09w05:1 Alan Kay: "The Computer is an instrument whose music is ideas".

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Face to Face: Alan Kay Still Waiting for the Revolution | Lars Kongshem (April 2003)
Q: You often say that the computer revolution hasn’t happened yet. What do you mean by that?
“A: If you look with a squinty eye at most of personal computing today, you’ll see we’re basically just automating paper—using digital versions of documents and mail. But as was the case with the invention of the printing press, the interesting thing about the computer is that it allows you to have new ways of representing things, new ways to argue about things, and new kinds of fluencies. Most schools define computer literacy as being able to operate Microsoft Office and maybe do a little web design. They’re missing the point. That’s like saying, “If you know which end of a book to hold up, and you know how to turn to Chapter Three, then you’re literate.” Literature is first and foremost about having ideas important enough to discuss and write down in some form. So you have to ask, “What is the literature that is best written down on a computer?” One answer is to make a dynamic simulation of some idea that you think is important, a simulation that you can play with and that you can learn from. […] You can put a piano in every classroom, but that won’t give you a developed music culture, because the music culture is embodied in people. […] If you don’t have a teacher who is a carrier of music, then all efforts to do music in the classroom will fail—because existing teachers who are not musicians will decide to teach the C Major scale and see what the bell curve is on that. The important thing here is that the music is not in the piano. And knowledge and edification is not in the computer. The computer is simply an instrument whose music is ideas. […] If you take all the anthropological universals and lay them out, those are the things that you can expect children to learn from their environment—and they do. But the point of school is to teach all those things that are inventions and that are hard to learn because we’re not explicitly wired for them. Like reading and writing. Virtually all learning difficulties that children face are caused by adults’ inability to set up reasonable environments for them. The biggest barrier to improving education for children, with or without computers, is the completely impoverished imaginations of most adults.”


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