Alan Kay talk at DePaul University (2012)

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this great honor is especially  meaningful to me because no one
knows  more to his research community than i do  and
i feel the same spirit of family
and  community in the wonderful deep
all  commitments to access to
everyone and it  takes a village to help all
of us  succeed in our dreams
when i asked about  graduation
tradition to give advice and to be darn  quick about it
but since we're all  manifestly
diverse everyone
needs  somewhat different advice and
after all  of these years I'm still working
on my  own process so I don't have any lofty
  pronouncements from my own experience  this
is probably a relief on
the other  hand we are all the members of the
same  species and part
of what education with  the capital e should mean
is for us to  gain some understanding
and perspective  on ourselves
so after acquiring a real
  education in college shouldn't
we be  able to give the human race at least
one  piece of useful advice
what of many  perspectives
on humanity would you  choose and what
advice would you give
there's a lot of scientific
evidence  that says our species
has been on the  planet for at least 200,000
years an  anthropologists
who have studied  thousands of
societies around the world  and found
that all have language stories
religion music dance art
several  hundred categories
of behaviors at all a
  child born into one culture and moved
at  birth to another will grow up as a
member  of the receiving culture we
have to be  very similar for this
to be possible so  despite all of our manifest
differences  down deep we were also
very similar and  what seems to differ
from culture to  culture are not our categories but
how  each culture fills them out
for example  we don't fight over whether
we have  beliefs about the world but over what  beliefs
so here's what
strikes me about  us even though for hundreds of thousands
  of years we've cared so much about our
  beliefs to fight for them until very
  recently we humans have just taken the  world of
our senses and of our cultures  as they
seem with almost no attempts
to  invent ways to check if our perceptions
  and beliefs actually hold water
in other  words we humans
live inside of our heads  to an astonishing degree
so much so that  we resemble
a creature in a dream that
only occasionally matches up with the  world that lives in
we live in a kind of  a hallucination of
our own devising  Francis
Bacon pointed this out in 1610
  when he called for methods to
developed to get around the blindness  caused
by our genetics how
our  individual brains develop how we use  language
and how we assimilate the  beliefs of our
culture's this was
of the already started invention of  science
which produced example after  example we're
careful investigations and  new kinds
of thinking's revealed that  many of our beliefs
about the world did  not hold up we
have been fooling  ourselves so
the perspective on humanity  I would choose is that
we are the  species that fools itself in
fact we  even pay good money to be fooled
and we  have been fooling
ourselves for our  entire 200,000
years and part of the  nature
of this foolery is that we think  we can see
  and that what we think is there
is what  is there a wonderful
line and the Talmud  says we things
not as they are but as we  are I've
often wondered what happened to  that person
Marshall McLuhan the
great  canadian philosopher said until I  believe
it I can't see it but
we need  dreams and imagination
one of my  greatest heroes was
Helen Keller who
was  rendered blind and deaf before she was  two years
old yet became the first  deafblind
person to earn a college  degree at
Radcliffe in 1904 in
1932  shortly after the empire
state building  was built at
the dawn of the depression  in amazingly less
than a year as a  statement by its contractors
about what  humans can do with purpose
and will  Helen Keller who
knew a lot about  purpose and will took
a trip to the top  she
was asked afterwards by dr. John  Finley what
did you think of the site  when
you're on top of the empire  building
here are a few extracts from  the
letter she wrote to Finley I
quote  frankly
I was so entranced seeing that
I  did not think about the site
if there  was a subconscious thought
of it it was  in the nature of gratitude
God for  having given the blind seeing minds as
I  now recall the view i had
from the  Empire tower I'm convinced
that until we  have looked into darkness
we cannot know  what a divine thing vision
is I will
  concede that my guide saw a thousand  things that
escaped me from the top of  the empire building
but i am not envious
  for imagination creates distances
horizons  that reach to the end of
the world it is  as easy for the mind
to think in stars  as in cobblestones
it was a thrilling  experience to
be whizzed in a lift a  quarter of a mile
heavenward and to see  New York spread out
like a marvelous  tapestry beneath us there
was the Hudson  more like the flash of
a sword blade  than a noble River the
little island of  Manhattan set like
a jewel in its nest  of rainbow waters stared
up into my face  and the
solar system circled about my  head why
I thought the Sun and
stars are  suburbs of New York and I never knew it  I
see in the Empire State Building
  something else passionate skill
arduous  and fearless idealism
the tallest  building is a victory of imagination
  instead of crouching close to the
earth  like a beast the spirit of man soars
to  higher regions and from this new
point  of Vantage he looks upon the impossible
  with fortified courage and dreams yet
  more significant enterprises what
did I  see in here from the Empire tower as I
stood there are twinks to earth and sky  I saw
a romantic structure wrought by  human
brains and hands that is to
the  burning I of the Sun arrival luminary
I  saw it stand erect and serene in the
  midst of storm and the tumult of n  elemental
commotion I heard the hammer  of Thor
ring when the shaft began to  rise upward
I saw the unconquerable  steal the
flash of testing flames the  sword like rivets
I heard the stream  steam
drills and pandemonium I saw  countless skilled
workers welding  together that mighty symmetry
I looked  up on the Marvel of frail
yet  indomitable hands that lifted
the tower  to its dominating height
when I first  read
that i said wow  I say
it now every human being is born
  with it potential to learn to see as  Helen
Keller learned to see with their  hearts body
spirits and minds and to  learn
to be as vividly alive and human  as Helen
Keller learned to be our great
  gift is that though we are the stuff  that dreams
are made of we can invest  those dreams with
the clearer knowledge  brought by careful
study beyond our  simple prejudices there's
nothing more  powerful and imagination coupled with
  investigation imagination
allows us to  dream and conceive of better futures for
  us all investigation finds
the powers  and knowledge to make better futures  happen
so I think my advice to our  species would
be we can't learn to see  until we admit we are
blind in other  words
let us learn how to wake up from  the slumbers of
our nervous system  culture and beliefs try to
find out what  is going on and what is really needed  thank