Sunday, August 3, 2008

Simulating the Future

I'm in a complete Alan-Kay-Fan-Boy frenzy tonight. This happens to me every couple of months, usually after realizing that the joy I once found in computation is fading. It's a lot like discovering that you've been taking your spouse for granted. I think this is called shame.

In moments like these, I try to re-kindle the flame by reading Christopher Alexander, Alan Kay or Hayek. Tonight I reached for The Power of Context by Kay. What stood out for me on this reading was the description of the principles that enabled Kay and the other folks at PARC to create much of the computing environment that we use in today.
  1. Begin with good will
  2. Have visions rather than goals
  3. Funded people, not projects
  4. Respect complexity and lack of knowledge
  5. Grow your systems
  6. Avoid putting any externally controlled system, in-house or out, on one's critical path. This included vendors. This was called committing Error-33.
In summarized form these principles look simplistic or even a bit formulaic but if you read his explanation, I think get a taste for depth of the man's thought.

I'll leave you with this mind bending quote.
Most things done by most people today are still "automating paper, records and film" rather than "simulating the future".

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