Thinkers you should know – Alan Kay

One way to get a handle on the future of work is to get to know some of those who are already there.

Alan Kay with "Dynabook" prototype
Alan Kay with “Dynabook” prototype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the recent news about layoffs at HP, several sources noted that Alan Kay is among those getting a pink slip. It struck me that Alan is a perfect embodiment of William Gibson’s observation that “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” He is the prototypical example of someone who has been living in, and creating, our future for the past 30 years. Taking some time to examine and reflect on his thinking is time well spent. Alan was one of the scientist/engineers at Xerox PARC. Much of the technology we use and take for granted today traces its lineage to work Alan and his colleagues did in the 1970s at PARC. Alan is an engineer not an academic; more interested in building things than in writing papers for journals. If you ever get an opportunity to hear Alan talk, take it. In the meantime, there are some worthwhile starting points on the web I can recommend:

Alan is also fond of aphorisms. Two of my favorites and among his best known are “the best way to predict the future is to invent it,” and “point of view is worth 80 IQ points.”

Your workshop for doing knowledge work

Lately, it seems like I’m always running behind.

Had a column go up at ESJ two weeks ago and I’m just getting around to blogging it here now. It is on the notion of thinking about how you might go about setting up a knowledge workshop for your day-to-day knowledge work. I wanted to set up a contrast with the “one magic, integrated, tool” mindset that seems to dominate most current software marketing.

Check it out if you’ve got a few minutes. I’d be curious about two things. To what extent do you find the analogy helpful as something more encompassing than the typical tools perspective. Second, what’s in your workshop?

From July 4, 1776 to Governmentium

A treat from Betsy Devine – somehow an appropriate counterbalance to today’s celebrations. Makes you wonder what the Founding Fathers (and Mothers for that matter) would make of what has transpired over the last 229 years.

Science ha-ha from my mailbox: Governmentium (Gv). Berkeley just announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named “Governmentium”.

Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element which radiates just as much energy, since it has half as many peons, but twice as many morons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. It can be detected, however, as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A reaction that normally takes one minute or less will require a week or more if contaminated by any Governmentium.

The half-life of Governmentium is 4 years. It does not, however, decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutron exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. The characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration.

This hypothetical quantity is called “Critical Morass”.

Thanks for the funny email to Damian!

[Betsy Devine: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Peculiar?]