Does The Tech Industry Need A History Lesson?

from the looking-back-before-you-look-forward dept

Someone anonymously pointed us to a fascinating interview with Alan Kay, famed computer scientist who is partly responsible for an awful lot of the technology you use today. The interview touches on a variety of interesting subjects (including why he dislikes what computers have become), but perhaps the most interesting is his complaint that the tech industry always looks forward and never looks back. Specifically, he's talking about how few people seem to recognize the ideas that Doug Englebart showed the world almost forty years ago. Basically, he's upset that in always looking forward, we're either recreating what was done before or completely missing out on some of the better ideas that came before. This is quite interesting, as we've said plenty of times, innovation is an ongoing process rather than brilliant ideas that come out of nowhere. And, part of that process is building on the ideas of those who came before you to make them better. There is something to be said for coming up with alternative routes -- either to the same idea or to different ones -- but it's always helpful to look at what those who came before you have said, to see if there's more that can be built on. So, while there are plenty of stories of history (unfortunately) repeating itself in Silicon Valley, is it time that folks who work in this industry started signing up for history lessons to help them better think about what the future could hold?
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  1. identicon
    Corey Smith, 8 Feb 2007 @ 8:20am

    Doomed to repeat history.

    We have all heard the quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

    There is a train of thought required to create new ideas. Where ever you do you best thinking, you don't come up with new ideas because it "just comes to you." You come up with new ideas because you are thinking about ways to improve what you are already doing. If you don't have any problems, you are not likely to think of new ways to do things better.

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