DB: We were kids of the Sixties and what did you want to do? You wanted to make the world better, and you wanted to make your mark on the world and improve things, and we did it. So by the mark of what we would measure ourselves by, we were very successful.
Somewhere around every seven years make a significant, if not complete, shift in your field. Thus, I shifted from numerical analysis, to hardware, to software, and so on, periodically, because you tend to use up your ideas. When you go to a new field, you have to start over as a baby. You are no longer the big mukity muk and you can start back there and you can start planting those acorns which will become the giant oaks. ...
You need to get into a new field to get new viewpoints, and before you use up all the old ones. You can do something about this, but it takes effort and energy. It takes courage to say, "Yes, I will give up my great reputation." For example, when error correcting codes were well launched, having these theories, I said, "Hamming, you are going to quit reading papers in the field; you are going to ignore it completely; you are going to try and do something else other than coast on that."
I don't know what people expect to see what they look in a sketchbook, but they always seem mighty disappointed. I think people expect to see what they would see in a Hollywood version of a sketchbook. Whenever someone is sketching from life in a movie, it's always supposed to look tossed off and effortless, but it's really some totally finished and labored-over drawing that some artist spent hours rendering.
Any real sketchbook is full of misfires, false starts and stumbles, with a few successes sprinkled here and there. If you were capable of doing a perfect drawing every time, you wouldn't need to carry a sketchbook!
In my life as an architect, I find that the single thing which inhibits young professionals, new students most severely, is their acceptance of standards that are too low. If I ask a student whether her design is as good as Chartres, she often smiles tolerantly at me as if to say, "Of course not, that isn't what I am trying to do.... I could never do that."
Then, I express my disagreement, and tell her: "That standard must be our standard. If you are going to be a builder, no other standard is worthwhile. That is what I expect of myself in my own buildings, and it is what I expect of my students." Gradually, I show the students that they have a right to ask this of themselves, and must ask this of themselves. Once that level of standard is in their minds, they will be able to figure out, for themselves, how to do better, how to make something that is as profound as that.
A: A bit pretentious, maybe, but not a joke. A lot of thinking about software development is focused on the group, the team, the company. This is often done to the point where the individual is completely submerged in corporate "culture" with no outlet for unique talents and skills. Corporate practices can be directly hostile to individuals with exceptional skills and initiative in technical matters. I consider such management of technical people cruel and wasteful. Kierkegaard was a strong proponent for the individual against "the crowd" and has some serious discussion of the importance of aesthetics and ethical behavior.
In the future, we would have to be prepared for a situation in which we have firstly, no currency, and secondly, as a result of that, no government. So there are ways in which technology itself and the ways in which we respond to technology -- the ways in which we adapt our culture and our way of living to accommodate breakthroughs and movements in technology -- might give us a way to move around government. To evolve around government to a point where such a thing is no longer necessary or desirable. That is perhaps an optimistic vision, but it's one of the only realistic ways I can see it happening. ...
I really don't think that a violent revolution is ever going to provide a long-term solution to the problems of the ordinary person. I think that is something that we had best handle ourselves, and which we are most likely to achieve by the simple evolution of western society. But that might take quite a while, and whether we have that amount of time is, of course, open to debate.
This is not to denigrate the genre of performance art: anamorphic sidewalk chalk drawings, Goldsworthy pebble piles or Norwegian carved-ice-hotels are admirable feats of human ingenuity, but they all share that ephemeral time limit: the first rain, wind or heat will dissolve the beauty, and the artist must be well aware of its fleeting glory.
Their value and their appeal remains, in some cases even gain by familiarity: like a good wine it can improve over time. You can hum a tune you once liked, years later. You can read words or look a painting from 300 years ago and still appreciate its truth and beauty today, as if brand new. Software, by that comparison, is more like Soufflé: enjoy it now, today, for tomorrow it has already collapsed on itself. Soufflé 1.1 is the thing to have, Version 2.0 is on the horizon.
In many schools today, the phrase "computer-aided instruction" means making the computer teach the child. One might say the computer is being used to program the child. In my vision, the child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building. ...
Two fundamental ideas run through this book. The first is that it is possible to design computers so that learning to communicate with them can be a natural process, more like learning French by living in France than like trying to learn it through the unnatural process of American foreign-language instruction in classrooms. Second, learning to communicate with a computer may change the way other learning takes place. The computer can be a mathematics-speaking and an alphabetic-speaking entity. We are learning how to make computers with which children love to communicate. When this communication occurs, children learn mathematics as a living language. Moreover, mathematical communication and alphabetic communication are thereby both transformed from the alien and therefore difficult things they are for most children into natural and therefore easy ones. The idea of "talking mathematics" to a computer can be generalized to a view of learning mathematics in "Mathland"; that is to say, in a context which is to learning mathematics what living in France is to learning French.
We noticed that when we were designing The Sims, a certain degree of abstraction in the game is very beneficial. You don't actually get very close to the characters. You can't quite see their facial expressions, but everybody in their mind is imagining the facial expressions on the characters.
In computer game design, you're dealing with two processors. You've got the processor in front of you on the computer and you've got the processor in your head, and so the game itself is actually running on both. There are certain things that the computer is very good at, but there are other things that the human imagination is better at.
While having a GDP and population comparable to Belgium, Denmark or New Zealand, most corporations have nothing like their quality of civic freedoms and protections. Internally, some mirror the most pernicious aspects of the 1960s Soviet system. This is even more striking when the regional civic laws the company operates under are weak (such as in West Papua or South Korea); there, the character of these corporate tyrannies is unobscured by their surroundings.
[The] point is not that innovation attracts groups but that innovation is found in groups: that it tends to arise out of social interaction -- conversation, validation, the intimacy of proximity, and the look in your listener's eye that tells you you're onto something. ...
When [Erasmus Darwin, James Watt, Joseph Priestley, etc.] were not meeting, they were writing to each other with words of encouragement or advice or excitement. This was truly -- in a phrase that is invariably and unthinkingly used in the pejorative -- a mutual-admiration society. ...
What were they doing? Darwin, in a lovely phrase, called it "philosophical laughing," which was his way of saying that those who depart from cultural or intellectual consensus need people to walk beside them and laugh with them to give them confidence. ...
We divide [groups] into cults and clubs, and dismiss the former for their insularity and the latter for their banality. The cult is the place where, cut off from your peers, you become crazy. The club is the place where, surrounded by your peers, you become boring. Yet if you can combine the best of those two -- the right kind of insularity with the right kind of homogeneity -- you create an environment both safe enough and stimulating enough to make great thoughts possible.
To the extent that we're now judging journalism by the same standards that we apply to entertainment — in other words, give the public what it wants, not necessarily what it ought to hear, what it ought to see, what it needs, but what it wants — that may prove to be one of the greatest tragedies in the history of American journalism. ...
In the very early days of television news, the FCC still had teeth, and still used them every once in a while. And there was that little paragraph, section 315 of the FCC code, that said: "You shall operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity." And what that meant was, you had to have a news division that told people what was important out there.
A: When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children's House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things - i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.
Why do games have such a radically different learning curve than advanced applications? It turns out that games are carefully tuned machines that hack into human beings' most fundamental learning processes. Games are exercises in applied psychology at a level far more nuanced than your typical application. ...
Implicit in this description of interactivity is the fact that users change. More importantly, the feedback loops we, as designers, build into our games, directly change the user's mind... The person that starts using a game is not the same person that finishes the game. Games and the scaffold of skills atoms describes in minute detail how and what change occurs.
This is a pretty big philosophical shift from how application design is usually approached. We tend to imagine that users are static creatures who live an independent and unchanging existence outside of our applications. We merely need to give them a static set of pragmatic tools and all will be good.
Games state that our job is to teach, educate and change our users. We lead them on an explicitly designed journey that leaves them with functioning skills that they could not have imagined before they started using our application. Our games start off simple and slowly add complexity. Our apps must adapt along the user's journey to reflect their changing mental models and advanced skills. Failure to do so results in a mismatch that results in frustration, boredom and burnout.
This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race -- consumption... But media is actually a triathlon, it's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share. ...
And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.
[Now] I'm just putting bumpers [all over the pinball board]. This is a favorite of really young kids. They like to just grab a whole bunch of bumpers, fill the board up with them and put a ball on there. A pinball aficionado would gasp, but little kids don't really build pinball machines, they just sort of build "things" with this. ...
[Q: What do you want to do next?] I want to extend the idea of a construction set. This one was hard to do when I started, because there are lots of combinations of things you can't really predict, when you're making a kit, when you're making a "metagame". I'd like to extend the idea even further, and the problem there is then designing the "parts box". In pinball, it's a small set of parts. You don't really have to worry about thinking up abstractions. In a general construction set, it's not clear what the parts should be. It's almost like you're inventing a new language for representing specifications for programs.
Our way of scoring was to give the groups [of fourth-graders] a point for each correct prediction. Before long they were thinking more of ways to get a good score than to make the beam balance. We wanted them to figure out how to balance the beam, and introduced the scoring as a matter of motivation. But they out-smarted us, and figured out ways to get a good score that had nothing to do with whether the beam balanced or not.
... Betty figured out that the way to get a good score is to put the weights in what you know is a wrong place, and then have everyone on your team say it is wrong. Thus, they will each get a point for predicting correctly.
... A couple years later, when I put a balance beam and some weights on a table at the back of my class, and just left it there without saying anything about it or trying to "teach" it, most of the children in the class, including some very poor students, figured out just by messing around with it how it worked.
What we see here is that increasing the value of the database by adding more information is a natural by-product of using the tool for your own benefit. No altruistic sharing motives need be present. ...
In a good system, just doing what you normally would do to help yourself helps everybody. Even helping a bit once in a while (like typing in the track names of a CD nobody else had ever entered) benefited you and the system. Instead of making you feel bad for "only" doing 99%, a well designed system makes you feel good for doing 1%. People complain about systems that have lots of "freeloaders". Systems that do well with lots of "freeloading" and make the best of periodic participation are good.
So, here we have another design criteria for a type of successful system: Guiltlessness. No only should people just need to do what's best for them when they help others, they need to not need to always do it.
For a long time, longer than anyone in the newspaper business has been alive in fact, print journalism has been intertwined with these economics. The expense of printing created an environment where Wal-Mart was willing to subsidize the Baghdad bureau. This wasn't because of any deep link between advertising and reporting, nor was it about any real desire on the part of Wal-Mart to have their marketing budget go to international correspondents. It was just an accident. Advertisers had little choice other than to have their money used that way, since they didn't really have any other vehicle for display ads.
The old difficulties and costs of printing forced everyone doing it into a similar set of organizational models; it was this similarity that made us regard Daily Racing Form and L'Osservatore Romano as being in the same business. That the relationship between advertisers, publishers, and journalists has been ratified by a century of cultural practice doesn't make it any less accidental.
The competition-deflecting effects of printing cost got destroyed by the internet, where everyone pays for the infrastructure, and then everyone gets to use it. And when Wal-Mart, and the local Maytag dealer, and the law firm hiring a secretary, and that kid down the block selling his bike, were all able to use that infrastructure to get out of their old relationship with the publisher, they did. They'd never really signed up to fund the Baghdad bureau anyway.
I've always been very dubious about the idea of learning from people who have been successful. There's this whole cult of worshipping rich people, reading interviews with them, getting their opinions on things, trying to learn what made them successful. I think it's mostly nonsense. The thing is, if you just look at who the biggest earners are, it's almost entirely luck. ...
The point is if you just look at successful business people, they will probably be confident, decisive, risk takers, aggressive at seizing opportunities, aggressive about growing the business quickly, etc. That doesn't mean that those are the right things to do. It just means that those are variance-increasing traits that give them a *chance* to be a big success.
All of the elements eventually used in the Smalltalk user interface were already to be found in the sixties, as different ways to access and invoke the functionality provided by an interactive system. The two major centers of ideas were Lincoln Labs and RAND corp, both ARPA funded. The big shift that consolidated these ideas into a powerful theory and long-lived examples came because the LRG [Learning Research Group] focus was on children. Hence, we were thinking about learning as being one of the main effects we wanted to have happen. Early on, this led to a 90 degree rotation of the purposed of the user interface from "access to functionality" to "environment in which users learn by doing." This new stance could now respond to the echos of Montessori and Dewey, particularly the former, and got me, on rereading Jerome Bruner, to think beyond the children's curriculum to a "curriculum of the user interface."
The particular aim of LRG was to find the equivalent of writing -- that is, learning and thinking by doing in a medium -- our new "pocket universe." For various reasons I had settled on "iconic programming" as the way to achieve this, drawing on the iconic representations used by many ARPA projects in the sixties. My friend Nicholas Negroponte, an architect, was extremely interested in how environments affected peoples' work and creativity. He was interested in embedding the new computer magic in familiar surroundings. I had quite a bit of theatrical experience in a past life, and remembered Coleridge's adage that "people attend 'bad theatre' hoping to forget, people attend 'good theatre' aching to remember." In other words, it is the ability to evoke the audience's own intelligence and experiences that makes theatre work.
Putting all this together, we want an apparently free environment in which exploration causes desired sequences to happen (Montessori); one that allows kinesthetic, iconic, and symbolic learning -- "doing with images makes symbols" (Piaget & Bruner); the user is never trapped in a mode (GRAIL); the magic is embedded in the familiar (Negroponte); and which acts as a magnifying mirror for the user's own intelligence (Coleridge). It would be a great finish to ths story to say that having articulated this, we were able to move straightforwardly to the design as we know it today. In fact, the UI design work happened in fits and starts in between feeding Smalltalk itself, designing children's experiments, trying to understand iconic construction, and just playing around. In spite of this meandering, the context almost forced a good design to turn out anyway.
This drove us out of our minds, and it drove us out of our minds every day... Unaccountably, the course was not, as we'd thought, a course where students would get to do all the things we'd thought up for them to do, but instead a course where they could steadfastly refuse to do everything and then complain that there was nothing to do. ...
We never quite accepted the notion that the real curriculum of the course was precisely the question What Shall We Do In Here? and that it was really an important question and maybe the only important question.
We don't know much about Masks in this culture ... because this culture is usually hostile to trance states. We distrust spontaneity, and try to replace it by reason: the Mask was driven out of theatre in the same way that improvisation was driven out of music. ... Education itself might be seen as primarily an anti-trance activity.
I see the Mask as something that is continually flaring up in this culture, only to be almost immediately snuffed out. No sooner have I established a tradition of Mask work somewhere than the students start getting taught the 'correct' movements, just as they learn a phoney 'Commedia dell' Arte' technique.
Note that the [CRC] cards are placed such that View and Controller are overlapping (implying close collaboration) and placed above Model (implying supervision.) We find these and other informal groupings aid in comprehending a design. Parts, for example, are often arranged below the whole. ...
The ability to quickly organize and spatially address index cards proves most valuable when a design is incomplete or poorly understood. We have watched designers repeatedly refer to a card they intended to write by pointing to where they will put it when completed.
We now believe that when features, rules, or elaborations are motivated by particular examples, it is a good bet that their addition will be a mistake. The second author once coined the term "architect's trap" for something similar in the field of computer architecture; this phenomenon might be called "the language designer's trap."
If examples cannot be trusted, what do we think should motivate the language designer? Consistency and malleability. When there is only one way of doing things, it is easier to modify and reuse code. When code is reused, programs are easier to change and most importantly, shrink. When a program shrinks its construction and maintenance requires fewer people which allows for more opportunities for reuse to be found. Consistency leads to reuse, reuse leads to conciseness, conciseness leads to understanding.
Mathematics is taken for granted in the physics curriculum -- a body of immutable truths to be assimilated and applied. The profound influence of mathematics on our conceptions of the physical world is never analyzed. The possibility that mathematical tools used today were invented to solve problems in the past and might not be well suited for current problems is never considered. ...
The point I wish to make by citing these two examples [Newton and Einstein] is that without essential mathematical concepts the two theories would have been literally inconceivable. The mathematical modeling tools we employ at once extend and limit our ability to conceive the world. Limitations of mathematics are evident in the fact that the analytic geometry that provides the foundation for classical mechanics is insufficient for General Relativity.
The last project that I worked on with Richard [Feynman] was in simulated evolution. ... When I got back to Boston I went to the library and discovered a book by Kimura on the subject, and much to my disappointment, all of our "discoveries" were covered in the first few pages. When I called back and told Richard what I had found, he was elated. "Hey, we got it right!" he said. "Not bad for amateurs."
In retrospect I realize that in almost everything that we worked on together, we were both amateurs. In digital physics, neural networks, even parallel computing, we never really knew what we were doing. But the things that we studied were so new that no one else knew exactly what they were doing either. It was amateurs who made the progress.
A: Not at all. Keep in mind, I'm also a perfectly respectable physicist, and the speculation is a hobby. It's become well known, but I've grown used to the idea that people very often become famous for accidental reasons. It's amusing to think that someday all my "serious" work will probably be a footnote in a textbook, when everybody remembers what I did on the side! Anyway, what do I have to lose? I have tenure here, and no one expects much from a theoretical physicist once he's past fifty anyway!
We can't stop our systems and globally check they are consistent and then relaunch them. We incrementally change bits and we recognize that they are inconsistent under short time periods and we live with that. Finding ways of living with failure, making systems that work, despite the fact they are inconsistent, despite the fact that failures occur. So our error models are very sophisticated.
When I see things like Scala or I see on the net there's this kind of "Erlang-like semantics", that usually means mailboxes and message boxes. It doesn't mean all the error handling, it doesn't mean the live code upgrade. The live upgrade of code while you are running a system needs a lot of deep plumbing under the counter -- it's not easy.
I grew up with Roald Dahl and Tove Jansson and Richmal Crompton and Ronald Searle. They were all masters of world-building and immersive stories. They never spoke down to readers and I can read a lot of their work as an adult with the same pleasure. If I want to keep doing this for the rest of my working life, I have to make something lasting like that.
[Grassmann's theory of linear algebra] was a revolutionary text, too far ahead of its time to be appreciated. Grassmann submitted it as a Ph. D. thesis, but Möbius said he was unable to evaluate it and forwarded it to Ernst Kummer, who rejected it without giving it a careful reading. Over the next 10-odd years, Grassmann wrote a variety of work applying his theory, in the hope that these applications would lead others to take his theory seriously. ...
In 1862, Grassman published a thoroughly rewritten second edition of A1, hoping to earn belated recognition for his theory of extension, and containing the definitive exposition of his linear algebra. It fared no better than A1, even though A2's manner of exposition anticipates the textbooks of the 20th century.
The general reaction of experienced IF writers to early drafts of Inform 7 was a two-stage scepticism. First: was this just syntactic sugar, that is, a verbose paraphrase of the same old code? ... Second: perhaps this was indeed a fast prototyping tool for setting up the map and the objects, but would it not then grind into useless inflexibility when it came to coding up innovative behaviour -- in fact, would it be fun for beginners but useless to the real task at hand? It sometimes seemed to those of us working on Inform that an experienced IF author, shown Inform 7 for the first time, would go through the so-called Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The following comment is typical of the Bargaining stage:
I would like to see it be as easy as possible to mix Inform 6 and Inform 7 code. [...] I also wonder if it might be possible to allow the user access to the Inform 6 code that the Inform 7 pre-processor creates. I can imagine some people wanting to use Inform 7 to lay out the outline of their game -- rooms, basic objects therein, and so on -- quickly, and then do the heavy lifting, so to speak, in Inform 6.
In these discussions one man would make a point. Then Compton, for example, would explain a different point of view. He would say it should be this way, and he was perfectly right. Another guy would say, well, maybe, but there's this other possibility we have to consider against it.
So everybody is disagreeing, all around the table. I am surprised and disturbed that Compton doesn't repeat and emphasize his point. Finally, at the end, Tolman, who's the chairman, would say, "Well, having heard all these arguments, I guess it's true that Compton's argument is the best of all, and now we have to go ahead."
It was such a shock to me to see that a committee of men could present a whole lot of ideas, each one thinking of a new facet, while remembering what the other fella said, so that, at the end, the decision is made as to which idea was the best -- summing it all up -- without having to say it three times. These were very great men indeed.
[As a new professor] at Cornell, I'd work on preparing my courses, and I'd go over to the library a lot and read through the Arabian Nights and ogle the girls that would go by. But when it came time to do some research, I couldn't get to work. I was a little tired; I was not interested; I couldn't do research! This went on for what I felt was a few years ... I simply couldn't get started on any problem: I remember writing one or two sentences about some problem in gamma rays and then I couldn't go any further. I was convinced that from the war and everything else (the death of my wife) I had simply burned myself out.
... Then I had another thought: Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing -- it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with. When I was in high school, I'd see water running out of a faucet growing narrower, and wonder if I could figure out what determines that curve. I found it was rather easy to do. I didn't have to do it; it wasn't important for the future of science; somebody else had already done it. That didn't make any difference: I'd invent things and play with things for my own entertainment.
So I got this new attitude. Now that I am burned out and I'll never accomplish anything, I've got this nice position at the university teaching classes which I rather enjoy, and just like I read the Arabian Nights for pleasure, I'm going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.
Within a week I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling.
I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate. I discover that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate -- two to one. ...
I went on to work out equations of wobbles. Then I thought about how electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there's the Dirac Equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it (it was a very short time) I was "playing" -- working, really -- with the same old problem that I loved so much, that I had stopped working on when I went to Los Alamos: my thesis-type problems; all those old-fashioned, wonderful things.
It was effortless. It was easy to play with these things. It was like uncorking a bottle: Everything flowed out effortlessly. I almost tried to resist it! There was no importance to what I was doing, but ultimately there was. The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.
Not caring works surprisingly well. Another of my great former students, now a peer and a friend, saw a request from a magazine reporter doing a tech story and looking for examples. My friend, who'd previously been too quiet about her work, decided to write the reporter and say "My work is awesome. You should write about it."
The reporter looked at her work and wrote back saying "Your work is indeed awesome, and I will write about it. I also have to tell you you are the only woman who suggested her own work. Men do that all the time, but women wait for someone else to recommend them." My friend stopped waiting, and now her work is getting the attention it deserves.
Some planners would visit Homebrew and be turned off by the technical ferocity of the discussions, the intense flame that burned brightest when people directed themselves to the hacker pursuit of building. Ted Nelson, author of Computer Lib, came to a meeting and was confused by all of it, later calling the scruffily dressed and largely uncombed Homebrew people "chip-monks, people obsessed with chips. It was like going to a meeting of people who love hammers." Bob Albrecht rarely attended, later explaining that "I could understand only about every fourth word those guys were saying . . . they were hackers." Jude Milhon, the woman with whom Lee remained friends after their meeting through the Barb and their involvement in Community Memory, dropped in once and was repelled by the concentration on sheer technology, exploration, and control for the sake of control. She noted the lack of female hardware hackers, and was enraged at the male hacker obsession with technological play and power. She summed up her feelings with the epithet "the boys and their toys," and like Fred Moore worried that the love affair with technology might blindly lead to abuse of that technology.
I once heard Murray Gel-Mann lecture at the Santa Fe Institute on "creativity" and scientific discoveries. He utilized one very memorable metaphor. It was of ideas as particle energy states -- that they will find the locally lowest stable "well" to settle in. But that local low may not be the regional or global low, of course, and it takes an increase of energy to move the idea up out of the local low in order for it to find its way to something deeper. Here the idea was the deeper the well, the "truer" the idea. And Gel-Mann's point was that it's a contrary thing to go up that well...that an essential characteristic of creativity (and intellectual discovery) is to do the unlikely, the counter-intuitive. Not always be contrary and go uphill, of course, that's worse than useless (something the cranks don't understand). But just enough at the right times to open up new vistas that were previously unimagined.
Now imagine an early man surveying his surroundings at the end of a happy day's tool making.... Man the maker looks at his world and says 'So who made this then?' Who made this? ... Early man thinks, 'Well, because there's only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he's probably male'. And so we have the idea of a god. Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself, 'If he made it, what did he make it for?' Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, 'This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely' and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.
This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.
[Regarding the Coverity static analysis tool for C to "find bugs in the real world"]: It's still depressing what incredible amounts of intellectual and monetary resources are wasted on problems many (most?) of which wouldn't even exist if people just used civilized languages.
[Reply from vrijz: These tools are intended to analyze existing code with little or no additional effort. To the extent that untyped, memory-unsafe languages are more convenient than languages with strong typing and safety guarantees, static analysis tools are useful.]
Yes, agreed. But my worry is that seemingly helpful tools like the one described may have the perverse effect of prolonging the life of broken code bases and languages - especially if these tools are pragmatically tuned to fit the mindset of the more ignorant among their users, as described in the article. Maybe it would be better if these artifacts collapsed sooner rather than later?
Goals in most organizations, however, lack emotional resonance. Instead, SMART goals -- goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely -- have become the norm. A typical smart goal might be "My marketing campaign will generate 4500 qualified sales leads for the sales group by the end of Q3'09." SMART goals presume the emotion; they don't generate it.
The specificity of SMART goals is great cure for the worst sins of goal setting -- ambiguity and irrelevance. ("We are going to delight our customers every day in every way!") But SMART goals are better for steady-state situations than for change situations, because the assumptions underlying them are that the goals are worthwhile. If you accept that generating 4500 leads for the sales force is a great use of your time, the SMART goal will be effective. But if a new boss, pushing a new direction, assigns you the 4500-leads goal even though you've never handed lead generation before, then there might be trouble. SMART goals presume the emotion; they don't generate it.
Technologies in their "Goofy Prototype" stage rarely work very well. They're experimental, and therefore halfbaked and rather frazzled. The prototype may be attractive and novel, and it does look as if it ought to be good for something-or-other. But nobody, including the inventor, is quite sure what. Inventors, and speculators, and pundits may have very firm ideas about its potential use, but those ideas are often very wrong.
If we want to get philosophical about it, one could say that the more you produce, the more the uniqueness of your work suffers. As people change over time, so does their work. Their work represents samples from a continuum of their personal development. More work along the way just gives a higher sample rate of this continuum, and won't necessarily introduce anything new. Not always does increased number of production explore new possibilities, but only dwells on the already explored ones.
Thus, writing changed the way we thought. Don't think of it as a means of recording ideas, think of it as an instrument for exploring and examining ideas. Western civilization grew from the heady exploitation of this instrument of thinking. Indeed, the written page can be thought of as "artificial cortex", a technological means of augmenting the expansion of the sequential-processing portions of the brain. We humans were so impatient to grow more cortex, we went ahead and concocted an artificial version: paper and ink.
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you... Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.
On a hunch, [Semmelweis] sets up a policy. Doctors must wash their hands in a chlorine solution when they leave the cadavers. Mortality from puerperal fever promptly drops to two percent. Now things grow strange. Instead of reporting his success at a meeting, Semmelweis says nothing....
As outside interest grows, we begin to understand Semmelweis's silence. The hospital director feels his leadership has been criticized. He's furious. He blocks Semmelweis's promotion. The situation gets worse. Viennese doctors turn on this Hungarian immigrant.... Finally, he goes back to Budapest...
Everybody puts little hidden jokes in stuff from time to time. There are quite a few little jokes in my books which only the person they directed at would get. It's a bit like people waving at complete strangers out of buses... just being friendly and saying hi.
The stuff at the beginning of Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul about the harpsichord and the bailiffs was a joke at the expense of my great friend Michael Bywater, on whom the character of DG was to a certain extent based.
For instance in Life, The Universe And Everything I describe the way that the robot waiters and guests behave in the BistroMath ship. One of the guest robots keeps feeling under tables, insulting people and going on about some woman or other... I called him an AutoRory. Old friend of mine called Rory McGrath. That's exactly what he used to be like in restaurants. Don't know if he still is because I haven't gone to restaurants with him for a while, for obvious reasons. Not only did Rory get the joke. Anybody who had ever been to a restaurant with him or even just IN a restaurant with him got it.
There have been many times when I've regretted investing so much time and energy in the internet. When I was embarrassed by the whole thing. But it occurred to me that just about every good thing I have in my life today has stemmed, directly or indirectly, from that site.
I think people have lost confidence in themselves. To a large extent, that's been done by members of my profession. The building has become the province of the architect; it's sort of his plaything. And the architects have worked quite hard to convince users that they don't know anything about architecture... It's even reached the point where people have interior decorators come choose their own wallpaper, for god's sake.
So this lack of confidence, which has been fostered in the population, is a manipulation that has actually been caused partly by the media, but largely by the [architecture] profession. It tremendously endangers the fabric of society, because if people lose confidence in themselves to that degree, then the adaptation of the environment, to common sense and to everyday use, disappears.
At first I hoped that such a technically unsound project would collapse, but I soon realized it was doomed to success. Almost anything in software can be implemented, sold, and even used given enough determination. There is nothing a mere scientist can say that will stand against the flood of a hundred million dollars. But there is one quality that cannot be purchased in this way - and that is reliability. The price of reliability is the pursuit of the utmost simplicity. It is a price which the very rich find most hard to pay. ...
[Ada] has been initiated and sponsored by one of the world's most powerful organizations, the United States Department of Defense. Thus it is ensured of an influence and attention quite independent of its technical merits, and its faults and deficiencies threaten us with far greater dangers. For none of the evidence we have so far can inspire confidence that this language has avoided any of the problems that have afflicted other complex language projects of the past.
Jacques Hadamard, the famous French mathematician, in the late stages of his life, decided to poll his 99 buddies, who made up together the 100 great mathematicians and physicists on the earth, and he asked them, "How do you do your thing?" They were all personal friends of his, so they wrote back depositions. Only a few, out of the hundred, claimed to use mathematical symbology at all. Quite a surprise. All of them said they did it mostly in imagery or figurative terms. An amazing 30% or so, including Einstein, were down here in the mudpies [doing]. Einstein's deposition said, "I have sensations of a kinesthetic or muscular type." Einstein could feel the abstract spaces he was dealing with, in the muscles of his arms and his fingers...
The sad part of [the doing -> images -> symbols] diagram is that every child in the United States is taught math and physics through this [symbolic] channel. The channel that almost no adult creative mathematician or physicist uses to do it... They use this channel to communicate, but not to do their thing. Much of our education is founded on those principles, that just because we can talk about something, there is a naive belief that we can teach through talking and listening.
When a significant theorem is proved, it often (but not always) happens that the solution can be communicated in a matter of minutes from one person to another within the subfield. The same proof would be communicated and generally understood in an hour talk to members of the subfield. It would be the subject of a 15- or 20-page paper, which could be read and understood in a few hours or perhaps days by members of the subfield.
Why is there such a big expansion from the informal discussion to the talk to the paper? One-on-one, people use wide channels of communication that go far beyond formal mathematical language. They use gestures, they draw pictures and diagrams, they make sound effects and use body language. Communication is more likely to be two-way, so that people can concentrate on what needs the most attention. With these channels of communication, they are in a much better position to convey what's going on, not just in their logical and linguistic facilities, but in their other mental facilities as well.
In talks, people are more inhibited and more formal. Mathematical audiences are often not very good at asking the questions that are on most people's minds, and speakers often have an unrealistic preset outline that inhibits them from addressing questions even when they are asked.
Technological and scientific advances rarely break out of the adjacent possible; the history of cultural progress is, almost without exception, a story of one door leading to another door... But of course, every now and then an idea does occur to someone that teleports us forward a few rooms, skipping some exploratory steps in the adjacent possible. But those ideas almost always end up being short-term failures... we call them "ahead of their time". ...
Babbage had most of [his Analytical Engine] sketched out by 1837, but the first true computer to use this programmable architecture didn't appear for more than a hundred years. While the Difference Engine engendered an immediate series of refinements and practical applications, the Analytical Engine effectively disappeared from the map. Many of the pioneering insights that Babbage had hit upon in the 1830s had to be independently rediscovered by the visionaries of World War II-era computer science.
Q: At the [NYU] Game Center, we're interested in the role of the university as an alternate place for thinking about games... What in your opinion are some of the big interesting problems that students should be working on?
A: My advice for students is... I question the question. I don't think there are problems that students should be working on. I think students should be making games that are interesting and push the boundaries, and those will generate the problems.
Looking back now... what strikes you about the early days of the desktop metaphor is how many people resisted the idea, and how many simply didn't get it at all. The viability of the graphic interface is so far beyond question now that it's difficult to remember that there was ever a dispute about it. But if you sift through the original reviews of the Mac and the Lisa... you can't help but be struck by how hard a time the critics had wrapping their minds around the new paradigm.
The opposition now seems completely out of place to use, accustomed as we are to the way spatial metaphors can augment thought -- but to those first critics, the visual language seemed like child's play, or a cartoon. Other reviews missed the point altogether, dismissing the Mac as a tool that only artists and designers would have use for, as though the machine's major innovation was MacPaint's spray can and not the interface itself. Consider the editorial from Forbes, dated February 13, 1984:
[The Macintosh's] best features are for computer novices: MacPaint, a program that creates graphic designs of stunning complexity, and MacWrite, a word-processing program that goes to ingenious lengths to set up the screen to look like a typewriter. Both are controlled by the machine's "mouse," which moves the cursor without the user's touching the keyboard. Such simplicity is not aimed at big corporations. The average middle manager has litte need for the graphics capability of MacPaint. Most managers have a hard enough time writing reports, without having to worry about designing them as well.
The ease with which the author dismisses the brilliance of those original programs ("such simplicity") is breathtaking, of course, but even more arresting is how the graphic interface itself flies completely below his radar. There's not even a passing reference to the potential virtues of organizing information visually... There's a puzzling literalness to the langauge: the author sees a graphic interface and immediately assumes that it must be useful only for graphic artists. The broader conceptual liberation promised by the graphic interace doesn't even occur to him.
Q: Do you regard the chaos [within Newtonian mechanics] as immutable, forever remaining inexplicable; and that no new data, no more exact observations or no future theory will ever be able to explain it? I have in mind that the history of science has revealed time and time again a state of affairs where observed phenomena have been seen as irrational, inexplicable and 'chaotic' according to received theory and accepted laws of science but that subsequent refinement of the data and/or new hypotheses, by offering a new explanatory schema, have revealed that a new order lay unperceived within the older chaos....
A: Perhaps I should make it clear that the results I described are not 'scientific theories'. They are mathematical results, based upon rigorous 'proof' in the mathematical sense. They are not capable of alteration therefore.
Admittedly the history of science confirms that our understanding of natural laws is constantly being further refined. Newtonian dynamics is itself an illustration of this because we have long recognized it as only an approximation to the true laws of mechanics...
My lecture, however, was about the mathematical properties of systems assumed to obey exactly the laws of Newtonian dynamics. The behaviour of such systems had long been thought to be completely predictable but is now known, for a certain proportion of such systems, to be 'chaotic' in a well defined sense.
Leonardo could not invent a single engine for any of his vehicles. Maybe the smartest person of his time, but he was born in the wrong time. His IQ could not transcend his time. Henry Ford was nowhere near Leonardo, but he happened to be born in the right century, a century in which people had already done a lot of work in making mechanical things...
Knowledge, in many many cases, trumps IQ. Why? This is because there are certain special people who invent new ways of looking at things. Henry Ford was powerful because Issac Newton changed the way Europe thought about things. One of the wonderful things about the way knowledge works is if you can get a supreme genius to invent calculus, those of us with more normal IQs can learn it. So we're not shut out from what the genius does. We just can't invent calculus by ourselves, but once one of these guys turns things around, the knowledge of the era changes completely.
So we've got this present, it comes out of one set of things in the past that we're vaguely aware of, and gives rise to an incremental future. But the truth is that the past is vast. It's enormous! There are billions of people contributing to the past. And every time we think the present is real, we cannot see the rest of the past. So we have to destroy the present.
Once you get rid of it, it's a scary situation, because you said, "I'm not going to have anything based on the past." Of course that's not possible; you're just trying. But sometimes you get a little feeling. And this not an idea; it's just a feeling. It's like an odor of perfume. But the fun thing is that little feeling can actually lead you to look in the past in different places than you normally do, and you can bring those up to that feeling. And once you do that, that feeling starts expanding into a vision, and the vision expands into an actual idea...
Some of the most creative people I know actually operate this way. This is where those ideas come from that are not just incremental to the present. They come out of vague, even muscular sensations, that you have to go chasing to find out what they are. If you try to get the idea too early, it can only be in terms of the present.
The inventors of the infinitesimal analysis [calculus] were already in possession of Descartes' method [of analytic geometry]. Whether it was a question of tangents or normals to curves, or of maxima or minima of functions considered geometrically, or of the radius of curvature of a curve at a given point, etc., the equation of the curve was considered first, by the method of Descartes, and then the equations of the normal, the tangent, and so forth, were found. Thus infinitesimal analysis, namely the differential and integral calculus, would have been inconceivable without the preliminary development of analytic geometry.
Perspective from within a bursting revolution is always a problem because the long view is obscured by compelling immediacies and the sudden traffic of people new to the subject, some seizing opportunity, some viewing with alarm. Both optimists and pessimists about new technologies are notorious for their tunnel vision.
The temptation always is to focus on a single point of departure or a single feared or desired goal. Sample point of departure: What if we can make anything out of diamond? Sample feared/desired goal: What if molecular-scale medicine lets people live for centuries?
Bill [Atkinson]'s problem with his employer's oversight was not so much ego, as a matter of his deeply ingrained sense of fairness. Bill has a radar for the personal angle, and the idea of one person gaining an unearned edge over another is loathsome to him. ... He thinks that "business as usual" is no excuse for not doing what's right.
The second thing crucial to Bill is his need to get his products out into the world. He bears scars from those times when a project of his failed to reach the public. He loved the idea that Apple bundled his MacPaint with every Macintosh, and he was crushed when the company decided that his post-Mac project, a flat-pad communicating computer called Magic Slate, was too esoteric a product to begin developing in 1985. He went into a depression, not working for months, until one night he wandered out of his house in the Los Gatos hills, stared at the star-filled sky, and had an epiphany: In the face of the awesome celestial epic, what was the point of being depressed? All you could do, really, was use your abilities to do what you could to make a little part of the universe better. And Bill Atkinson went back into the house and began using his abilities to work on a new project that would become known as HyperCard.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.
Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost. Rigour should be a signal to the historian that the maps have been made, and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.
He probably would be happier if he hadn't made Cow Clicker, but he doesn't want to be happy. I don't know what his goal in life is, but it's not to be happy. He's definitely better off having made this thing that has made him so unhappy.
I'm only pushing this idea, not because I think it's the right answer. I'm trying to twist us, so we say, "This is a different way to think." We have to think fifty-two different ways to fix this problem. I don't know how to make a machine that builds a person out of a cell. But I think the problem is that we've been stuck for too long diddling with our details. We've been sitting here worrying about our type system, when we should be worrying about how to get flexible machines and flexible programming.
I took out the briefing charts and went around to present this idea [of digital packet switching], and got dumped all over. People said it wouldn't work because of this reason or that reason. I would study the problem and come back. A good wire-brushing like this was necessary. You see, these ideas were crazy. We were in an analog world. The image of a computer was a great big room with parts failing all the time. I said, "You can build computers in shoe box size. It's already happening on board airplanes."
Issuing reports of sensational data defeats its own purpose. For if the prior probability of deception is greater than that of ESP, then the more improbable the alleged data are on the null hypothesis of no deception and no ESP, the more strongly we are led to believe, not in ESP, but in deception...
Laplace perceived this phenomenon long ago... He notes that those who make recitals of miracles, "decrease rather than augment the belief which they wish to inspire; for then those recitals render very probable the error or the falsehood of their authors. But that which diminishes the belief of educated men often increases that of the uneducated, always avid for the marvelous."
Indeed, the [author] found himself a victim of this phenomenon... We applied Beyesian analysis to estimation of frequencies of nonstationary sinusoidal signals... We found -- as was expected on theoretical grounds -- an improved resolution over the previously used fourier transform methods.
If we had claimed a 50% improvement, we would have been believed at once, and other researchers would have adopted this method eagerly. But in fact we found orders of magnitude improvement in resolution. It was, in retrospect, foolish of us to mention this at the outset, for in the minds of other the prior probability that we were irresponsible charlatans was greater than the prior probability that a new method could possibly be that good; and we were not at first believed.
My subject does not exist because subject matters in general do not exist. There are no subject matters; no branches of learning -- or, rather, of inquiry: there are only problems, and the urge to solve them. A science such as botany or chemistry is, I contend, merely an administrative unit. University administrators have a difficult job anyway, and it is a great convenience to them to work on the assumption that there are some named subjects, with chairs attached to them to be filled by the experts in these subjects. It has been said that the subjects are also a convenience to the student. I do not agree: even serious students are misled by the myth of the subject. And I should be reluctant to call anything that misleads a person a convenience to that person.
Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express. Let them make the effort to express these ideas in appropriate words without the aid of symbols, and if they succeed they will not only lay us laymen under a lasting obligation, but, we venture to say, they will find themselves very much enlightened during the process, and will even be doubtful whether the ideas as expressed in symbols had ever quite found their way out of the equations into their minds.
Do you, Programmer,
take this Object to be part of the persistent state of your application,
to have and to hold,
through maintenance and iterations,
for past and future versions,
as long as the application shall live?
If Zelda is to reclaim any of the spirit that Miyamoto first invested in its world... it needs to make most of the map accessible from the beginning. No artificial barriers to clumsily guide Link along a set course... Link must be allowed to enter areas he's not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.
This world, dangerous, demanding exploration, must also be mysterious. This means: illegible, at least at first... How can you truly explore if you know how everything works already? How can you ever be surprised if every "secret" is conspicuously marked as such?
The point of a hero's adventure... is not to make you feel better about yourself. The point is to grow, to overcome, to in some way actually become better. If a legendary quest has no substantial challenge, if it asks nothing of you except that you jump through the hoops it so carefully lays out for you, then the very legend is unworthy of being told, and retold.
To do this, Hyrule must become more indifferent to the player. It must aspire to ignore Link. Zelda has so far followed a spirit of indulgence in its loving details, a carefully crafted adventure that reeks of quality and just-for-you-ness. But a world is not for you. A world needs a substance, an independence, a sense that it doesn't just disappear when you turn around (even if it kinda does). It needs architecture, not level design with themed wallpaper, and environments with their own ecosystems (which were doing just fine before you showed up). Every location can't be plagued with false crises only you can solve, grist for the storymill.
In 1823, [Sadi Carnot] was ready to publish what he had discovered. Before putting pen to paper, he had adopted two guidelines, each admirable in its own right, but fatal in combination: By neatly canceling each other out, they condemned his book to almost total oblivion. First, he decided to address himself to the general public rather than an audience of scientist and engineers. This decision establishes the book, which much later assumed its rightful place among the classics of science, as the last member of a noble tradition. Galileo himself had started the trend by writing in popular Italian instead of Latin, by keeping mathematical details to a minimum, and by perfecting a lively literary style. Galileo's writings were enormously influential, but after the time of Newton another genre, densely mathematical in content and highly professional in tone, had become predominant, particularly in physics.
Carnot's second guideline, and the essence of his greatness, was to embrace generality. Inspired by his father, who had written a successful book on the analysis of simple mechanical machines, Carnot undertook to develop a general theory of steam engines that would rise above the practical questions of design and materials that were of immediate interest to engineers.
A popular explanation of the advantages of the the steam engine, or a general treatise of the theory of extracting work from heat, might have made its mark. But the public was too unsophisticated to understand a general theory, and the technical people too contemptuous to bother with what seemed to be a popularization of a complex subject. By trying to address two audiences at once, Carnot excluded both. His Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire received only one, albeit enthusiastic, review, and a decade later, three years after its author's death at thirty-six, one single citation in a science text alone bore the burden of keeping his memory alive.
Even very young children can understand and use interactive transformational tools. The first ones are their hands! They can readily extend these experiences to computer objects and making changes to them. They can often imagine what a proposed change will do and not be surprised at the result... They can answer any question whose answer requires the application of just one of these tools. But it is extremely difficult for them to answer any question that requires two or more transformations. Yet they have no problem applying sequences of transformations, exploring "forward." It is for conceiving and achieving even modest goals requiring several changes that they almost completely lack navigation abilities.
It seems that what needs to be learned and taught is now to package up transformations in twos and threes in a manner similar to learning a strategic game like checkers. The vague sense of a "threesome" pointing towards one's goal can be a set up for the more detailed work that is needed to accomplish it.
John [McCarthy]'s world is a world of ideas, a world in which ideas don't belong to anyone, and when an idea is wrong, just the idea - not the person - is wrong. A world in which ideas are like young birds, and we catch them and proudly show them to our friends. The bird's beauty and the hunter's are distinct....
Some people won't show you the birds they've caught until they are sure, certain, positive that they - the birds, or themselves - are gorgeous, or rare, or remarkable. When your mind can separate yourself from your bird, you will share it sooner, and the beauty of the bird will be sooner enjoyed. And what is a bird but for being enjoyed?
Like most readers, I had functionally consigned [our game] to the furnace. I had let it float away on one of those little lantern boats in a way that brought me closure, if no one else. Insufficient. Fucking insufficient.
You have to get back on the horse. Somehow, and I don't know how this kind of thing starts, we have started to lionize horseback-not-getting-on: these casual, a priori assertions of inevitable failure, which is nothing more than a gauze draped over your own pulsing terror. Every creative act is open war against The Way It Is. What you are saying when you make something is that the universe is not sufficient, and what it really needs is more you. And it does, actually; it does. Go look outside. You can't tell me that we are done making the world.
Q: Are you ever afraid of someone stealing your thunder, especially when you've been quite open about development and showing off your games for some time now - i.e. if a game comes out that happens to have the same puzzle hook as The Witness or the same kind of competitive aspects as Spy Party?
It was curious, in a way, who they were, these men coming to Bell Labs in New York. Most had been trained at first-rate graduate schools like MIT and Chicago and Caltech; they had been flagged by physics or chemistry or engineering professors at these places and their names had been quietly passed along to Mervin Kelly or someone else at the Labs. But most had been raised in fly-speck towns, intersections of nowhere and nowhere, places with names like Chickasa or Quaker Neck or Petoskey, towns like the one Kelly had come from, rural and premodern like Gallatin, towns where their fathers had been fruit growers or merchants or small-time lawyers. Almost all of them had found a way out -- a high school teacher, oftentimes, who noticed something about them, a startling knack for mathematics, for example, or an insatiable curiosity about electricity, and had tried to nurture this talent with extra assignments or after-school tutoring, all in the hope (never explained to the young men but realized by them all, gratefully, many years later) that the students could be pushed toward a local university and away from the desolation of a life behind a plow or a cash register.
The young Bell Labs recruits had other things in common. Almost all had grown up with a peculiar desire to know more about the stars or the telephone lines or (most often) the radio, and especially their makeshift home wireless sets. Almost all of them had put one together themselves, and in turn had discovered how sound could be pulled from the air.
Living organisms are shaped by evolution to survive, not necessarily to get a clear picture of the universe. For example, frogs' brains are set up to recognize food as moving objects that are oblong in shape. So if we take a frog's normal food -- flies -- paralyze them with a little chloroform and put them in front of the frog, it will not notice them or try to eat them.
It will starve in front of its food! But if we throw little rectangular pieces of cardboard at the frog it will eat them until it is stuffed! The frog only sees a little of the world we see, but it still thinks it perceives the whole world.
A: This story was told by me as an individual. An individual brings their individual characteristics and experience to a story. I happen to be a woman, but I'm a specific woman, not womankind in general. I can't tell you how other women would direct a particular film, or other men. We're all unique.
In the beginning we programmed in absolute binary... Finally, a Symbolic Assembly Program was devised -- after more years than you are apt to believe during which most programmers continued their heroic absolute binary programming. At the time [the assembler] first appeared I would guess about 1% of the older programmers were interested in it -- using [assembly] was "sissy stuff", and a real programmer would not stoop to wasting machine capacity to do the assembly.
Yes! Programmers wanted no part of it, though when pressed they had to admit their old methods used more machine time in locating and fixing up errors than the [assembler] ever used. One of the main complaints was when using a symbolic system you do not know where anything was in storage -- though in the early days we supplied a mapping of symbolic to actual storage, and believe it or not they later lovingly pored over such sheets rather than realize they did not need to know that information if they stuck to operating within the system -- no! When correcting errors they preferred to do it in absolute binary.
FORTRAN was proposed by Backus and friends, and again was opposed by almost all programmers. First, it was said it could not be done. Second, if it could be done, it would be too wasteful of machine time and capacity. Third, even if it did work, no respectable programmer would use it -- it was only for sissies!
Every college provides access to a huge collection of potential readings, and to a tiny collection of potential lectures. We ask students to read the best works we can find, whoever produced them and where, but we only ask them to listen to the best lecture a local employee can produce that morning. Sometimes you're at a place where the best lecture your professor can give is the best in the world. But mostly not. And the only thing that kept this system from seeming strange was that we've never had a good way of publishing lectures. ...
The fight over [massive open online courses] is really about the story we tell ourselves about higher education: what it is, who it's for, how it's delivered, who delivers it. The most widely told story about college focuses obsessively on elite schools and answers a crazy mix of questions: How will we teach complex thinking and skills? How will we turn adolescents into well-rounded members of the middle class? Who will certify that education is taking place? How will we instill reverence for Virgil? Who will subsidize the professor's work?
Gordon Moore asked me whether tunneling would be a major limitation on how small we could make transistors in an integrated circuit. That question took me on a detour that was to last nearly 30 years.... I decided to make the question the subject of a talk. As I prepared for this event, I began to have serious doubts about my sanity. My calculations were telling me that, contrary to all the current lore in the field, we could scale down the technology such that everything got better. The circuits got more complex, they ran faster, and the took less power -- WOW! The more I looked at the problem, the more I was convinced that the result was correct, so I went ahead and gave the talk. That talk provoked considerable debate, and at the time most people didn't believe the result. But by the time the next workshop rolled around, a number of other groups had worked through the problem for themselves, and we were pretty much all in agreement.
Back in 1959, Feynman had given a lecture entitled "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom". That talk had made a big impression me... I became completely absorbed with how the exponential increase in complexity of integrated circuits would change the way that we think about computing. The viewpoint of the computer industry at the time was an outgrowth of the industial revolution; it was based on what was then called "the economy of scale." A 1000-horsepower engine cost only four times as much as a 100-horsepower engine. Therefore, the cost per horsepower became less as the engine was made larger. It was more cost effective to make a few large power plants than to make many small ones. Efficiency considerations favored the concentration of technology in a few large installations. The same was evidently true of computing. IBM was particularly successful following this strategy.
But as I looked at the physics of the emerging technology, it didn't work that way at all. The time required to move data was set by the velocity of light and related electromagnetic considerations, so it was far more effective to put whatever computing was required where the data were located. Efficiency considerations thus favored the distribution of technology, rather than the concentration of technology. The economics of information technology were the reverse of those of mechanical technology. I gave numerous talks on this topic and, at that time, what I had to say was contrary to what the industry wanted to hear.
Depends on what you mean by understand itself. If you mean in broad-principle terms if we will come to understand things, yeah, I don't see why not. For example, I like to look back at Freud. I don't know when it was that he first published his ideas about the ego, the id and the superego, and I don't know how much truth there is to those ideas, but it was a big leap even if it wasn't completely correct, because nobody had ever spoken of the abstract architecture of a human soul or a human self. It's as if he were saying that a self can be thought of in an abstract way, the way a government is thought of, with a legislative branch, a judicial, an executive, and he was making guesses at what the architecture of a human self is. And maybe they were all wrong, but it doesn't matter; the point is it was a first stab. Like the Bohr atom, it was a wonderful intuitive leap.
Knowledge, learning, understanding, are not linear. They are not little bits of facts lined up in rows or piled up one on top of another. A field of knowledge, whether it be math, English. history, science, music, or whatever, is a territory, and knowing it is not just a matter of knowing all of the items in the territory, but of knowing how they relate to, compare with, and fit in with each other... It is the difference between knowing the names of all the streets in a city and being able to get from any place, by any desired route, to any other place.
Why do we talk and write about the world and our knowledge of it as if they were linear? Because that is the nature of talk. Words come out in single file, one at a time; there's no other way to talk or write. So in order to talk about it, we cut the real undivided world into little pieces, and make these into strings of talk, like beads on a necklace. But we must not be fooled; these strings of talk are not what the world is like. Our learning is not real, not complete, not accurate, above all not useful, unless we take these word strings and somehow convert them in our minds into a likeness of the world, a working mental model of the universe as we know it. Only when we have made such a model, and when there is at least a rough correspondence between that model and reality, can it be said of us that we have learned something.
I gave Marjorie 2 rods, and asked how many differently shaped rectangles she could make by putting them together. She saw there was only one... With 4 rods, there were two possible rectangles, a 1 x 4 and a 2 x 2. And so we worked our way up to 20, finding the factors of each number along the way... At no time on the way up to 20 did it occur to her that she could solve the problem by making use of what little she knew about factors. Given 10 rods, she did not think, "I can make a rectangle 5 rods long and 2 wide"; she had to work by trial and error each time. But she did get progressively quicker at seeing which combinations were possible and which were not.
I did not see until later that this increased quickness and skill was the beginning, the seed of a generalized understanding. An example comes to mind that was repeated many times. When the children had 12 rods, they made a 6 x 2 rectangle. Then they divided that rectangle in half and put the halves together to make a 4 x 3 rectangle. As they worked, their attack on the problem became more economical and organized. They were a long way from putting their insights and understandings into words, but they were getting there. The essential is that this sort of processs not be rushed.
The first response of educational systems under such acceleration [of societal technology] is to produce technicians and engineers and scientists as needed, but it is doubtful whether such a priority produces what is required to manage the enterprise. For no specific science or technology provides a metalanguage in terms of which to think about a society, its technology, its science, and the constant changes that these undergo with innovation. Could an automotive engineer have foreseen the death of small-town America with the advent of the automobile? He would have been so wedded to his task of making better and better automobiles that it would never have occurred to him to consider the town, the footpath, leisure, or local loyalty. Somehow, if change is to be managed, it requires men with skills in sensing continuity and opportunity for continuity. ...
A further speculation about preparation for change is that we are bound to move toward instruction in the sciences of behavior and away from the study of history... It has to do with the need for studying the possible rather than the achieved -- a necessary step if we are to adapt to change.
I have a zillion prejudices. I love parallelism. I think because I learned to program plugboards before I learned to program a computer... I love hardware like the B5000... I love Lisp... JOSS was the most beautiful programming language ever done. It could hardly do anything, but it did it beautifully. It's an interesting challege to take something of this beauty and try to scale it. You combine these two together and you got the original Logo... I love APL. All of these systems can be done in a different way. Basically, the love of these things is because these guys got to some special kernel. I love what Engelbart did. I love spreadsheets. I love HyperCard.
We write all of our own tools, no matter what project we're building. Pretty much anything that we're doing requires some sort of design tool that didn't exist before. In fact, the design tools that we write to do the projects that we're doing are a sort of product in and of themselves.
Q: So it’s fine to say, everybody should learn a little bit about how to program and this way of thinking because it’s valuable and important. But then maybe that’s just not realistic. Donald Knuth told me that he thinks two percent of the population have brains wired the right way to think about programming.
The basic [software design] patterns have done their job. And then of course, you should ask, "What was that job?" And this is the thing that surprised me. The job was really to take C++, which was a fairly static language, and show people how to write dynamic programs in a static language. That's what most of the patterns in that book were about. And in the process, patterns extended the life of C++ by a decade, which is not what I thought would happen.
What I thought would happen is people, when they learned these patterns, would look at them and say, "Wow, these patterns are hard in C++ and they're easy in Smalltalk. So if I want to think in terms of these patterns, I might as well use a language where they're easily expressed." And extend the life of Smalltalk by a decade. But the opposite happened.
For example, the words -- square, circle, a hundred etc convey to the mind notions so complete in themselves, and so distinct from everything else, that we are sure when we use them we know the whole of our own meaning. It is widely different with words expressing natural objects and mixed relations.
Take, for instance, IRON. Different persons attach very different ideas to this word. One who has never heard of magnetism has a widely different notion of IRON from one in the contrary predicament. The vulgar, who regard this metal as incombustible, and the chemist, who sees it burn with the utmost fury, and who has other reasons for regarding it as one of the most combustible bodies in nature; -- the poet, who uses it as an emblem of rigidity; and the smith and the engineer, in whose hands it is plastic, and moulded like wax into every form; -- the jailer, who prizes it as an obstruction, and the electrician who sees in it only a channel of open communication by which -- that most impassable of objects -- air may be traversed by his imprisoned fluid, have all different, and all imperfect, notions of the same word.
In the future, it's going to be the case that computers are so cheap and so easy to make, that you can make them the size of a grain of sand, complete with a megabyte of RAM. You're going to buy them by the bushel. You can pour them into your concrete, you buy your concrete by the megaflop, and you have a wall that's smart. So long as you can get the power to them, and they can do something, that's going to happen. Remember, your cells are pretty smart... they seem to talk to each other and do useful things.
In a letter to Dedekind, at the very beginning of the 1875-1925 crisis in mathematics, Cantor is overwhelmed by amazement at his own findings, [exclaiming] "to see is not to believe". And, as if on cue, mathematics seeks to avoid being misled by the graven images of monsters. What a contrast between the rococo exuberance of pre- or counterrevolutionary geometry, and the near-total visual barrenness of the works of Weierstrass, Cantor, or Peano! In physics, an analogous development threatened since about 1800, since Laplace's Celestrial Mechanics avoided all illustration. And it is exemplified by the statement by P. A. M. Dirac (in the preface of his 1930 Quantum Mechanics) that nature's "fundamental laws do not govern the world as it appears in our mental picture in any very direct way, but instead they control a substratum of which we cannot form a mental picture without introducing irrelevancies."
Graphics is wonderful for matching models with reality... A formula can relate to only a small aspect of the relationship between model and reality, while the eye has enormous powers of integration and discrimination. True, the eye sometimes sees spurious relationships which statistical analysis later negates, but this problem arises mostly in areas of science where samples are very small. In the areas we shall explore, samples are huge.
Sometimes, when visualization thoroughly reveals the structure of a set of data, there is a tendency to underrate the power of the method for the application. Little effort is expended in seeing the structure once the right visualization method is used, so we are mislead into thinking nothing exciting has occurred. The [previous example] might be such a case. The intensive visualization showed a linearity in hardness, a nonlinearity in tensile strength, and interaction between hardness and tensile strength, and three aberrant observations... It might be thought that anyone analyzing these data would uncover these properties. This is not the case. In the original treatment, the analysis got it wrong. They operated within a paradigm of numerical methods and probabilistic inference for data analysis, and not intensive visualization. They missed the nonlinearity. They missed the interaction. They missed the outliers. In other words, they missed most of the structure in the data.
All mathematics exhibits in its conclusions only what is already implicit in its premises... Hence all mathematical derivation can be viewed simply as change in representation, making evident what was previously true but obscure.
This view can be extended to all of problem solving -- solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent. If the problem solving could actually be organized in these terms, the issue of representation would indeed become central. But even if it cannot -- if this is too exaggerated a view -- a deeper understanding of how representations are created and how they contribute to the solution of problems will become an essential component in the future theory of design.
Considering all that happened later, Lick's youthful passion for psychology might seem like an aberration, a sideline, a twenty-five-year-long diversion from his ultimate career in computers. But in fact, his grounding in psychology would prove central to his very conception of computers. Virtually all the other computer pioneers of his generation would come to the field in the 1940s and 1950s with backgrounds in mathematics, physics, or electrical engineering, technological orientations that led them to focus on gadgetry -- on making the machines bigger, faster, and more reliable. Lick was unique in bringing to the field a deep appreciation for human beings: our capacity to perceive, to adapt, to make choices, and to device completely new ways of tackling apparently intractable problems. As an experimental psychologist, he found these abilities every bit as subtle and as worthy of respect as a computer's ability to execute an algorithm. And that was why to him, the real challenge would always lie in adapting computers to the humans who used them, thereby exploiting the strengths of each.
[Norbert Weiner made his many contributions] in a style that left his more conventional colleagues shaking their heads. Instead of treating mathematics as formal exercise in the manipulation of symbols, Wiener worked by intuition, often groping his way toward a solution by trying to envision some physical model of the problem. He considered mathematical notation and language necessary evils at best -- things that tended to get in the way of the real ideas.
In trying to divide the two labs [CSL and SSL at Xerox PARC] between basic and applied computer research, [George Pake] was being led badly astray by his background as a physicist. At the time, he remembers, "I was a bit baffled. I kept looking for these underlying principles of computer science" -- the analogs of Newton's laws of motion, say -- "and I couldn't find them. There were certainly some deep ideas -- for example, information theory, or the Turing machine. But those ideas had not led to a large body of theory as there was in physics." The upshot was that his plan for the separation of the two labs just didn't work, because "both ended up doing applications."
Mead and Conway had pioneered a way of teaching integrated circuit design via an elegant and very general set of design principles. Draft chapters of their textbook, Introduction to VLSI Systems, had been circulating since 1977 and had already been used in courses at Caltech, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT. (The book itself, which was published in 1979, would go on to become a bible for VLSI professionals.)
But just as important, Mead and Conway had conceived the notion of a "silicon foundry." The idea was that students in an IC design course would each prepare a chip layout, specified in a standard chip description language, and then send it over the Arpanet to a "silicon broker'-originally PARC and then later Hewlett-Packard. The broker, in turn, would compile dozens of individual designs and then arrange with a chip manufacturer to have them all etched onto a single silicon wafer, so that the cost could be shared. Finally, the chips would be cut apart, packaged individually, and sent back to the students for testing and experimentation...
MOSIS would flourish into the 1990s. And chip innovation would flourish along with it. MOSIS supported design experiments for advanced architectures such as Intel's Cosmic Cube and the Connection Machine from Thinking Machines, Inc. It supported experiments in reduced-instruction-set computing at Stanford and Berkeley, thereby providing a proof-of-concept for a number of cutting-edge commercial chips of the late 1980s and 1990s. It even supported the development of the "graphics engine" chip by Stanford's James Clark, who would soon be applying his expertise as a cofounder of Silicon Graphics, Inc. And most of all, the MOSIS project produced an awful lot of people trained in VLSI design. Indeed, you could argue that MOSIS was as much responsible as any other single factor for the explosion in microchip technology during the 1980s and 1990s.
The natural reaction, when someone is having trouble understanding what you are explaining, is to break up the explanation into smaller pieces and explain the pieces one by one. This tends not to work, so you back up even further and fill in even more details.
But human minds do not work like computers: it is harder, not easier, to understand something broken down into all the precise little rules than to grasp it as a whole. It is very hard for a person to read a computer assembly language program and figure out what it is about...
Studying mathematics one rule at a time is like studying a language by first memorizing the vocabulary and the detailed linguistic rules, then building phrases and sentences, and only afterwards learning to read, write, and converse. Native speakers of a language are not aware of the linguistic rules: they assimilate the language by focusing on a higher level, and absorbing the rules and patterns subconsciously. The rules and patterns are much harder for people to learn explicitly than is the language itself.
When you think about it, it's curious to pen a manifesto for a ludic century to come in the twenty-first century, when the manifesto itself was such a staple of twentieth-century thought... The modern manifesto as a written prescription that makes manifest certain principles really starts with the political manifestos of Marx, Engels, Bellegarrigue, and others in the mid-19th century. The artistic manifestos of Symbolism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and others followed this lead, proclaiming clear, direct, and unyielding principles for creative practice. So, perhaps there is one fundamental challenge for the Manifesto for a Ludic Century: would a truly ludic century be a century of manifestos? Of declaring simple principles rather than embracing systems? Or, is the Ludic Manifesto meant to be the last manifesto, the manifesto to end manifestos, replacing simple answers with the complexity of "information at play?"
I believe that all communication is via analogy. Indeed, I would describe communication this way: taking an intricate dance that can be danced in one and only one medium, and then, despite the intimacy of the marriage of that dance to that medium, making a radically new dance that is intimately married to a radically different medium, and in just the same way as the first dance was to its medium...
Imagine taking the most enthralling basketball game you ever watched... and giving a videotape of that game to a “soccer choreographer,” who will now stage all the details of an artificial soccer game that is in some sense analogous to your basketball game.
My boss gave me quite a lecture one day. He said, "Look, here's eight pages you've gone through to describe this thing you want to do and it's still all faint. Bill has just written this proposal, on one page, very concise, clear, describing exactly what he wants to do with his research." The model proposal was very detailed in an intellectual domain that was already all thoroughly beaten out. What he was proposing was a very narrow research question pursuing a tiny sub-domain.
I tried to explain to my boss that I was interested in opening up an entirely new approach for which there is no vocabulary. Later, people used the term "paradigm shift" to describe a fundamental change in assumptions and thinking. If you're really dealing with something in a different paradigm, the vocabulary of almost everything you're trying to say is different. You have to somehow establish the terms as stepping-stones to arrive at what you're trying to say. And people aren't used to it taking that long for you to get the picture to them. That has been the basic problem ever since, when trying to dsecribe the framework Augmentation System and the Bootstrap Strategy.
A lot of the stuff going on [in AI] is not very ambitious. In machine learning, one of the big steps that happened in the mid-'80s was to say, "Look, here’s some real data -- can I get my program to predict accurately on parts of the data that I haven’t yet provided to it?" What you see now in machine learning is that people see that as the only task.
If you're going to do something that's meant to be interesting for ten millenia, it almost has to have been interesting for ten millenia. Clocks and other methods of measuring time have interested people for a very long time.
To be a viable computer system, one must honor a huge list of large, and often changing, standards: TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, XML, CORBA, Unicode, POSIX, NFS, SMB, MIME, POP, IMAP, X, ... A huge amount of work, but if you don’t honor the standards you’re marginalized. Estimate that 90-95% of the work in Plan 9 was directly or indirectly to honor externally imposed standards. At another level, instruction architectures, buses, etc. have the same influence. With so much externally imposed structure, there’s little slop left for novelty.