Alan Kay on modern computers

David Greelish recently posted an interesting interview with Alan Kay, a visionary behind the modern graphical user interface.  Interestingly, Kay argues that modern computers fall far short of the original vision and potential.

For all media, the original intent was “symmetric authoring and consuming”.

So much of our culture is about consumption.  In some ways, the Apple II was more inline with Kay’s vision.  At least with the Apple II, the machine was open and programmable out of the box.  With an iPad, Apple might grant you the privilege of creating content (“apps”) if you ask nicely and pay.  Related, Kay is talking about sharing and growing substantive ideas.  Pick your favorite social media site – on one hand, these sites make it easy to contribute and even easier to consume.  On the other hand, there’s very little substance to the content.  The “ideas” that Kay discusses are painfully absent from the latest cat photo.

“Science requires a society because even people who are trying to be good thinkers love their own thoughts and theories — much of the debugging has to be done by others.”

There’s a growing “maker” culture where these ideas appear to be growing.  Increasingly, people want to “make it themselves” and share rather than merely consume.  Mainstream products like the iPad haven’t, in my opinion, caught on to this yet, but there’s potential.  It will be interesting to see what happens; the “maker” ideas potentially have a huge impact on culture, education, and economy.