14th April 2020 - 11:54:49 - 4801 characters

Deconstructing Bret Victor's Inventing on Principle:

  • Overview of underlying principles for a mission driven life
  • Tree example moving from separate code and browser to an integrated code and browser with sliders for variables to {code, browser, inspector} explaining the overarching issue that interactivity is vitally important to exploration
  • Side scrolling game example showing the use of {code, browser, inspector} to time being a variable to slide over to onion skinning of time to inverting gravity rather than jumping to infinite creation (i.e. constructing the game world with mouse clicks)
  • Binary search example with an integrated editor and interactive state inspector
  • Circuit example showing that a traditional circuit diagram could have a "visual multimeter" to see how the signal changes over time and how this could be attached to every node and then integrated with a slider to change variables
  • Retrospective on the history of programming with special note that the current state of computing was heavily influenced by an era of zero interactivity (i.e. terminals that literally printed results, punch cards that had a turnaround time of hours for execution, ...)
  • Animation example with an iPad showing that a mouse makes a bad replacement for a finger
  • Motivation: "When I see creators constrained by tools ... it hurts [when I see ideas dying]" and that it's my responsibility to fix the issue
  • "Injustice", "responsibility", "moral wrong" - these aren't the words we usually hear in a technical field
  • "The activist lifestyle where someone dedicates themselves to fighting for a cause they believe in"
  • "You can fight by inventing"
  • Finally shifts to Larry Tesler's motivation and personal mission, "no modes", which resulted in the modern text editor and spread to the rest of the computing interface
  • Larry had a cultural intent beyond pure invention compared to what Edison achieved with the phonograph
  • "The problem [that Larry] solved only existed in his own head. For everybody else modes were just how computers worked ... It was a fact of life. So the first thing that Larry did was recognize a wrong that had been unacknowledged in the culture. That is how many great social changes happened as well."
  • Recognize a cultural wrong, envision a world without that wrong, and dedicate one's self to fighting for a principle
  • Doug Engelbart's vision: knowledge workers using complex powerful information tools to harness their collective intelligence, with computers only as a means to achieve that vision
  • Alan Kay's vision: amplify human reach and bring new ways of thinking to a faltering civilization that desperately needed it
  • For your principle you can define yourself, your identity, by the cause you upheld
  • Larry Tesler wasn't "a UI engineer" as he fundamentally created a new field and had a
  • Finding a principle is a essentially a form of self discovery
  • Bret Victor: "It took me like a decade, ten years, before any real understanding of my principles solidified."
  • "When I was young I felt I had to live this way but I would get little glimmers of what mattered to me but no big picture. It was really unclear and this was very distressing to me. What I had to do was just do a lot of things. Make many things, make many types of things, study many things, experience many things, and use all these experiences as a way to analyze myself. Taking all these experiences and saying does this resonate with me? Does this repel me? Do I not care? Building up this corpus of experiences that I felt very strong about for some reason and trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out why. What is the secret ingredient to all of these experiences that I'm reacting to so strongly."
  • A powerful principle gives you a new way to see the world and allows you to divide the world into "right" or "wrong" in a fairly objective way
  • Larry Tesler's "right" or "wrong" is whether someone is in a mode: if yes, then he must do something about that
  • Bret Victor's "right" or "wrong" is whether the creator has an immediate creation: if the creator did not see an immediate change then he must do something about that
  • If your guiding principle embodies a specific insight then it will guide you such that you always know what you're doing is right
  • There are many ways to live your life - that every aspect of your life is a choice. There are default choices, where you can sleep walk through your life and accept the path laid out for you, to accept the world as it is, but you don't have to.
  • "After this talk, take a little time and think about what matters to you, what you believe in, and what you might fight for."