Saturday, November 17, 2007

a technology-human iteration: part one

What is this? An attempt to iterate over some different positions about the co-evolution of technology with humans, the “technology and progress” debate and how this relates to child development and education. This is meant to represent some sort of progression but also with feedback loops to earlier iterations as the later ones are developed.

first iteration: the tension between computers and human development

second iteration: the tension between how children learn and the complex, non spontaneous nature of the development of advanced scientific or Enlightenment ideas

third iteration: the tension between a computer user interface and the underlying computational model

first iteration: the tension between computers and human development
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,"
- alleged 1943 quote, Thomas Watson, IBM President
Once Moores Law was articulated (1965) then the idea that the predominant mainframes would be overwhelmed by personal computers arose. Alan Kay was one of those who had this idea (in 1967), which was quite unsettling at that time:
"For the first time I made the leap of putting the room-sized interactive TX-2 or even a 10 MIP 6600 on a desk. I was almost frightened by the implications; computing as we knew it couldn't survive--the actual meaning of the word changed--it must have been the same kind of disorientation people had after reading Copernicus and first looked up from a different Earth to a different Heaven"
- Early History of SmallTalk
Kay was also influenced by Papert's use of logo in schools. This led onto him developing a notion of children using computers as a personal meta medium to explore powerful ideas

This thinking takes place in the context of the more general backdrop of different positions taken with respect to computers and human development – with scenarios such as Damnation, Salvation and Cyborgs as outlined, for example, by Rodney Brooks in his book, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, Ch.9.

Alan Kay's position was similar to one articulated earlier by Doug Engelbart and J. C. R. Licklider --> computer-human symbiosis, the personal computer as an amplifier of human reach, or "augmentation of human intellect". or computer as a "thought amplifier"

This is a very different ("futurist") vision from the non vision that Schools tend to have, that computers are just tools which require skill to use, but which are subservient to the real education represented by the curriculum. However, this tension and inter-relationship between the computer and the curriculum needs to be explored in a more detailed and nuanced fashion
(end of part one)

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