Principles of Play 2.0

Linda Liukas

Recorded at GOTO 2018

my name is Linda I'm a children's book
author I'm an illustrator I'm a pretty
mediocre Ruby programmer and I think
this is the thing with us humans we
contain multitudes we can be many things
at the same time computers are binary
they can be on or off one or zero pass
electricity or don't pass electricity
but we humans can be many things at the
same time and that's the beauty of us as
mentioned my career has been all about
introducing computer science to people
who don't necessarily fall in love with
it in the same way as everyone here in
this room has and the thesis I started
with is the idea that if code is the new
universal language if our children are
going to be learning English and Chinese
and JavaScript encourage them in school
as their first foreign languages instead
of grammar classes we need more poetry
lessons and what I mean with that is the
idea that in the same way we don't learn
a natural language only by conjugating
irregular verbs or practicing different
nouns we learn a language by speaking it
by singing it by flirting in it and even
though computer coding is not a natural
language I think the ways we teach are
much too narrow and with that in mind
when I started to learn programming
roughly 10 years ago I would have all
these books these computer science books
that were thick and dull and gray and
full of text and I would like go through
them and even though the language I was
learning at the time was Ruby which
really made my heart sing I would still
run into all these acronyms like what is
object-oriented programming
what is garbage collection in my mobile
development and I would try to imagine
how a six year old girl would explain
these abstract concepts and that's how
the projects started as little like
drawings and illustrations in the
margins of my computer science books and
something in my brain at that point
irrevocably switched because you know
how there's people who see numbers as
colors I started to see the world of
technology as stories
and I imagined if Apple was a character
it would be obviously the Snow Leopard
who is beautiful but doesn't want to
play with the other kids because they
are just too messy it only likes
well-designed well-defined things that
it owns and then there would be the
robots the green robots and there would
be a ton of them and they would all look
different than they grow up a little bit
too quickly but for some reason everyone
seems to love them and that would be
Google and there would be Linux the
penguin who's really efficient and smart
but a little bit hard to understand at
times and I would go to my mom and be
mom I want to drop out of university I
know what I want to do I want to combine
the world of software with the world of
storytelling and my mom tells me Linda
that's a horrible idea
that sounds like a Soviet propaganda
book from the seventies why on earth
should kids understand how big
technology companies think and what kind
of values they have well the reason is
religions barely reach billions of
people anymore governments don't reach
millions of people anymore but companies
like Facebook Google Alibaba why do they
reach billions of people on a daily
basis and it really matters what kind of
people we have behind those companies so
with that in mind even though we live in
this era of amazing opportunities to
learn coding everything from the puzzle
based activities of to the
open-ended playground of scratch my big
question was where do stories fit in
this equation because story is in some
way they've always been the way we
humans have understood ourselves each
other and the world around us and no one
was telling stories about the world of
software so I set out to do this and
today the hello Ruby books have been
translated into over 25 different
languages and actually rather than only
speaking about coding I've started to
teach computer science for the smallest
ones of us so everything from a book
about computational thinking to how
computers work to how computers talk to
each other's or what is the internet
about and finally the newest book is
are changing our
xiety well for kids between five and
nine years old and today instead again
of coding I think what I'm actually
doing is I'm preparing kids for a world
where many of the problems around us are
actually computer problems they require
the work of the human and the Machine
together problems like nutrition energy
education health all require a much more
diverse group of people to see the
potential of computers as tools of
self-expression and problem-solving but
the challenge is actually linguistic
when we think about a biologist we think
that our biologist is someone who
studies the biological world and we'll
think about a physicist we think that
our physicist is someone who studies the
physical world but when we think about a
computer scientist we easily think that
a computer scientist is someone who
studies the computer but we couldn't be
further away from the truth because a
computer scientist is someone who uses
the computer to study the big problems
in the world and turns out more and more
of those problems are computer problems
so my favorite quote comes from Edgar
Dijkstra who says that computer science
is no more about computers than
astronomy is about telescopes and rather
than teaching mechanical coding skills
or memorization for our children maybe
we ought to be teaching them thinking
skills instead and it's all starts with
stories as mentioned this here is Ruby
she's a fierce six-year-old very bossy
very imaginative and when Ruby's dad
tells Ruby Ruby where it's not yoga Hera
Matsumoto by the way when Ruby's dad
tells Ruby that we're running late from
school Ruby you need to dress up Ruby
she dresses up but she leaves her
pajamas on because dad didn't
specifically first tell her to take the
pajamas off and when Ruby is told that
hey Ruby your room is a mess clean up
all the toys Ruby cleans up the toys she
puts the plush toys away and she puts
the Lego blocks neatly in there in the
right place but she leaves the pins and
papers on the floor because hey Dad pens
and papers are not really toys
very obnoxious generation of kids I
apologize for that in advance but I'm
also teaching them something very
profound about how to speak to a
computer namely you need to give very
exact commands commands need to happen
in the right order naming things is
really important and then the most
important thing I want the kids to
remember is the thing that computer
scientists very naturally think that
even the biggest problems in the world
are in some ways just tiny problems
stuck together and you can solve big
problems by first taking them apart so
with that in mind I was thinking of
giving you sort of the principles of
play there's ideas that hopefully help
you think about the future of technology
and future of our world and because I'm
a storyteller they come in the form of a
B and C and a obviously is for the
algorithm now I think everyone in this
room feels pretty ok about algorithms
but if I tell this story to a bunch of
teachers they immediately think about
the world of Finance they'll think about
queasy around algorithms and scared and
we start with an exercise where I tell
the people that hey you are the
programmer and this here is the computer
your ParaNorman being and your role as
the programmer is to give instructions
to the computer on how to wash your
teeth and break part the problem into
smaller steps and this activity is
always filled with laughter making a lot
of mistakes people fail miserably in
defining what the toothbrush is
remembering the toothpaste exists
remember in unscrew the toothpaste cap
and they start to have empathy also
towards the programmer how many things
you need to keep in your mind that one
but they also learn something very
profound about the act of programming
they learn that it's actually a fairly
good idea to strategize with the other
person to discuss your problem that's
called in the industry slang pair
programming they learned that making
mistakes is such an integral part of the
process of programming that we came up
word for it debugging no one writes
perfect code at the get-go and the
rubber duck for debugging story always
cracks people and then finally they
understand that programming is a lot
more about creativity than rote
memorization because when I ask people
to perform their algorithms for tooth
brushing we hear a lot of different
solutions and I tell them some of these
are more elegant than the others but all
of these get the job done and I think
that's the beauty of programming you can
kind of play with it at many different
levels so in essence they learned that
an algorithm is a step by step solution
to solve a problem and if there's any
Baker's in the room I tell them that in
some ways recipes are a little bit like
algorithms they specify very carefully
the steps to making cupcakes for
instance or if you need to give
instructions to someone on finding their
way to home you're kind of working on an
algorithm but I bet a lot of you are now
in the room kind of shaking your heads
and being like no no no that's cute
nonsensical but that has nothing to do
with the algorithms I work with so
here's an exercise I do next I show the
kids five numbers and I ask them to put
these in the order of magnitude and it
takes them roughly 10 seconds for these
numbers it takes them a longer time and
they need to come up with a strategy of
putting these numbers in order and for
these even longer the first lesson is
for the kids this is not a task you want
to compete with the computer this
computer will always be faster at
sorting different numbers but it still
needs instructions to do it and here's
one way the computer could approach the
problem it would start from the
beginning it would compare one 256 it
would say 56 is bigger than one let's
move on to the next pair 56 and 4 4 is
smaller than 56 let's swap them around
it would keep going 56 and 7 she looks
ok 17 20 let's wrap this around and then
it would move all the way back to the
beginning and this is called a bubble
sort algorithm a step-by-step
instruction someone wrote years and
years ago for the computer to sort
numbers and a lot of other things still
in production today but this is not the
algorithm that scares the parents in the
room the algorithm that scares the
parents in the room
is the one that is invisible and hides
everywhere in our lives and it's our
only it slowly starting to define what
it means to be human and be a part of a
democratic society so to kind of tackle
that side of an algorithm I show the
kids a picture of a search engine and I
asked where is the algorithm hiding like
you know those books where you need to
find the missing puppy or something like
so the kids look long and hard and they
say the ads the ads are defined by the
algorithm I say yes the algorithm takes
into account your browsing history and
demographic data and where in the world
you are and tries to serve you the right
kinds of ads and also that the order in
which the results is shown is ridden by
someone so someone wrote instructions
for the search engine to show you the
right things what about a social
networking site ads the kids know
already but also the kinds of updates
you see because the social networking
site it optimizes for retention and the
longer you stay on the site the happier
the investors and then finally I showed
them the YouTube and I asked where is
the algorithm again in the ads and also
in the next videos the kinds of videos
you get served but not only those things
also the kinds of videos that are
created because the algorithms are so
powerful on YouTube and I bet if some of
you have seen the kind of crap your
children watch on YouTube you would
recognize that these videos are not made
for humans they are made for algorithms
and that's why you have things like the
surprise play-doh eggs Peppa Pig
Stanford Park or your minecraft Smurfs
copying articles the algorithm love
stuff like this not the human and this
is the world we are worried about where
computer science defines the kind of
world we live in and the humans don't
have any world any more room to say what
they believe in it and that brings us to
the computer nope that brings us to the
idea of computer science that I wish all
of you in the room would embrace this
guy over here is one of the heroes of
the world of pedagogy
he's called see Jean Piaget and he said
that you can't really offer an entirely
organized intellectual discipline only
by giving the kids pre-organized
but true learning is grounded in action
and that's why I think everyone in this
room we as an industry need we need to
come away from our high horses and it's
not to explain these things in a way
that they make sense for normal people
and since we are in Denmark I wanted to
show one chart from Lego that maps
different motivations for play and I
want to trust the question why is it
that when we talk about playfulness in
programming we so often only talk about
the achievement side of play we talk
about progress and power and
gamification and accumulation and
challenging others and domination
whereas everyone in this room who has
actually experienced programming knows
that there's so much other Joy's in
programming there's the social
motivation of helping others and making
friends of collaboration there's the
exploration there's the joy of finding a
new way of solving a problem and at
least for me the escape from my real
life problems and what I wish to see a
little bit more is us embracing as an
industry all the different aspects of
play when it comes to programming and
that requires us to ask questions we are
not very used to asking a computer
science professor might ask a question
could you define to me what a loop is I
don't need to define to anyone in the
room what a loop is rather I would post
the question how does a loop feel like
and this is a question a six-year-old
can get excited about and we practice
this by having a dance party
so Ruby's day favorite dance movement is
there she goes clap clap stomp stomp
clap clap and jump and with the kids we
practice a for-loop by repeating the
sequence of dance movements five times
and we practice a while loop where you
repeat the sequence of dance movements
while a condition is true so while I'm
standing on one leg the kids keep
dancing and then finally as homework
they get the until over is where you
repeat the sequence of movements until a
condition is met so until mom gets
really really frustrated the kids can't
and in this way I'm hoping to say
the kids up and down the different
abstractions of coding and computing
everything from the kinetic to actually
going into scratch or these other visual
programming languages and building a
little yourself then going into code and
doing the syntax based thing and very
importantly giving also the context of
why on earth am i learning this concept
called a loop well if you're making a
game or sorry you need a loop that says
keep moving the hero until it hits the
enemy but these abstractions are hard
because we adults and then so much time
in our heads and these things are so
familiar to us that we never escape our
own abstractions and that brings us to
the V which is for boolean logic and it
starts with the idea that computers
indeed are abstraction machines I'm
somewhat jealous to the people here in
the room who grew up in the 70s because
you could actually touch a transistor
generation you can jump 300 million
transistors at the pin point of a pen
but there is no way of understanding how
a computer works anymore the computer
scientists they've done wonders in the
past 30 to 40 years they've built layers
of abstraction on top of each other to
the point where we have this beautiful
shielded machines but no way of
understanding how they work and
sometimes I wish I could shrink myself
to the size of a silicon chip and really
see how the computer works from the
inside out but unfortunately with
modern-day physics that's not possible
unless you're a children's book author
so that's exactly what I did with Ruby
one day Ruby is really bored she goes
into dad's office and she types her
password into the computer but the
computer doesn't work and all of a
sudden the white mouse next to Ruby it
wakes up and says Oh Ruby I've lost
touch with the cursor can you help me
find the cursor and Ruby says of course
I'm the best computer debugger I know of
and together they make themselves really
really small they notice a small Mouse
at the side of the computer and they
crawl in and they fall deep deep deep
inside of the computer to the lair of
the electricity where there's billions
of tiny switches you see where's there's
billions of tiny switches that only know
how to go on enough Oh enough
they either pass electricity or they
don't pass electricity and Ruby says I
think we could find the cursor here but
it would take forever
so up we must go and they go up to the
lair of the logic gates that take these
tiny bits and do a little bit more
complicated mathematical operations with
the bits but still really hard to follow
and understand and they ask really bad
puzzles so up they must go to the lair
of the hardware where they meet the
processor the boss see professor of the
computer that does a lot of calculation
and a lot of commands for everyone else
but it's really forgetful so it needs
help from the RAM and the room and the
hard drive they even get to meet the GPU
that is in charge of showing stuff on
the screen and has a new fancy role as
someone who does a lot of complex
parallel calculations for the new shiny
things and technology they meet the
operating system and finally they also
do find the cursor I'm not going to
spoil how you'll need to read the book
for that but I think more importantly
they get this sense of computers as
abstraction machines they learn how
electricity turns into logic how logic
turns into hardware how Hardware turns
into software and how software turns
use every single day and hopefully as a
result they realized that while
computers are magical they are not made
of magic they are made of logic and I
think that's a big distinction in
thinking so a question I like to ask
with kids is this what do they think is
inside a computer and I promise you if I
will give each one of you a paper here
you would have wildly different and
for this question even though you all
are computer engineers and you know what
you're thinking and undoing and I've
asked this question from a few hundred
kids around the world and I've received
some marvelous answers and very broadly
you can group these different answers
into a bunch of bigger groups so there's
always kids who imagine that inside of
computers there's content which is a
very sort of obvious idea they imagine
computers as content content containers
full of apps and games and videos and
files then there's kids who have this
very abstract idea of a computer they
imagine computers as these inter
networked components and I think these
are the future computer architects in
the making their scanner refers kids who
explain these elaborate stories and
metaphors around how computers work and
how each one of the different components
has their own job and these kids are
obviously very close to my heart because
this is the way I understand how a
computer works
there's even gear girls the kids who
imagine that inside of computer there's
tiny gears and even though there's no
gears inside of a computer
I think they grasp something about the
idea how the simplest part of a computer
does a fairly simple thing but book
together when you combine them they
become more and more powerful and then
finally there's the drafters the kid who
kills who draw the different components
they draw the transistors and resistors
and wires and I think all of these
metaphors are what we need to explain
what a computer is because a computer
can take a thousand forms and have a
thousand faces and this is the last
generation of kids who will remember the
computer defined by its screen defined
by its keyboard or defined by its Mouse
the next generation grows up talking to
idea of a computer it will be wildly
different than the one you and I use so
computers as abstraction machines and
teaching what a computer is for a
generation of kids who won't grow up
with the same ideas we have and in order
to do that we need
I show kids four pictures I show them a
picture of a car a grocery store a
toilet and a dog and I asked the five to
nine year olds which one of these is a
computer and the kids they object they
say Linda are you completely bonkers
none of those is a computer computer is
the glowing box in front of which mom or
dad spends way too much time but then we
talk and we figure out that actually a
car is a computer because it has a
navigation system inside of it on all
kinds of other systems and grocery
stores boy do they have computers for
instance when you walk into a grocery
store there's a sensor that recognizes
if you're walking in and opens the door
there's the ice-cream machine there's
the cashiers machine there's the burglar
alarms dogs might not be computers but a
dog might have a microchip inside of it
so you can follow it if it runs away and
a lot of kids talk about robot dogs as
and this comes with a warning if you
have small kids don't tell them this but
I tell kids in Japan toilets our
computers you can kind of see like
change their their room and their their
heating on that and program different
kinds of music and there's even hackers
who hack at the toilets this is just way
too wild for the children nothing else
gets discussed for the rest of the day
so we figure out that there's hundreds
of computers in every single home
because your microwave is a computer
your remote controller is a computer
I give the kids a little sticker with an
on/off button on it and I tell the kids
that for this afternoon alone you have
this magical ability to make anything in
collected them these everyday items like
a tuna can and the lipstick and keys and
her book but my favorite story is a
little girl who's chosen a bicycle lamp
and she comes to me with the bicycle
lamp where just put a little enough
sticker on and she tells me Linda if
this bicycle lamp was a computer we
could go on a biking trip with my father
we could sleep in a tent
and this bicycle lamp could also be a
movie projector and that's the moment
I'm looking for not the moment when
their kid understands the difference
between hashes and arrays in Ruby or
writes a perfect if-else statement in
JavaScript the moment when they
understand three profound things that we
adults have a hard time remembering
first of them is that the world is not
ready yet there's so much we haven't
invented or discovered yet in the world
of Technology and the world is not ready
yet there are so many things
the second thing she learns is the
technology is a wonderful way to make
the world a little bit more ready
because it scales and it creates wealth
around it and it's been always the way
humankind has moved the civilization
forward and the final thing and maybe
the most important one of them is that
for a moment there she felt like she
could be the world's first computer
movie projector bicycle lamp innovator
and that is something that kind of
self-efficacy and self belief is
something I think we should be
safeguarding in our children but a
little bit a little bit also in
ourselves so how do you explain what a
computer is for a generation of kids who
won't recognize it by the keyboard or
the screen in order to do that we need
to go all the way back to year 1945 when
john von neumann came up with the
phenomen architecture for a computer at
a time when computers were bigger than
this hole now they fit into our pockets
but the basic principle is still the
same a little bit simplified what for
norman said is that a computer is any
device where you input information you
process that information somehow
according to the rules you're right and
out comes the modified information so
this means when you go on Facebook and
you like something in ghost information
to the server that someone has like this
post I would come to the updated light
con but this is also true when you sit
in a car and you forget to buckle your
seatbelt in ghost the sensory
information that someone has forgotten
to buckle the seat belt out comes the
beep beep beep noise we all hate so much
and at this point kids say oh this is
boring let's do something so we built a
paper computer
and some of the kids are the input data
who crawled inside of this paper
computer and there's a little piece of
code written there like come out jumping
on one leg or come out crawling the
opposite way and then they become the
output data and they go through the
input process outputs how many times and
so quickly that the computer eventually
ends up breaking down but again they
have a very physical experience of the
very foundation of computers and this is
important because I think far more
ability to code is having a very robust
idea of a notional machine a very very
robust mental model of what a computer
can and will do what humans are good at
and what computers are good at and this
brings us to the final letter which is C
and it is for creativity and computers
so here's the thing I bet many of you
have read the recent articles and
stories about AI overtaking pretty much
everything and for normal people this is
devastating news this is like a medieval
monster has been summoned from the
ground up and they think of the
Terminator and they think of the Skynet
and they panic what kind of a future
will we have if the computer takes all
the jobs and luckily luckily luckily
most kids don't worry about this stuff
but there's always a few kids who come
to me and say Linda what will I do when
I grow up if the computer takes my job
and I think it's really really important
to give the next generation an
optimistic and pragmatic idea about AI
and machine learning so that they don't
fear the computer and when I think about
AI I explain the kids that it's all
about data it's actually one kind of
technology that is getting applied to a
lot of different problems and industries
right now not many different kinds of
ARS that are being generated at the time
and all of a sudden there's much more
data in the world because every time you
click something online you generate a
piece of data in China they monitor like
a lot of stuff with sensors and that
generates a lot of data and that data
gets packaged and delivered into
products and the challenge with data is
usually people's eyes glaze at this
point and they feel scared but I think
our role is to make data a little bit
more acceptable and understandable and
rather than speaking about AI as
something that is close to humans I try
to explain to the kids that actually
what we're talking about here is machine
learning and it's that thing where we
give computers human kind abilities
things that used to belong to us humans
only like the ability to see to move to
communicate to reason and maybe even to
create something new but they all have
specific technological terms like seeing
is called computer vision and
communicating is called natural language
understanding and the way a computer
does this is by using lots of data it's
no closer to what makes us human what
makes us special and unique our soul and
our perception of the world and it was
70 or 80 years ago it's all about data
and computing power so in the past if
you wanted to solve a problem like this
it's this thing here I cut the poor
programmer would write lots of rules for
the cat it would say a cat is an animal
with two ears and a tail and it would
come in these five colors and these
rules would be really brittle they
wouldn't take into account the
complexities of the real world and their
results were not very good nowadays what
we do instead is we give the Machine
lots of examples of cats tens of
thousands of examples of cats and we
allow the machine to come up with its
own rules of recognizing a cat and at
this point I tell the kids that you know
Google they taught a machine to
recognize a cat by watching ten thousand
hours of YouTube videos of the kids do
this why is the computer allowed to do
that and not me so the problem is stated
by the human and the computer gives the
answer the human gathers the examples of
cats the computer builds a model out of
these cats and then gives an answer to
the question and actually it doesn't
even give an answer it gives an
estimation of the likelihood of this
thing being a cat or not and we humans
are still needed and interpreting these
results and deciding whether they are
accurate enough for our needs
this whole process of gathering data
building models and answering the
question it can seem like a black box I
hate it when people say that AI is black
box but it's not that I think we as an
industry have a responsibility to
explain these concepts like they were
explained for a six-year-old not only
for the six-year-old but for the sake of
the adults too so building a model it's
not a black box you can explain that
reinforcement learning is like a
computer optimizing for a certain probe
certain goal or that supervised learning
algorithms when you give a computer a
lot of examples of apples and things
that are not apples and this kind of
data is pretty sparse and there's not
much of it but it can be very powerful
if you have it and that unsupervised
learning algorithms there you give a
jumble of data for the computer and the
computer starts to find the patterns
itself oh that a neural network you can
just look at the different objects here
and and look at each of the layers of
the network and calculate how many of
through these kinds of things make it
more approachable and and more
accessible for people who otherwise feel
fearful and frightened about AI and the
area where I would spend most time is
the data gathering phase because let's
face it not all of us will be the ones
building the models for the AI but I
think a lot of our jobs will be related
to the gathering of data and for that I
have an exercise like this so I show
kids four pictures of cats and I ask
what is the bias the computer learns if
they want to learn the concept of a cat
only by looking at these four pictures
and the kids for a look for a while and
they say oh that all cats are gray I say
yes and all cats have blue eyes I say
pointy ears and now draw a picture of a
cat that is a different color and a
different shape and different look and
what about here if we want to teach the
concept of a teacup for a computer what
is the bias that the computer is
learning here that all tea cups have
handles that all tea cups have handles
on the right hand side that all tea cups
come in
and what without patterns and now draw a
picture of a teacup that has a pattern
and has a handle on the left-hand side
they don't make us threat like to they
don't make us stay awake at night but
what happens in a world where we slowly
start to automate more and more of our
systems around the world and it's only
California boys that get to decide what
kind of problems get better and solved
in that world it might be easy to forget
that not all nurses are women and it's
these problems I think we are just going
to see where we are going to need most
radically more diverse group of people
to get excited about computer science so
again I would out like underline the
idea that while AI is magical it's not
made of magic it's made of logic and if
we want to think about the self-driving
car which for some people can be wildly
perplexing and scary even we can explain
that what our self-driving car is it
takes input ask our camera data and
there's a process that map's the
position of other cars it recognizes
with the image vision thingy and then
the output is the ability to drive
nothing more complex than that
and I think in a world where these kinds
of skills are more and more around us
the number one thing I would teach for
our kids is the ability to realize what
humans are good at and what computers
are good at so as one exercise I like to
do with kids is this art machine
activity where each one of the kids gets
an algorithm by this point they are not
afraid of algorithms anymore because
they know that it's a step by step
sequence to solve a problem so they know
that an algorithm might be to draw a
blue circle an algorithm might be to
draw a red triangle inside of each blue
circle an algorithm might be to clone
connect the red triangles with a green
line when I turn this computer on in
roughly 20 minutes the kids have gone
round and around and around the big
piece of paper and they've created this
beautiful piece of artwork and we all
observe it for a while and we say oh
how beautiful is this and I asked the
kids oh by the way how long would you
think it would take a computer to
generate a piece of artwork like this
and the kids calculate and they go oh
there's ten of us and it took us 20
minutes so maybe 200 minutes because
there was only one computer and I tell
them that you know a computer could
probably generate a hundred million of
these in a microsecond because this is
exactly the kind of task a computer is
good at it's good at repeating sequences
of instructions over and over again
faster than any human ever get whoo good
but how does this artwork make you feel
and a little girl raises her hand she
goes Linda it makes me feel very busy
and another one goes oh it makes me
think of summer vacation we took with my
family in Greece and I say bingo these
are things computers are not very good
at computers can't offer interpretations
around artwork based on their own
experiences computers are not very good
at motivating as computers don't console
us and I think the jobs that are really
future proof are the ones where we
recognize what kind of tasks computers
are good at and what kind of tasks we
humans argue that so with that in mind
oops so with that in mind it might be
that our children won't be learning
programming by writing sequences of
instructions for brushing your teeth
maybe they will learn programming by
collecting examples of tooth brushing it
might be that our kids are instead of
going to the dentist office it will be
an AI that searches for the cavities
because that's a task an AI is wildly
better at doing and the dentist role is
more to console the child who is fearful
it might be that the future farmers will
have far better image recognition
software to help them get the bugs out
and that leaves the question what should
the farmer then do with all of this time
that has been left over and what I worry
about the most is that AI is being only
seen as a tool of optimization
efficiency and maximization and it's
used purely in the business setting and
what would make me the most happy
to see a wildly more erratic a wildly
more diverse group of people embrace AI
as a tool of self-expression and
problem-solving this story comes from
Antoine de saint-exupéry which I bet
many of you know there the author behind
the little prince and he has this famous
part in the book where he draws a
picture of a boa snake that has eaten an
elephant and all the kids go oh that's a
boa snake that has eaten an elephant how
scary and all the adults say it's a hat
and at this point Antoine feels very
like disappointed and he says that why
would I talk to someone who only sees a
hat about their wild forests and and boa
constrictor or stars I should talk to
them about the golf and politics and
bridge and necktie his how sad is that
and I figured that okay this is the
dynamic between an adult and a kid but
in an ideal world what could the dynamic
between an adult and an AI V so I showed
this image to the Microsoft image like
vision API and it said this I'm not
really confident but I think it's a
close-up of a guitar and I think this is
the future of a high where computers can
give us a radically different
perspective into a problem we thought we
knew already and it requires again as
humans to be a little bit more curious
and creative when it comes to the
applications of our technologies another
story comes from Finland where I
originally come from one of the most
famous companies is Finland is called
Marimekko that does these like very bold
and colorful textures and the founder
our Marathi I was a very revolutionary
woman back in the 70s she said that
Marimekko could equally well have been a
funfair or a flower shop she just wants
to project her inner world and sometimes
I dream if our Marathi I had the reach
of lino stools if we could merge these
two famous things together what kind of
a software world we could have ended up
for him and I got a chance to experiment
with this
so last fall I built this little neural
network where I fed a thousand for
except thousand four hundred examples of
different Marimekko
clothes names so they have this very
unique way of naming clothes like única
and yoga polka and toss all right the
finish impossible language and the task
was for the neural network to look at
these names and try to generate new
Marimekko names and I was really excited
and pumped about this project I found
the open source library and when I went
to sleep when I put the computer on it
took a few hours for it to run the first
version and the results were so bad
there were things like Veloz in his
lolani l'atlantique cocoon it on Assad
and I was so sad and disappointed
because I felt is this the future of
computers and creativity not a very
promising future but then I decided that
ok the computer has only been looking at
these examples for four hours and it
still needs to master the language of
finish which is impossible as a language
and I decided to give it a little bit
more time and I went to sleep and in the
morning I wake up it feels like it's
Christmas morning and I have a time I go
to see again and I go to see what the
computer has created for me and in 8
the results were much better the
computer had generated names like
burning baka da no Holly pukka pukka
reading doula and even though you
wouldn't understand a word of Finnish
you can start to hear that these sound
like real joyful words it actually
caught a lot of like the Eastern
finished Karelian vibe that is really
hard to kind of capture and I showed
this to the Marimekko creative team and
they go completely blank in their face
because they thought that this is the
stuff that humans are good at the
creativity the naming of things and I
tell them that don't worry there was
like three or four thousand names
generated and I still was needed as a
human to curate and decide which ones
were going to be chosen but I hope that
you guys will also see AI as a colleague
as a kind of sidekick that has a very
different perspective and can help you
surface new kinds of ideas so in my
opinion the next big thing
it's not going to come out of Silicon
Valley it's not gonna come out of one
monoculture I hope that it's going to be
coming out from the backstreets of
Danish small cities are from African
villages or from like I don't know
like Asian little girls imagination and
it will be as colorful and diverse and
imaginative as the world itself and when
I think about where I draw inspiration
there's this little tiny tiny Italian
village called Reggio Emilia and in the
1960s they realized that they had
completely destroyed a whole generation
of kids with the fascism and their world
wars and they needed to come with a
different kind of way of teaching kids
and instead and they built this
municipal early childhood education
system but instead of writing a strategy
paper or instead of coming up with a
vision they wrote a poem and the poem is
called the 100 languages and I think
it's especially resonant for a group of
programmers because they say that a
child has a hundred languages the child
has their language of sculpting of
painting of crawling of dancing of
singing of programming but so often we
adults tell the child that there's only
two languages of reading and writing we
tell the children that science and
imagination sky and earth reason and
dreams work and play don't belong
together but luckily the child knows
that we have a hundred languages so with
the hundred languages I think as a
metaphor I think I want to take us to
the very ending and I think there's a
world where there's a reason why we need
to have this multi this multiplicity of
different languages a few months ago I
read this article on the guard in the
total story about Oxford University
researchers who had two stacks of
pictures the other stack included
natural items like plants and animals
and and trees and the other stack had
Pokemon species and by far the British
kids were much better at recognizing the
Pokemon than the natural items
they had more vocabulary to describe the
Bulbasaur than the Badger more for
Pikachu and than the birch tree and the
researchers were worried because what
happens in a world where we don't have a
language to describe what is happening
around us and I've worried about that
too I worry about what happens in a
world where we don't have seven
different words for snow and we lose
this ability to describe things around
us but I also worry about a world where
the same exact thing is happening in
technology we have a lot of words also
in this room that we throw around like
suitcases and like suitcases they pack a
lot inside but let very little out words
like blockchain Bitcoin algorithm
cloud and I'm not sure what happens to a
democracy if we never open those
suitcases and it also requires us to
rethink the metaphors and explanations
we use once upon a time there was a
little boy who came to me and said Linda
is internet a place and I go to him no
no no internet is not a place it's an
interconnected network of computers it's
like the information superhighway it's
information and I realized oh boy
I sound like a 90's kid that was my
Internet this kid has never pressed the
disconnect button on the internet in his
life and his metaphor of Internet will
be radically different so should I start
to explain to him that the Internet is
the fiber optic cables that go from the
bottom of the sea all the way to space
or the server farms that are starting to
store our very identities around the
world or should I tell him that no no
internet is the protocols that define
how the data travels around the world
eight times in a second
or rather should I explain to him that
no no internet is what happens the
explosion of creativity and cat videos
when six billion of us are connected to
one another and I think this is the
challenge for teaching and talking about
technology we're not only talking about
the high
we're now we're not only talking about
the software and we're not only talking
about the societal impact technology is
having we're talking about all three at
the same time and this requires us to
have much more diverse tools to talk
about these things and I want to end up
with a new kind of definition for
technology one built on humanity one
built on the idea that we contain multi
tiers and we and computers and
technology I never far away from one
another as the previous presentation
mentioned being a computer used to be a
profession it was a profession in
Victorian era England for people who
were really good at calculating long
series of numbers like powers of 2 or
square roots at an era where there were
no calculators and in some ways I
believe that the very last computers in
the world will again be humans and when
we think about the word technology today
about being technologically literate
some of us think about social media
skills some of us think about coding
little bit and a little bit bigger scale
we realized that wait a minute
combustion engine was technology in its
day bicycle was high-tech of its day and
we don't know what the future of
technology will look like now it's a
computer but we know don't know what the
next iteration will look like the only
thing we have going for us is the
definition and it comes from the Greek
and it says that technology is tools
needed to do a job but not only the
tools also the techniques skills and
competencies we humans bring into the
problem-solving equation that means that
we humans are always interlinked with
technology and I'm gonna leave you with
a new definition of technology that
comes from a nine year old girl I asked
a group of kids in Helsinki to describe
what is technology who uses technology
and what is it used for
from a nine-year-old for said technology
is electricity
that loves just gonna say that again
because that is the most poetic
explanation of technology will ever hear
technology is electricity that loves it
is used to play I use it to have a
conversation with my mom we use a word
sub application and then finally and
most importantly people uses technology
thank you very much