12 January 2008

Ted Nelson's 70th birthday

The University of Southampton has a video of a lecture given there by Ted Nelson on the occasion of his 70th birthday. I met Ted Nelson probably about 20 year ago or so during one of his visits to the UK, possible for the Online Conference, or some other meeting and I wondered then if his ideas would ever be implemented. So far, they haven't been and, honestly, I don't see much chance that they will be. They are, I suspect, too idiosyncratic: they define what Ted wants of systems, but not necessarily what everyone else wants, or would even be happy to work with. However, watch the lecture - it is a rather rambling two hours' worth and you can skip chunks if you wish. It moves from a consideration of note-taking (or, rather, the way Ted takes notes - does anyone else have millions of them stored in various places around the world?) and on to education (where he has clearly not heard of A.S. Neill and Summerhill, since he claims that no one has ever implemented the model he prefers, which, as far as I can see, is something close to the Summerhill model), and on from education to the origin of languages and their distribution (again, somewhat suspect ideas, if the review of many literatures found in the brilliant "The origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheim is to be trusted), and then on to the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the rediscovery of writing, back to Project Xanadu (which is about "handling documents they way they should be" - or, more correctly, the way Ted would like to be able to handle, but which I suspect would drive the rest of humankind crazy) and, via "General Strategics", to a closing comment on the teaching of mathematics.

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