An Interview with Alan Kay

David Greelish did a great interview for TIME with computer pioneer Alan Kay. Kay is probably most famous for being one of the leading figures in Xerox’s PARC research center, which created the modern graphical computer user interface. In the interview you can tell he has thought very deeply about all issues related to using digital devices and has a lot of opinions.

Having an intelligent secretary does not get rid of the need to read, write, and draw, etc. In a well functioning world, tools and agents are complementary. Most progress in research comes when funding is wise and good. That has not been the case for 30 years or so. AI is a difficult problem, but solvable in important ways. It took 12+ years of funding to create personal computing and pervasive networking, and this only happened because there was a wise and good funder (ARPA-IPTO). If we include commercialization, this took a little more than 20 years (from 1962 to 1984 when the Mac appeared).

It’s important to realize that no one knew how difficult a problem this was, but it was seen as doable and the funder hung in there. It’s likely that “good AI” is a 15-20 year problem at this point. But the only way to find out is to set up a national effort and hang in there with top people.


Editors Note: I recently spoke to Greelish about preserving Apple’s history.

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