouncing the air in is the exhaust of the thing where you have the
pressure coming out and so what the heck is hold your hand to the other end and I
suddenly realize there's if if there's no air molecules in there the only thing
you can be holding my hand there is air pressure from the outside
and I went holy shit and somebody my thought was wow the the air molecules
must be moving maybe as fast as a hundred miles an hour so when my father
came home my father was a physiologist
who and so I got him I said dad you know
the the air molecules might be moving as fast as 100 miles an hour so so so we
went and got one of his college physics books and looked it up and we discovered
that the every molecule in this room is traveling about 1,500 miles an hour and
so remember those scenes on movies when the somebody shoots the window out of a
plane everything gets sucked out they don't get sucked out they get blown out
because think about it as soon as the air pressure is out of the plane no
problem right so it's actually the air in the plane that is dangerous and
incredibly powerful and that absolutely blew my mom you know at 10 or 11 or so
just the realization that was exactly the opposite because vacuums by adults are always
talked about as sucking and no way they
don't and I think that was a that was a turning point for me when I suddenly the
world was totally upside down and then I
got used to it you know so I felt so by feeling about this new epistemology is
it's like when you go out in the ice and you can't skate so you're in worse shape
than you were when you're on land this is why most people go back to land but
the interesting thing about skating is if you get efficient at it it's incredibly more efficient than walking
and running and that's what science has been so if you can get past that awful
early stage it's like a violin is awful in the early stage and then it becomes
one of the greatest musical amplifiers that we've ever come up with for musical
impulse and so I think this is one of the dilemmas of model modern education
is that there is a real hump that often
has to do it because it's just at odds with everything that we believe in and
you somehow I have to get her get around that in one way or another and then once you
once you have gotten around a lot of other things become much easier so just
a couple of those hits so that for instance the San Francisco Exploratorium
was done by my friend Frank Oppenheimer who's the brother of Jay Robert Frank
was a physicist and he got a lot of flak
from the funders of the Exploratorium who would get they said we gave you
millions of dollars to make a science museum and you made a nosh pit because
if you ever been there it's just 500 exhibits and 2,000 children bouncing
around trying things out and and Frank said to them to the funders he said you
don't understand said the first thing you have to get to in order to do
science at all is to realize that the world is not as it seems and he said we
made 500 exhibits and each one teaches the world is not as it seems in its own
way and what we want to do is collide the right kid with the right exhibit so
they'll have that hit the world is not as it seems and once they've had a
couple of those they might start including that as their part of their
repertory of thinking about things then instead of just accepting things they might say well the world is not as it
seems let's maybe there's something behind the curtain so just the idea that
there is a curtain and that there's something behind it as one of the most
people take things on face value and they're taught to take things on face
value so for instance just the acceptance that you bring when you go to
a theatre beautiful looking people on
the stage music great words is exactly
the opposite of what you want to bring to it to a political rally but it's it's
held using exactly the same thing there's beautiful people on the stage
beautiful words and you want to be in the exact opposite posture when you go
to that political rally you want to be as mean and nasty and skeptical as you
can possibly be whereas in the theater you want to give yourself over to it so
if you we're talking about schizophrenia before so another metaphor that's nicer
than hallucination is that what we have in here is just a theater so we're
always presenting the world back to ourselves as a theatrical production
and that's the way the human mind works
and not only are we easy to fool we like to be fooled we go to shows to be fooled
and so politicians have easy time with us right so there's this thing of when
are you gonna be fooled when you're not going to be fooled I think is one of the most important simple ways of talking
about what I was talking tonight yes
well there we don't want them to learn about context when they're 10 we want to
give them a different context when they're 10 they can learn about context
later when they're in college and studying philosophy for young kids it's
not worth while explaining just what
you're doing to them when you're creating an educational thing basically
what you want to do is to have their
assumptions and their heuristics you know their ways of dealing with things
that they don't have strong knowledge about be different so when we watch you
know the way we assess children is to see how it because children are
basically at that at this age they're doers they're not philosophy so what we
do is to look to see how fluent they are just just as you would assess a child
musician so when you assess the child musician you don't worry about whether
they understand the theory of harmony because their brains aren't set up for
really understanding the theory of harmony but what you can assess is where are they in musical expression and how
do they think about music and you do it you don't ask them what they think
because there's that great quote talking
about music is like dancing about architecture
so so basically some musicians can talk
pretty deeply about music because they know what the words mean in English but
you can't talk very deeply about music to somebody who hasn't had a lot of
musical experiences because it's not clear what it's about same thing with
the physics that I was mentioning that the the language of nature as Galileo
pointed out as mathematics and so you just really can't talk about much
science without getting to the math and seeing what is actually being claimed by
science right so so for children our
belief is you just and this is a belief that Montessori I think was one of the
first to articulate was yeah don't worry don't worry about it if you can if you
can change the children's common sense into the uncommon sense that represents
these additions to thinking that the 21st 20th and 21st century have brought
with them you've done your job you don't have to worry about that child ever
again because they're going to be able to hang
this odd knowledge on trees that are
healthy see most scientists don't know even 1%
of their field so making lists of what
you should learn is it's complicated the
old theory of liberal education in the continent especially in England is if
you take four incompatible things and go deep on them simultaneously with some
mentoring you'll eventually get to the good stuff and it doesn't much matter which four things you pick because the
important thing is to get to the good stuff not not to worry about you know
whether it's yeah
well you don't because they just do it so the interesting thing it's like
Berlitz in the sense that what you don't do is
teach the children syntax and wait what you don't do is do this what they're
doing is talking this mathematical language to their little creations and
so they don't even know they don't even think of it as a language or anything
else but from their standpoint they're just making toys but in order to make
the toys they actually have to think in this new way and we can tell pretty
exactly how well they're thinking in this new way without ever bringing up the word math and without it because
just it's just a new thing for the kids it's like like Pokemon you know it's
just a new thing that they do if they like to do it if the play is good if if
they instead of going out to recess they like to stay in school during recess to
work on the stuff on their own if they want to take it home if they do projects
on their own it actually brought quite a few of them to show tonight but I got bogged down in
the in the front part of the talk but basically you can tell right away
whether the kids are doing real math or not and the whole point is the number
one thing you want the kids to be doing is real math regardless of what the math
is who cares when they're nine years old if they're doing real mathematical
thinking that's what you want because that's the context that's what most kids
never get to ever yes
huh well-read you know first I don't
know the answer to that but in my own life looking back on it was pretty
interesting that I loved kindergarten and I loved graduate school and then
there were 16 years in between that you
know where I had to make time in order to learn because the learning official
learning systems were not very good at it but the but I was incredibly
fortunate as a child because I learned how to read fluently before I ever got
to school and so I already knew they were lying to me in first grade and
that's most kids don't have that advantage right yes you're hoping let's
do a couple more yes
oh I don't think it had anything to do with what I invented I do understand
McLuhan I'm not sure you do
now I'm not using anybody here I'll tell
you just to I'll tell you what I don't
want to summarize summarize my own argument which is that the thing that
seemed important to me is that there are
two parts of it to it one is that as a
as a person who was a scientist achill II trained in science and mathematics
the there was a special thing that the computer could argue better than
conventional media it led to a new way of arguing about things that led to a
new way of knowing about things and the we knew that the making it pervasive
would set it up as an environment that
could be learned pervasively and it could have these long-term effects that the printing press had so I think that's
just pure McLuhan ISM and that's what the aim is yes
yeah that's what I've been saying all through the
yeah well I think I think the the way I
think about it as a TV doesn't exactly tell us how to think but it makes it
very hard to think about things that it doesn't tell us about so I think that's
a little more gobbledygook II but I think a little bit more more accurate
but I think I mean another way of looking at the medium is the message
thing and was one I discarded for tonight was was this notion that in
order to actually when you have a radio
in your car and you tuned it to some station the ability to actually get the
message that's being sent there it requires the station to have a model
requires your receiver to have a model of what the station is sending it has it
has to synthesize the carrier wave in order to demodulate out the the music
that you hear and that that was actually the first terms I thought of when I when
I thought I understood understanding media because he was saying yeah the interesting thing here is not the music
that's being sent on any particular occasion but what the radio set has to
be in order to get that thing at all in
other words it has to become the very thing that carries the messages and he
what he said about the about reading and writing was that the interesting thing
is not the particular writing on any particular occasion but what it means to
become a reader and a writer you become something qualitatively different than a
member of an oral Society that's well
maybe they have them okay good
no no it's perfect