Dr. Dobb’s Interview with Alan Kay. Wide-ranging interview with Alan Kay from July 2012. Some highlights:

Binstock: You once referred to computing as pop culture.

Kay: It is. Complete pop culture. I’m not against pop culture. Developed music, for instance, needs a pop culture. There’s a tendency to over-develop. Brahms and Dvorak needed gypsy music badly by the end of the 19th century. The big problem with our culture is that it’s being dominated, because the electronic media we have is so much better suited for transmitting pop-culture content than it is for high-culture content. I consider jazz to be a developed part of high culture. Anything that’s been worked on and developed and you [can] go to the next couple levels.

Binstock: One thing about jazz aficionados is that they take deep pleasure in knowing the history of jazz.

Kay: Yes! Classical music is like that, too. But pop culture holds a disdain for history. Pop culture is all about identity and feeling like you’re participating. It has nothing to do with cooperation, the past or the future — it’s living in the present. I think the same is true of most people who write code for money. They have no idea where [their culture came from] — and the Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.

On the Web:

Binstock: Well, look at Wikipedia — it’s a tremendous collaboration.

Kay: It is, but go to the article on Logo, can you write and execute Logo programs? Are there examples? No. The Wikipedia people didn’t even imagine that, in spite of the fact that they’re on a computer. That’s why I never use PowerPoint. PowerPoint is just simulated acetate overhead slides, and to me, that is a kind of a moral crime. That’s why I always do, not just dynamic stuff when I give a talk, but I do stuff that I’m interacting with on-the-fly. Because that is what the computer is for. People who don’t do that either don’t understand that or don’t respect it.

(I originally tried to link to the article on Instapaper but the link wasn’t public. If you use Instapaper, read it there so the article isn’t spread across four pages.)



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