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Alan Kay

  • American scientist
  • Born May 17, 1940

Alan Curtis Kay (born May 17, 1940) is an American computer scientist. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society of Arts. He is best known for his pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design. He is the president of the Viewpoints Research Institute, and an adjunct professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also on the advisory board of TTI/Vanguard.


All the companies I've worked for have this deep problem of devolving to something like the hunting and gathering cultures of 100,000 years ago. If businesses could find a way to invent 'agriculture,' we could put the world back together and all would prosper.




I've been a Fellow in a number of companies: Xerox, Apple, Disney, HP. There are certain similarities because all the Fellows programs were derived from IBM's, which itself was derived from the MIT 'Institute Professor' program.




Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.




Social thinking requires very exacting thresholds to be powerful. For example, we've had social thinking for 200,000 years, and hardly anything happened that could be considered progress over most of that time. This is because what is most pervasive about social thinking is 'how to get along and mutually cope.'




People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.




As far as Apple goes, it was a different company every few years from the time I joined in 1984.




I had the fortune or misfortune to learn how to read fluently starting at the age of three. So I had read maybe 150 books by the time I hit 1st grade. And I already knew that the teachers were lying to me.




Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but then, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.




Context is worth 80 IQ points.




Having an intelligent secretary does not get rid of the need to read, write, and draw, etc. In a well functioning world, tools and agents are complementary.




There is the desire of a consumer society to have no learning curves. This tends to result in very dumbed-down products that are easy to get started on, but are generally worthless and/or debilitating.




The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.




Quite a few people have to believe something is normal before it becomes normal - a sort of 'voting' situation. But once the threshold is reached, then everyone demands to do whatever it is.




Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born.




Perspective is worth 80 IQ points.




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.




If you don't fail at least 90 percent of the time, you're not aiming high enough.




The best way to predict the future is to invent it.




The only way you can predict the future is to build it.



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