Alan Kay talk at BSO MultiMedia Group

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in an vena even bouton Los Angeles Bond Alan Curtis gay benefactors are out a
Varrick by Apple and were called the Archfiend upon the personal computer who
noon a fool dr. tend to see it in the communicate see to some demands and the
machine you need all that optimal openness I'm a person who's always been
interested in design and the whole
interaction of how our minds work with our bodies through our visual senses and
through our ability to capture things symbolically that's what I'm interested
in all my life Alan Kay the Nieto did lament on a sabbatical year Elaine
softens done on Schmitt assault vehicle ten Eva Cronin on the computer talking
about a certain article at artfully from the Maris and proceeded upon the windows
marked a distance the computer of fulfillments and to conclude just as far
fewer people right well then are able to speak it's a little writing is a little
bit more artificial than reading I think
you are forced to do it less often the same thing with computer you can use
tools made by other people for a very long time but then at some point you
find something I'd like I wish it could do this or I wish I could do that and
it's allowing people to be able to do that without having to become a
profession interests L&K needle a peck of computers
Maroko Oracle's tears up in the pan circuit character from a keyboard from
the computer nerd clavier Fernet Oracle is will have my recliner stop many many
computer scientists are musicians come
in a because of the parallels I think between the two just as Einstein played
violin one of the things he drew from it with were aesthetic feelings that he
wanted to apply to mathematics and physics I I mean I think most of us computer scientists have the same kind
of feeling that we're looking for a kind
of structure that is like the computer architectures we deal with it jaeseok
I've seen dogs on commencin who in fact enough of stone Deluca holding ten
opposite the vanadium not a violent businessman and educators have to look
after their own interests they have to understand that the computer is a new
piece of media so it has the impact of
the printing press and those who were slow to adapt to what the printing press
was all about we're slow to get past the Renaissance and into Western
civilization comparative a lot L&K long as it's turned on velvet on a Turkish
taught school in all arrests nearly a day in up to doom sometimes ideas pop
into your head and also the the relaxed
feeling of the beach is more the way I would like human computer communication
to be then tense and goal-oriented
okay ended on TV day and hey Topher down sort of a new hood that was in here and
here is Alan Kay
okay thank you I'm here to talk about
computers and communication two words that haven't often gone together in the
past is sort of like Airlines and food or consulting in business but the way we
try and communicate with computers these days the most successful ways have come
about from under trying to understand better what a computer is not as a
device for doing word processing imitating paper in various ways but to
try and understand how it lies at the root of the human experience
what can we compare it to well one one
thing I like to compare it to and I'd like to go to the first slide here is
the book we often think of a computer as a calculator but in fact the book I
think is a closer way of thinking of it a book is a piece of technology that
contains marks that represent our ideas and the marks can be about things that
we think are true they can be about things we'd like to think are true for
instance this is a chapter about transforming a dead moon like our own
into an earth-like planet and there are equations and there's an argument in
this book that says this could be done if we could make such and such an effect
and that's books contain ideas that are
outside of the physical world and sometimes have to do with it now
if we look at a computer one way of thinking about as a computer is a book
that can read and write itself and so if
we wanted to transform a moon into an earth-like planet and we were thinking
about representing it on a computer we wouldn't just represent what we wanted
to do we wouldn't just represent equations we'd represent it as a dynamic
simulation that actually tries to carry it out and because of that we get to
understand our ideas and yearnings much better
let's take a look at this as it's actually done on on a computer let's
look at the first video so here we have
our airless moon and [Music]
[Applause] [Music]
[Music] [Applause] [Music]
so the computer is big very very big
computer art is not showing a picture but showing a process
so those geological formations that you saw were actually being carried out
using our best knowledge of how mountains and valleys are created on the
earth so that was not a cartoon animation but actually a representation
and illustration of the kind of simulation that computers are actually
capable of and it's in that light of
looking at computers I want to give the talk today a second idea that I'd like
to share with you is that most of our
existence as human beings over the last several hundred thousand years we've had
two major ways of extending ourselves and the first way immediately comes to
mind go to the next slide please I I need to get my tie signal down so we
immediately think of tools like a screwdriver and a wheel but we also have
some mental tools like language and
mathematics and all of these tools I
think of as extensions of the gesture they help us manipulate things they make
them into little bits and pieces that we
can then move around and make new combinations that may have new meanings
that are useful for us the second way that we've extended ourselves over the
years is a little more subtle but it illustrates perfectly by this by this
gathering and that's that we extend our goal structures into other people so we
can another person can act for us as an
agent so we can manipulate and carry out
goals by doing it ourselves or by
getting another human being to do do it for us and even better an agent of ours
can get other agents to do things so if we want to work on something hard we may
have dozens of agents that are working with other agents and for most of
history actually until just recently this way of extending ourselves of
making machines was the most dominant way and the the M word for that is
management so we have manipulation for tools management with with agents now
the problem with the mainframe computer when it came along is it didn't resemble
either a tool or an agent and so it was some complicated actually resembled an
altar of a God cared for by priests and
white coats and so forth and it didn't
feel like you could step up to it and use it either directly or by getting it
to take on on some of your goals now a
very pivotal year in the history of
communicating with computers was 1968
when there are a number of systems that were very different one of them was done
by Douglas Engelbart in California and
let's take a look at what his system was like in 1968 let's run that next so here
he is in 1968 this is a picture that could be taken today he's sitting in his office he has a black on white screen he
has a mouse to point at things and the
system was more than just a text editor as you see right now let's have some
sound with this please for the produce they get big I'd like to say one branch
only 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 it but there's a
little thing I can do there's a root place that I have here
so here I'm afraid I'll need a different picture the view so here's what I do
with a picture drawing capability here's a slight and lamp if I start from work and here's the route I seem to have to
go to 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 on it go back what if I once am I supposed to
pick up the drugstore hmm I see everything all right market can do
things if I want to just say I'd like to interchange the parties and camp
materials bingo they're all numbered right if I
care to look interchanging them very quickly cans are going to get
interchanged with Prados they do it and all gets me numbered so that vision
could have been shot yesterday even so
there are very few computers today that can do the kind of hyper media hypertext
stuff that you saw there this is a complete vision of what I call the
personal computer desktop machine with a
pointing device a use of the machine other than just imitating flat paper
completely modern in every way and for me back then it led to a machine design
and what it looked like this this is one of the very first tabletop computers for
very special tables this machine weighed about 200 kilograms and it had some so
many components in it that it had a fan that was likened to a 747 taking off but
for special tables made out of steel this was a tabletop computer and the
problem with it was that it had really good function but it wasn't easy to use
in fact we never even thought about the idea of computers being easy to use at
least I never did until I built this machine this is what it looked like on its own display by the way so you can
see what people were thinking about back in 1967 and 68
well at very same year a couple of new
systems also appeared that were very different one of them was done at RAND
Corporation for people who were not computer scientists in fact they didn't
even like to type they said we we hate typing we're used to putting our ideas
on paper and moving them around and everything can't you do something about that that let the invention of the first
really good high-resolution tablet and it looked like this first we erase a
flow arrow then move the connector out of the way so that we may draw a box in
its place so I drew a circle I mean a square it's all I wanted a rectangle of
made one now it's recognizing his handwriting is being used as commentary only in this case the box is slightly
too large so we may change its size here's where modern-day window control
came from then draw a flow from the connector to the box attach a decision
element to the box and draw a flow from it to scan we then erased the floor
arrows attached to the process post new area and move the box to a new position
this allows us to draw a new box so
forth no menus no function keys every command given as an analogy to the thing
you actually wanted to appear there well I had a chance to use this in 1968 and
felt just like I was pushing my hands right through the glass of the display
and touching the structures directly underneath felt completely different
from angle Bart's system and I had to call it intimate I felt like I was
dealing directly with the information I was trying to work with there are less
barriers there and the other thing that
happened that year was the first flat-screen display a little one-inch square piece of glass that could show a
few dots on it and that led to this image cardboard model I made in 1968
which I called the Dynabook dynamic book so portable you can carry other things
to something that you would always have
with you connected into the world of information continuously using digital
cellular and so forth a dream machine but of a very different type an intimate
type and much of what has happened in the last 21 years has had to do with
playing out these two ways of using the of using computers in the first way I
showed you we were using the mouse for pointing at things the machine was
showing us what it was doing and it was reacting to us was reacting to things
that we did we had it we had to do things so we were watching it tools are
something that you watch and manipulate the second case the system was watching
us it was trying to see what we were trying to do as we were fumbling around
trying to make drawings and then it would recognize those drawings as goals
we were trying to achieve and achieve those goals for us so in the second case the system watched us and the difference
between tools and agents is and tools we watch them and an agents they watch us
they try and fit closer to us so what I'd like to do is to three ways in 1968
existed for thinking about communication with computers and one of the ways of
characterizing it is just where is the computer that you use yesterday it was
in somebody else's computer room was like a railroad somebody else made the
schedules decided what you could do with it today that for most of us the computer is on our desk and tomorrow the
computer is going to be wherever we are in California we'll weave it into our t-shirts the computer of tomorrow won't
have an on/off switch it'll be something really useful like a clock that we've
never think of turning off because it even when we're not directly working
with it is going to be working for us all the time because it can take on our goal structures another way of thinking
about how we measure performance on computers on time sharing systems it was
how long does it take to get a response back from the main computer today on a desktop computer we
think of how many millions of instructions can it carry out for us and
tomorrow none of those things will be important the computer of 1995 will have
25 to 50 times the computing power of the machines that we have today all
we'll worry about tomorrow is through the global networks that are now being
set up will we be able to access to find the information and tools that we need
to advance our goals this change is
going to be as profound as the change from the mainframe to the desktop
computer what kinds of data do we work with well just letters and numbers on
the mainframe for the most part on a Macintosh its fonts and 2d graphics
tomorrow it's going to be all media and we'll see an example of that from the
last speaker today field of interaction feels like editing on a 30 to 70 screen
on a Macintosh it feels like layout because we're moving things around but
tomorrow it's going to feel like orchestration or conducting because we
aren't going to be dealing with passive objects anymore but active ones active
ones that are trying to find what it is that we want to do how do we issue
commands on the institutional computer we had to remember and type and still do
for people who buy them Macintosh at C in point it always shows us what it's
willing to do next but tomorrow we'll go
from personal to intimate intimate communication is through gesture asking
telling and so forth and a lot of what I want to say today has to do with that
transition now another idea is that
functionality which people think they're paying money for on computers is
actually not very worthwhile if I gave you a screwdriver like this you'd be
very angry at me yeah this is the functional part of it functionality
needs a user interface and the result is
a tool a tool is a function plus the user interface and if you don't have
either one you don't have a tool now
with agents we use the word functionality here's one
that knows how to use a screwdriver in a drill and again we need a user interface
language in context as the first three speakers have talked about quite a bit
to have the idea of that the screw is a
good place to use the screwdriver and the result is an agent so functionality
plus context and language gives us an agent so in both cases we have the
problem of how do we find a reasonable user interface now like the earlier
speakers I believe that language
basically has to do with trying to agree on some context that we both share so
here are two people each with a thought cloud they overlap on to be or not to be
in the screwdriver but the one on the
left is a mathematician and a physicist and the one on the right is a musician
and they have a would have a very hard time communicating because communication
just as I'm trying to do with you today is not the result of just telling you in
English or any other language because language itself does not carry much
meaning what language is is an extension of the gesture what I'm really trying to
do is to point to something in my thought cloud that I hope is in your
thought clouds and if that is then we are communicating and of course the
difficulty was communicating with computers is they don't have much in their thought clouds now in there are
two ways around that you know I'll show them to you in order to to work with
this we have to have some sort of understanding of the human mind and the
problem is that nobody really understands how it works it's extremely
difficult most of the common sense notions about how humans work like a
common sense notion for example is I am a single eye I'm a unity I am a unitary
mentality just me there but in fact it
doesn't quite work that way consider this now take a look at this and please
don't be shy tell me what you see is wrong with this picture who can see it mouth is upside
down and what else anybody see it
the let's pretend we're in school so I'm
going to tell you in English a fact about this and so description of ink in
English of this as we've taken a photograph of a young girl extracted her
eyes and mouth turned them upside down put them back into the picture and then
turned the entire picture upside down now you know everything about this
picture because I just told you so you shouldn't be at all surprised when I show you what it looks like right side
up now I'm going to move this back
because I've discovered nobody will listen to me when it's on the other way
these are the kinds of things that perceptual psychologists really love the
feminists don't sorry the I'll give you
equal time later [Applause]
the the important idea here is I
presented the same information twice once through language went through your
ears into a part of your brain that processes language and the thought about
it said okay that's a fairly reasonable statement that he made it's like and the
other way when I showed it to you it went through the visual part of your
nervous system and was processed in a completely different way produced a
startling reaction because if you see
something like the face that I showed you your nervous system built in just as
the first speaker is talking about this is a built-in reaction see something
like this might mean you're going to die in the next ten seconds it works for
most mammals so it's built in and so if
you try this experiment on a dog I suggest you pick a small one now what
does this mean what it means is that our mentalities
are actually composed of separate
modules the modules are often tied to
the senses but they can be tied to other things the modules came about four
different evolutionary reasons they think about the world differently they
take in information differently and they occasionally oppose each other so I I
can't see out in the audience too well but could I see the hands of all the
tennis players that are here okay how
many people learn to play a set of tennis with forehand backhand and
overhand serve in a week okay how many
did it in a day how many did it in 20 minutes now why is
tennis hard or is it seems to be the
pros like us to pay them for many tennis lessons you can take the lights down now
thanks in fact a challenge was issued a
few years ago to a fellow who wrote a book that says tennis is actually quite
easy anybody can learn to play a decent game of tennis in a single afternoon if
they don't try too hard now of course he was from California we don't try on
anything and a newscaster got very upset
at this and decided to try and expose him so he sent in a television team out
to show the world that this was ridiculous and the television people
rounded up 35 people who had never played tennis before they signed legal
affidavits and they took them all out in the court found the worst one who is a
55 year old lady 40 pounds overweight 5 foot 2 in a muumuu
and she had the muumuu because she had
not even exercised for 20 years I did
not even have sports clothes they had to buy her sneakers to get her out in the
court and then in front of the rest of the people and live television they said
to this tennis teacher all right you have 20 minutes we can't
give you a completely afternoon this is television after all you have 20 minutes
to teach her how to play tennis on live television I want to show you what
happened here and in the context of which we're talking about see if we can
let's see if we can understand what's actually going on here so let's roll that next clip
not with anyone you know I need someone I haven't done
anything physical in like 20 years I could just picture myself as like just
chasing balls all the time you know never hitting it just chasing it and I'd
heard about the inner game but I really didn't think it would work with me as a matter of fact I had called yesterday to
cancel it because I thought it'd be hopeless but I was talked into kind I'm
gonna have Tim hit some balls to me and as the ball flies through the air I
want you just to watch it the very instant the ball hits the court I want
you to say bounce and the very instant the ball hits the racket I want you to
say hit to just be saying bounce hit all you need to do is watch the ball okay
the key of all the exercises in the inner game is to focus their minds
attention somewhere where it will not interfere with the body's ability to hit
the ball automatically you stand here and Tim will throw you a couple and you
just continue doing the same thing I try to hit you not at first at first just
say bounce when the ball bounces and hit when you would hit it but don't hit then
after you feel like I didn't go ahead and hit it okay bounce yeah
bounce it bow yeah okay when the players
first learning the game of tennis and when he says bounce he's also out of the corner of his eye
watching me hit the ball so even though he's not trying to see how I hit it the
image of me hitting it is going right into his memory you enjoying yourself
yeah it's really fun you like that okay the cardinal principle in any book
written on tennis about your tennis is to watch the ball no tennis player
really sees the ball enough and the reason is they get bored so I tried to
give them something to see in the ball that's interesting so we watched the
trajectory of the ball the the gracefulness of the line made by the
balls that flies through the air I might start listening to the ball more listen to how it sounds in your racket
here laughs yeah here down right what's
that sound like very dull it was like would that would sound people this man
you know he'll hear the sound that you like pretty good just listen first
okay now there's another side okay
now feel where that racket is part of your arm is just feel it who tries too
hard let it happen that's it she was comfortable night every time I did start
to think things went wrong they just stopped thinking then the body
seems to know what to do
[Music] I'll tell you what my we're gonna do one
other stroke now and this one's called the serve and the server is just like a
dance be just like a dance we'll come back here and I'll show you how to do a
dance call the syrup okay and I've done
this dance a little bit so I'll just do it okay in fact you can start humming if
you want the rhythm like this that's
[Music] allowed
okay now anyway you do don't you stand
there shut your eyes that's your eyes and imagine yourself
doing that same dance might start
humming a little bit as you're doing it yeah okay now what I want to do there's
no thinking just go do it quick just no thinking just go serve yeah sir don't
worry about missing keep serving keeps don't think go doo-doo-doo quick that's
it down for it again don't worry about hearing it out loud
let's hear it out loud there you go
I get into home the rhythm of my serve
so they're not thinking oh this is what are you doing with his elbow this is what are you doing his hands they're not
trying to remember all that they start humming and they see themselves doing
very similar things muscular movements to what I did but they're not thinking
about it so it just comes out naturally and fluidly that didn't take long
that's called serving
[Music] all right out
Sam s it come down come down okay okay
that's your first point in tennis scores 15-love okay I'm on no need for
you to miss all of a sudden everything became effortless just I was just sort
of like floating along you know and doing what came naturally with me now and I said I'm playing tennis yeah it's
really really beautiful I have a clear
idea of what you want then let it happen don't try too hard I'm gonna try to make
you miss Molly because it's going on too long so all just get a little bit harder
you just keep watching the ball
keep watching it die rootin for you
won't don't be distracted keep on that wall that's fine that's called tennis
well that happened many years ago and it happened to be it was the key to the
work we've been doing at the Xerox Research Center on trying to develop a
new way for people to communicate with computers we why shouldn't learning a
computer be like that why shouldn't and what what did we learn from that well we
saw from the two faces that we have a visual mentality we have a symbolic
mentality the processes language we saw here that we have a kinesthetic
mentality when we appeal directly to these mentalities then we can get
tremendous results and yet none of these mentalities covers the whole world one
of the big problems in most human relations particularly in business is
people try and do everything with language language of the symbolic kind
and yet there are other ways to solve problems come up with new ideas and so
forth so let me show you how we turned that into something that is very
successful today let's show the next clip please
that was about 1974 and here's the
forerunner of both the Macintosh and our
workstations today a little bit bigger
but very powerful about three times the power of a Macintosh or a 386 computer
it's also playing the music and we did all this stuff by working with children
because children force us to think of new ideas and the way we combine the
three mentalities this is a tool built by a child is to combine doing with
images concretely to make symbols
okay let's roll the next clip here's the result and this is a 22 month old young
girl she's two months before her second birthday both of her parents own a
Macintosh their parents work at home and when I discovered she was interested in
computers I gave her an Apple to which she rejected she wanted a Mac just like
her folks this little girl has never
lived in a world not densely populated by computers like the Macintosh so she
doesn't know the computers are difficult this is part of her environment and
because of the way it's set up it appeals directly to her innate ability
to deal with her environment now even though we designed this stuff
for a very young child I was amazed at
how was youngest was about five here she is not yet to feeling very confidently
with the situation's here but still it's
not too remarkable of course she can point at visible icons and make things
happen what happened next though really amazed me she wants a fresh sheet of paper so
she goes up to the clothes box on the window saves her old drawing using the
pop-up and then using the pulldown gets herself a new sheet of paper and she's
off and running again now what does all
this mean it doesn't mean that all of
the fundamental problems of communication have been solved in
something like the Macintosh but it shows what a fantastic advance can be
made simply by going back to the human being as a creature who is much more
complicated than we'd like to believe but which were starting to understand that
we are created with a kinesthetic way of knowing things a visual way of knowing
things a symbolic way of knowing things we can combine those together then we'll
be able to work our way into the future
no matter how scary it seems to be and as always when we're going and exploring
into a place we haven't been before the best weapon we have to do it is the one
between our ears providing it's loaded thank you very much