This is a page of terms and concepts Alan Kay mentions often. It is meant to be a useful glossary to what are often fairly opaque references. This is and always will be an incomplete work-in-progress (currently it needs a lot more references filled in as well as larger organization). Enjoy!

Note: All video references are timestamped. Each one attempts to be under two minutes.

  • Powerful Ideas — Powerful ideas are ideas humans have discovered or invented that are very difficult to find naturally, but very useful to civilization once they're understood and disseminated. They're often stated in opposition to our natural tendencies as humans. Some examples include:

Influences, colleagues, and friends: Edit

For more, you might see Alan Kay's reading list.

  • Seymour Papert — A mathematician, artificial intelligence, and human learning researcher at MIT. He is one the inventors of LOGO turtle programming. His book Mindstorms is a great introduction to his work on learning, mathematical ideas, computer media. He also has a website with many of his papers. References:
  • Isaac Newton — Newton was a "supreme genius" that was able to invent integral calculus which changed math and physics (and society) qualitatively. References:
  • Bob Barton — A computer hardware designer. References:
  • Chuck Thacker
  • Dan Ingalls
  • Ted Nelson
  • licklider
  • Doug Engelbart
  • Marshall Mcluhan — References:
  • Neil Postman
  • Leonardo da Vinci — An example of a supreme genius, but one that was unable to invent an engine for any of his vehicles because of the limitations of his culture. He could not transcend his time. Often compared to Henry Ford, who was not as smart as Leonardo, but nonetheless could use the resources of the culture to distribute motorized vehicles across the world. References:
  • Henry Ford
  • Paul MacCready — Winner of the Kremer Prize for the first significant human-powered flying machines, Kay sees him as a genius for inventing a process that would lead him to human-powered flight rather than just inventing the machine itself. A short documentary about the vehicle was made called Flight of the Gossamer Condor (27 minutes), and there is also footage of human-powered flight across the English Channel in the MacCready-designed Gossamer Albatross. MacCready has two TED Talks that might serve as introductions to his work on human-powered flight and solar-powered airplanes: one and two.
  • jerome bruner
  • vygotsky
  • Jean Piaget
  • john holt
  • Maria Montessori — One of Kay's largest influences, Montessori was an Italian educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kay often credits her with the idea that children are set up by nature to learn the culture around them, so education efforts should be based on creating cultural environments. Montessori published many books, but The Secret of Childhood might be a good place to start. References:
  • Dewey
  • Ivan Sutherland
  • John McCarthy — Artificial Intelligence research and inventor of LISP. (See "LISP as the Maxwell's equations of computing".) References:
  • Marvin Minsky — References:
  • Vannevar Bush
  • plato
  • Donald Brown - human universals