Friday, December 08, 2006

alan kay's plans for world conquest

Video of alan kay's talk about children first and the $100 laptop at EuroPython2006 (part one).

I'm gradually coming to understand that Alan Kay and the 100 dollar laptop group are planning to conquer the world by putting children first!

Society says we care about children. Our deficient education system shows that we don't really care about children.

His story about the tremendous impact that Papert's method of drawing a circle had on his thinking ...
repeat lots [forward 5 right 5] an illustration that vectors and differential calculus can be taught to young children is both charming and naive. This is how a mathematician conquers the world!

The aim of the $123 laptop is to create a radical discontinuity in the operating system and user interface, "to change the balance of software and hardware in the world". He anticipates sales of 16 million laptops in 2007 and 50-100 million in 2008!

He explains that 50% of the price of a western laptop goes to sales, marketing, profit and distribution and another 25% goes to Microsoft software profits. They further trim the cost through display innovations and using flash memory rather than a hard disc and voila! $123.

I liked the bit where he points out that the hardest issue will be the messiness of people, not the hardware, the software or the pedagogy.

His clever illustration of how we mis-perceive the world (rotating a table) resonates with the other messages in a haunting manner
We see things not as they are but as WE are
He can see a world which is not dominated by Microsoft. Once again he is doing a transformation from the science of perception to the economics and politics of world domination. I hope it works!

Towards the end of part 3 of the video he says that both the $100 laptop and Mark Shuttleworth's Ubuntu Project are python based and that there are many times more python developers in the world than Squeak developers. This is why he is presenting to a python conference.

Guido van Rossum's report of the presentation, includes some good comments in response. In one of the comments, Alan Kay says:
We have had good results over the last 10 years with one of these (called Squeak Etoys)which has features that allow it to be localized to many different languages, used as a "WYSIwiki" on the web, and to dynamically share in real-time for mentoring and collaboration.

The next wave of projects in the 3rd world will be large enough to create real problems in distribution, localization, maintenance, extensions, etc. I think that the more widely established open source communities (like Python and Ruby) are better set up to provide the large number of programmers needed to help spread these ideas by the millions. Neither Python, nor Ruby, currently has a children's environment, and the poor quality of the DOM in the browsers means that it will be a very long time before a children's environment as good as Squeak Etoys will be built there.

However, since our new file format uses OpenDoc (with code hidden) the "player/authoring" kernel plugin for this content could well be written in Python or Ruby. And this would make things much better for the children of the world for the above reasons.

BTW, Squeak does have a very good foreign function interface, and we do use OpenGl, etc., heavily in our Croquet system. So I'm not suggesting that Python be used because of something that Squeak can't do (and has obviously already done). I'm suggesting this because I'd like to see the dominant communities in open source get interested in children and to start from current best practices.

alan kay video part 2
alan kay video part 3

No comments: