Alan Kay on the Notion Podcast

Alan Kay on the context and catalysts of personal computing

(Also in your podcast player of choice.)

We are the animal that made its progress through culture. Our progress has not been through genetics, but being able to do something faster than genetics can do.

Because of that, we have to think of ourselves as intertwined with our cultures. We’ve got a cooperative drive that makes us a social creature. We have a competitive thing that likely comes from being a subsistence animal for most of our genetic heritage. There’s hardly anything that competition really helps.

This is one of the biggest problems with many economic systems that can only work through competition. They just can’t do cooperation because cooperation makes it much easier to gain the cooperative systems.

One of the theories is that the reason that writing is correlated with civilization, writing allows ideas to be thought about and organized differently, and most importantly it allows the reading ideas, the receipt of the ideas, to be done independently of response. The biggest problem with oral…See, what I’m doing here is I’m not conversing. I really can’t converse very well at my age because I’ve lost my patience. So, what I do is pontificate, which is the same as giving you something like it’s written. In normal conversation, there’s this tit for tat kind of thing, but even worse, if somebody says something interesting and you just sit there for five minutes thinking about it, they start getting upset. But in fact, I do that all the time when I’m reading. I’m sure you know about Daniel Kahneman and Thinking Fast and Slow. The whole point here is what are all the modes that allow us to think slowly rather than to think reactively. A lot of these are correlated with inventions like writing and reading and some of the new media that have benefit. News is supposedly about new things, but if you look at the news, all the categories are ones that are completely understood by the audience. They couldn’t do 22 minutes of television news if they introduced a new category like calculus.