[IAEP] [squeakland] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 5 18:50:15 EST 2011
It's basically "hunting and gathering" vs. "agriculture". Or "parisitism" vs
"symbiosis". These are built into human nervous systems by genetics, but it is
still surprising given that we've had agriculture for more than 10,000 years,
and one would think it would be more generally noticed and understood.
Here is an example from today that is like the impulse and vision that propelled
the 12 year effort that invented personal computing and the Internet.
The idea reaches back to the 60s and 70s, but an above threshold invention was
Children need to be helped to learn important things, such as reading and
writing, mathematics and science and engineering. The helpers need to understand
the subject matter, and also how to help the learning process with individual
learners. Studies have shown that for many learners, just lowering the
learner-to-helper ratio makes an enormous difference.
For the US, it has been calculated that it is not possible to create enough
knowledgeable K-8 teachers for math and science over the next 25 years, even for
the 30:1 student teacher ratios we have today. It has been estimated that this
problem is much worse in the developing world.
Vision: It is a destiny for interactive computers to become sensitive expert
learning helpers for many important parts of human knowledge which children need
This is an extension of what the printing press has meant for learning. There
aren't enough Socrates' and other great teachers to go around, but important
parts of their magic can be captured in print, replicated and distributed by the
millions. This allowed more ordinary teachers plus great-books to do some of
what great teachers can do. And this changed the world.
Computers can represent books and all other media, and they should be able to
actively help us learn to read them (even if we start off not being able to read
at all). And we should be able to go much farther beyond the book, to make
computer helpers that can also understand and answer many questions in ways that
extend our learning rather than undermines the growth of our minds.
These computer helpers also help the human helpers. It's not about replacing
humans (even if they don't exist) with computers, but making a more powerful
learning environment using technology to help.
This is a hard vision to pull off, just as personal computing was. The funding
needed to be long term in the 60s because much had to be done to (a) even find a
version of the vision that could serve as "problem and goals", and very
importantly (b) to "grow" the grad students and PhDs, who as second and third
generation researchers, were able to frame the problem and do the inventions.
The payoff has been enormous. The inventions at PARC alone have generated about
$30 Trillion dollars of wealth worldwide (and yes Xerox's return on their
investment in PARC has been more than a factor of 200 (from the laser printer
The great funding in the 60s was done mostly by the government, and for personal
computing and pervasive networks was spread over more than 15 universities and
research companies who formed a cooperative research community. (The story of
this is told in "The Dream Machine" by Mitchel Waldrop).
The funders today do not have a lot of vision, and they have even less courage.
A new kind of user interface that can help people learn is not just for the very
important needs of education around the world, but will also open up learning in
business, defense, and for consumer design and products.
How much would this cost? A critical mass of institutions and researchers could
be supported starting at about $100M/year. By contrast, the estimated US
spending for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2011 is about $170B. So we are talking
initially about less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the cost of these wars.
What's the hitch. First there is risk. It is a very difficult problem. But I
think a bigger hitch is that it is likely to take more than 10 years to pull
off. This is longer than any corporate or government cycle.
Perhaps a larger hitch lies in one of the biggest changes in funding today as
compared to the 60s. There is no question that a funder of large research monies
for high risk projects is "responsible". Today's funders are so worried about
this responsibility that they confuse it with "control" and tried to insert
themselves in the decision processes. This is a disaster (they are funders not
researchers, and the more visionary and difficult the projects, the less their
opinion can be at all germane.)
The 60s funders made no such error. They said "we can't evaluate projects behind
the Beltway, so we'll fund people not projects". This required trust in both
directions, but it is a proper and good allocation of expertise.
The other thing that the 60s funders pointed out when queried by worried
politicians, is that they were "playing baseball" not "going to school", meaning
that given the high risk and high payoff of the research, they only needed to
bat .350 and "the world will be changed"). Today's funders want certainty, and
this is engineering at best, and this does not change the world because the hard
important problems never get worked on.
From: Chunka Mui <chunka.mui at devilsadvocategroup.com>
To: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
Cc: Carlos Rabassa <carnen at mac.com>; "america-latina at squeakland.org"
<america-latina at squeakland.org>; "squeakland at squeakland.org"
<squeakland at squeakland.org>; Maho 2010 <maho at realness.org>; IAEP SugarLabs
<iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; voluntarios y administradores OLPC para usuarios
docentes <olpc-sur at lists.laptop.org>; olpc bolivia
<olpc-bolivia at lists.laptop.org>; OLPC Puno <olpcpuno at gmail.com>
Sent: Sat, February 5, 2011 1:31:45 PM
Subject: Re: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
Re: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
I’ve seen many organizations claim to be committed to “innovation,” while
eschewing “invention.” Everyone harvesting while refusing to sow makes for bad
strategy, both societal and corporate. I guess it’s “rational” in some
short-term sense and another example of the free rider problem. There’s an
insidious side-effect as well. By rejecting invention, those organizations
implicitly or explicitly restrict the consideration set for even incremental
innovation. It’s hard to reach for even small aspirations if you’re always
being told to not be “too far out.” So my experience matches your general point.
I don’t make much experience, however, with the specific example that you were
referring to. I’d like to hear more about your perspective about the guiding
principles pre and post ‘82, and how each set of leaders/funders rationalized
their viewpoints. I’d also be interested in your sense of the trend on this
topic, since we have a new generation of high tech corporate leaders and funders
and, clearly, another round of massive wealth being generated.
On 2/5/11 1:11 PM, "Alan Kay" <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
>I've been challenged on this point more than once, and have challenged back to
>come up with one invention that was done after 1980 that matches up to the top
>10 done before 1980.
>This has not happened. I've been able to show the prior art for all
>Essentially everything in the last 30 years has been commercializations and
>other forms of "innovation" based on what was funded by ARPA, ONR, and by
>extension, Xerox in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
>The important point here is that there are many new inventions needed, and they
>can be identified, but no one has been willing to fund them. It's not that the
>early birds got the worms, but that most of the needed worms out there are being
From: Chunka Mui <chunka at cornerloft.com>
>To: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
>Cc: Carlos Rabassa <carnen at mac.com>; "america-latina at squeakland.org"
><america-latina at squeakland.org>; squeakland.org mailing list
><squeakland at squeakland.org>; Maho 2010 <maho at realness.org>; IAEP SugarLabs
><iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; voluntarios y administradores OLPC para usuarios
>docentes <olpc-sur at lists.laptop.org>; olpc bolivia
><olpc-bolivia at lists.laptop.org>; OLPC Puno <olpcpuno at gmail.com>
>Sent: Sat, February 5, 2011 10:53:44 AM
>Subject: Re: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
>On Jan 30, 2011, at 9:21 AM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
>GE is being congratulated for recognizing that the iPhone and iPad are pretty
>good ideas and technological realizations. But isn't this like the
>congratulations Bill Gates got for finally recognizing the Internet (about 25
>years after it had started working)?
>>Seems as though Apple had a lot more on the ball than Bill Gates or GE here
>>(they used to do computing in the 60s, but couldn't see what it was).
>>And most of the ideas at Apple (and for personal computing and the Internet)
>>came from research funding that no company or government has been willing to do
Alan -- Could you say more about this point? Surely there's been tons of CS and
IT funding since '82, both govt funding to universities and massive research
budgets at msft, hp,
From:Carlos Rabassa <carnen at mac.com>
>To: america-latina at squeakland.org; squeakland.org <http://squeakland.org>
> mailing list <squeakland at squeakland.org>; Maho 2010 <maho at realness.org>; IAEP
>SugarLabs <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; voluntarios y administradores OLPC para
>usuarios docentes <olpc-sur at lists.laptop.org>; olpc bolivia
><olpc-bolivia at lists.laptop.org>; OLPC Puno <olpcpuno at gmail.com>
>Sent: Sun, January 30, 2011 4:11:49 AM
>Subject: [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
>We try to learn from those who have succeed for a long time:
>IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
> <mailto:IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
>squeakland mailing list
>squeakland at squeakland.org
The Devil’s Advocate Group — We Stress Test Your Innovation Strategies
Voice: +1.312.870.0727 <== Note new phone number
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