The importance of “We don’t know what we’re doing”

The video below is of a talk by Brett Victor on “The Future of Programming”. But don’t let that stop you, underpinning the talk is an important message for folk involved in learning, teaching and most things. The two main points I took away from it are (as applied to my area of interest):

  1. “Technology changes quick, peoples’ minds change slowly”.

    This is evident all the time in e-learning. Learners and teachers still operating on prior assumptions, their minds haven’t changed. Of course, the problem extends beyond that to the technologists’ alliance pushing e-learning (in its various forms).

  2. “We don’t know what we’re doing”

    That the ability to say this and reimagine what is possible is perhaps the most important capability for not only changing minds but with redefining what it means to learn and to teach.

    In a “strategic management” culture it is impossible for leaders to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. With academic researchers only slightly less likely to admit this. Two big barriers.

    Which obviously makes my cluelessness a major strength.

The talk is based on the assumption that it is 1973 and the talk is being given by a programmer of that age. It introduces four important ideas that had arisen over the prior 10 years and which promise to be essential to the future of computing. The point is that they haven’t. In fact, most of computing has focused on the opposite, more limited approaches. But the real point is not the failure of these ideas, but the fact these insightful and interesting ideas arose when we didn’t know what we were doing. The opposite to what is happening today, where everyone (at a certain level) is certain about what they are doing.

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