The Future Begins in Play: Steven Johnson

This succinct, compelling TED Talk by Steven Johnson, author of How We Got to Now, explains that  many great inventions, including the computer, often began as simply new ways to play. The Free-Range corollary is that if we want to raise great inventors (or simply happy humans) we need to let kids do the same: play more. Have fun. Goof off.

Necessity is not the only mother of invention. And homework isn’t the only way to learn.

A brilliant guy like Steven could probably find the embed code for his talk. Me, I could only find the link, which is here.

WAIT! A READER JUST SENT THE CODE IN. VOILA THE TALK:

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(And if YOU want to have fun and goof off, enter our “Come up with a warning label for a ball” contest, to push back on a society so afraid of injuries, lawsuits and wasted time that it can buzzkill the most basic of joys. Entries due  by Weds!) – L

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11 Responses to The Future Begins in Play: Steven Johnson

  1. theresa November 20, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    And risk the stem school work and being better than the neighbors. What are you thinking

  2. BL November 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    Another interesting article on play, by John Taylor Gatto.

    The Curriculum of Play:

    http://www.lifelearningmagazine.com/1006/curriculum_of_play_by_John_Taylor_Gatto.htm

  3. James Pollock November 21, 2016 at 5:39 am #

    “many great inventions, including the computer, often began as simply new ways to play.”

    The electronic computer was invented to help break German diplomatic codes. Not sure what kind of person considers that “play”. Certainly not the team at Bletchley Park who built it.

  4. Workshop November 21, 2016 at 9:29 am #

    I would inject an entry into the “Warning Label for a Ball” contest, but there are so many great options already, I’m outclassed.

    Besides, anyone working in “Elder Gods” into a warning label earns Awesome Points in my book.

  5. bluebird of bitterness November 21, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    I think you can get it to embed if you use the YouTube link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn2dEtTQwyM

  6. Rae Pica November 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

    Oh, that gave me goosebumps! If only every parent and policymaker could see it!

  7. JKP November 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    “The electronic computer was invented to help break German diplomatic codes.”

    James, if you watched the actual video referenced (only 7 min long), it already addresses that misconception. Predating the enigma machine, what could be actually considered the first computer was invented for automatically playing music.

  8. sexhysteria November 22, 2016 at 1:58 am #

    The message in this video is thought-provoking!

  9. test November 22, 2016 at 6:33 am #

    @JKP That is stretching the definition of computer quite far (while ignoring the electronic part entirely). The guy on video is quite charismatic, motivational, know how to talk … and … constructs history quite selectively and stretches the truth to maximum.

    I agree that the play is important, but the guy and his talk are manipulative.

  10. James Pollock November 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    “if you watched the actual video referenced (only 7 min long), it already addresses that misconception”

    Which “misconception” are you referring to?
    That electronic computers were invented in Bletchley Park?
    That they were used to break German diplomatic codes? (not, BTW, Enigma… that one was already broken)
    Or that the team who developed it was deadly serious and not playing around at all?

    (Note that the video DID correctly identify the first computer… Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which Babbage started but did not complete because he couldn’t get parts machined with sufficient uniformity.)

    In my opinion, this guy is working the wrong way. He wants to start with an important technology, and trace it backwards to find playfulness in its creation, however tenuously. He’s going the wrong way. The real story is the way that humans can take just about anything… say, a machine designed to break German diplomatic codes… and turn it into something to play with, in this case, a Playstation.

    The road is a long one… at first, electronic computers were all about war, then they moved to solving business problems. But, along the way, people found a way to play with them, and eventually, computers were developed specifically for the purpose of playing games, and given no other purpose.
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  11. test November 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    @James Pollock I fully agree. There are many inventions that are actually really playful and result of playfulness – and plenty turned out to be able to really help people and that includes video games. There is no reason to force the issue.

    A lot of technological progress was result of war or catastrophy. That is just the way the world is and there is no reason to pretend otherwise. Ability to keep playfulness, music, junk literature and games helped people to survive hard times. They still help people to get through difficult times.