In this TED Talk, MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte takes you on a journey through the last 30 years of tech. And then he leaves you with one last (absurd? brilliant?) prediction for the coming 30 years.
Nicholas Negroponte – MIT Media Lab founder
(Starts with Video) Can we switch to the video disc, which is in play mode?
[[Video] I’m really interested in how you put people and computers together. We will be using the TV screens or their equivalents for electronic books of the future. (Music, crosstalk) Very interested in touch-sensitive displays, high-tech, high-touch, not having to pick up your fingers to use them. There is another way where computers touch people: wearing, physically wearing. Suddenly on September 11th, the world got bigger.]
Thank you. Thank you.
When I was asked to do this, I was also asked to look at all 14 TED Talks that I had given, chronologically. The first one was actually two hours. The second one was an hour, and then they became half hours, and all I noticed was my bald spot getting bigger.
Imagine seeing your life, 30 years of it, go by, and it was, to say the least, for me, quite a shocking experience. So what I’m going to do in my time is try and share with you what happened during the 30 years, and then also make a prediction, and then tell you a little bit about what I’m doing next. And I put on a slide where TED 1 happened in my life. And it’s rather important because I had done 15 years of research before it, so I had a backlog, so it was easy. It’s not that I was Fidel Castro and I could talk for two hours, or Bucky Fuller. I had 15 years of stuff, and the Media Lab was about to start. So that was easy.
But there are a couple of things about that period and about what happened that are really quite important. One is that it was a period when computers weren’t yet for people. And the other thing that sort of happened during that time is that we were considered sissy computer scientists. We weren’t considered the real thing. So what I’m going to show you is, in retrospect, a lot more interesting and a lot more accepted than it was at the time.
So I’m going to characterize the years and I’m even going to go back to some very early work of mine, and this was the kind of stuff I was doing in the ’60s: very direct manipulation, very influenced as I studied architecture by the architect Moshe Safdie, and you can see that we even built robotic things that could build habitat-like structures. And this for me was not yet the Media Lab, but was the beginning of what I’ll call sensory computing, and I pick fingers partly because everybody thought it was ridiculous.
Papers were published about how stupid it was to use fingers. Three reasons: One was they were low-resolution. The other is your hand would occlude what you wanted to see, and the third, which was the winner, was that your fingers would get the screen dirty, and hence, fingers would never be a device that you’d use. And this was a device we built in the ’70s, which has never even been picked up. It’s not just touch sensitive, it’s pressure sensitive.