Tag Archives: virtual museum

HCLE Winter 2018 Progress Report

Welcome to the winter quarter of 2018 HCLE progress report. Our Founder and Vision Keeper, Liza Loop, has been working for her Northern California neighbors who suffered great losses in the October 2017 fires. This has delayed some of our HCLE work.

We share many of the news items collected below via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and reddit) and repeat them here for your and our convenience.

Our staff of 1.6 FTEs, volunteers and outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the winter (January through March) of 2018.

 

Outreach

  • Work began with Computer History Museum

Catalog

  • Improved functionality and content

Operations

  • Design Document update

Wiki

  • Current host closing, begin search for new host

 

Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.


  • Collection

    • A temporary staff member, Bridget Kittell, helped organize about 10% to 20% of the Collection items that have not been digitized or catalogued.
    • A variety of digitization processes are being considered to expedite the scanning of the Collection. Each has advantages and disadvantages (cost, time, error rate, resolution, metadata, access). Possibilities being considered are:
      • off-site services (Internet Archive – possibly pro bono, particularly for videos and software),
      • off-site institutions (Stanford, etc.),
      • off-site HCLE staff operations,
      • on-site HCLE staff operations (as normal),
      • and on-site HCLE staff operations with more sophisticated equipment
    • David Brock, curator at the Computer History Museum, met with Liza Loop to discuss collaborating. The initial work will focus on period Apple photos and documents related to the reference manual for the VisiCalc program that HCLE founder, Liza Loop, wrote while employed by VisiCalc publisher, Personal Software (later known as VisiCorp) “Exploring the Microcomputer Learning Environment”.
    • Richard Wenn from Far West Labs – WestEd. This US federally funded research organization has pioneered in supporting computing in schools since the late 1970s and published HCLE Catalog Item 2976, “Exploring the Microcomputer Learning Environment” by Liza Loop and Paul Christenson in November, 1980. Richard donated 5 boxes of material. Also of interest within this collection are publications from the EPIE Institute (Educational Products Information Exchange).
    • Liza Loop has spent several days at the Special Collections Department of Stanford Libraries scanning selected pieces from the Liza Loop Collection.

 

  • Catalog

    • Staff and volunteers worked on improving the Catalog Maintenance System’s compatibility with Chrome/Chromebooks, and bug fixes.
    • Data entry includes filing new artifacts as well as filling fields like “blog URL”, improving descriptions, and clarifying the use of existing and candidate fields.

 

  • People/Volunteers

    • In addition to the various volunteers and staff members mentioned throughout, we are considering recruiting a “business analyst” to complete the details of our Salesforce database.

 

Social Media Traffic Report

1/1/2014 12/31/2016 12/31/2017 3/31/2018
Facebook 59 171 187 189
Twitter 67 493 543 536
WordPress 18 50 55 55
Wikispaces 12 69 74 74

 

  • Wiki

    • The HCLE wiki continues to act as a communications center and as a digital loading dock.
    • Unfortunately, our wiki provider, wikispaces, is closing this summer which means we must find a new host for the wiki. The task is complicated by the need to also define a new wiki architecture because wikispaces’ design was unique and proprietary. Leading candidates are Wikimedia (ala Wikipedia), Google Docs/Sites, and PBWorks. This is expected to be a large effort because our wiki has grown considerably in the last few years. Contractors are investigating the candidates with a focus on porting to Wikimedia.

 

  • Exhibits

    • Despite the imminent closure of the wiki, background information for exhibits continues to be collected on the wiki.
    • The search continues for a copy of History Channel’s History’s Lost and Found, episode 47, containing an interview with Steve Wozniak and Liza Loop. Any help is appreciated.

 

  • Operations

    • The Design Document for the Virtual Museum was revised, particularly with finer distinctions of the appearance and operation of the landing page, the Lobby. More graphical depictions were added.
    • We are considering rewording the mission of the museum. The intent and goals remain the same, but more concise and active wording is being tested.
    • Now that the bulk of the preliminary Salesforce work is completed, the volunteers have moved on to other projects. We thank them for their efforts. Seat licenses were freed up as a result.
    • Work on the Salesforce database continues with merging duplicate accounts, and establishing hierarchical connections between accounts and contacts.
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HCLE Summer 2017 Progress Report

Welcome to the summer quarter of 2017 HCLE progress report. Our Vision Keeper, Liza Loop, has been working for her Northern California neighbors who suffered great losses in the October fires. This has delayed some of our HCLE work.

We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and reddit.) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

Our staff of 1.6 FTEs, volunteers and outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the winter (July through September) of 2017.

 

Fundraising

  • An appeal to private funders is being prepared.

Catalog

  • Many texts within pdf files in the Catalog are now individually searchable.

Exhibits

  • The Interim Collections Site is available for private viewing.

 

Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.

  • Fundraising

    • Various introductory letters were drafted for: Vision Club members, Vision Club candidates, funding organizations, and the general public. The letters will be sent after reviews of the wording, and some process improvements made within Salesforce’s email functions.
  • Collection

    • Scanning and cataloging of the Liza Loop collection continues.
  • Catalog

    • Thanks to James Straus, the text in pdf files is now searchable. This greatly enables the utility of the Catalog for researchers.
  • People/Volunteers

    • A variety of volunteers helped customize our implementation of Salesforce and our wiki.
  • Outreach

Blog posts published:

Social Media Traffic Report

1/1/2014 12/30/2015 12/31/2016 9/30/2017
Facebook 59 104 171 183
Twitter 67 408 493 529
WordPress 18 49 50 53
Wikispaces 12 62 69 74

 

  • Wiki

    • John Ridlehoover began redesigning the wiki home page to improve its look and feel.
    • The HCLE wiki continues to act as a communications center and as a digital loading dock.
  • Exhibits

    • A template for creating timelines is being evaluated for exhibits.
    • Anna Narbutovskih made significant progress on the Interim Collections Site. The site and the link will be made public after security issues are resolved. Previews available upon request.
    • “About the Project” is being rewritten to better fit the needs of the wiki, the Image Collection Site, and the eventual lobby page.
  • LO*OP Center

    • A variety of volunteers have helped customize our implementation of Salesforce. The process improvements should improve our efficiency by making it easier for new volunteers.
  • Operations

    • Our program plan software account with TeamworkPM has been scaled back to a free account while work concentrates on site redesign and Salesforce customization.
  • Admin

    • A Chromebook was provided for Linda Banks, the leader of our volunteer Salesforce customization team, to enable better communications.

Which comes first, the message or the audience?

Comments by Liza Loop, HCLE Founder & Executive Director

Earlier this year HCLE applied for a grant from California Humanities, a state-wide calhum_logoCouncil that gets its support from the US National Endowment for the Humanities. We didn’t get the grant. In the proposed project, entitled Hopes for a Future of Education: 5 California Ed Tech Pioneers Tell Their Stories, five pioneering California educators from the 1970s and 80s will tell us what inspired them to introduce computing into their classrooms, how it changed their teaching and how they hoped this would benefit their students. They will also share their thoughts about the status of ed tech today.

Since the deadline for another round of funding is approaching I asked CalHUM for feedback on our previous proposal. The program officer sent me the review sheet from one of the reviewers saying that the other reviewer basically agreed – their comments were more direct about the limited audience appeal demonstrated.

Why is it so hard to find participants for this conversation? I think it’s significant that there is no Museum of Learning and Education. This topic is buried so deeply in every society’s culture that, like the proverbial fish and water, it is difficult to perceive and taboo to question or change. During my 15 year association with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education I saw almost no initiatives to explore paradigm shifts in teaching or learning (although there probably were some in other departments). “Educational Reform”, a catch phrase from the period (1960-1990), meant tinkering around the edges of conventional, class-room based, teacher-centered educational practice. My hypothesis that schools and class rooms may not be the best technologies to support learning was summarily dismissed. And that was the response in a community of practice dedicated to education.

varveltrojanhorse
Source

In the larger (developed) world remarkably few people enjoy or thrive in schools but even fewer are interested in working to invent something better. Instead we continue to export this institution throughout the lesser developed world and systematically plow under all vestiges of indigenous ways of cultural transmission. In 1985, I and my colleagues in educational computing saw the personal computer as the Trojan Horse that would allow us to break down the walls of the conventional classroom and conquer the status quo. I thought the audience for this message would grow.

And the audience has grown but it has split into two very different channels. The current HCLE  crowd is  an audience of rebels. Many of them are pioneers in different aspects of the electronics industry. They are the ones who were bored in school and were also able to access external sources of teaching so that they could learn to create new devices and functions. They have become the world’s intellectual and economic elite. They understand that there is something wrong with our educational system (and by “our” I mean those of India, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and others, not just the US). Unfortunately, few of them have turned their prodigious analytical skills to the problem of building better scaffolding to support learning in the broad “normal” population of the planet. Some don’t understand that, by definition, most people have an IQ of 105 or less and do not fall in the upper reaches of the bell-shaped curve as they do. IQ was designed to predict capacity to learn and excel in school-like settings. If we are to have an “educated” world population we cannot teach only the best and brightest. We have to support prodigious learning for everybody. Computing offers a promise of delivering prerecorded, interactive teaching materials to learners around the world — all learners, not just the very bright. Some HCLE supporters are so busy succeeding in their chosen fields they don’t realize how critical our educational failure is to sustaining their way of life.

The audience in the second and larger channel is engaged in a contemporary debate about the effectiveness of electronic devices in the classroom. For the most part they are unaware that their concerns and experiences have been under discussion for over forty years so they keep repeating the same old arguments. They are willing to consider “flipping” the classroom but not eliminating it as the principle way of organizing students.

It is important for our potential funders to understand that the current size and composition of the HCLE audience is the very reason they can benefit from supporting us. The people we can reach without additional funding are those who can catch the message without extensive curation and professional-level presentation techniques. But progressive social change is not a popularity contest. It’s a search for meaning and likely to be unpopular in it’s early stages. That’s why it needs partnerships with government agencies and philanthropic organizations. If it was popular Jane or John Q. Public would just buy it and we would not be asking for support.

HCLE Second Quarter 2015 Progress Report

Welcome to the second quarter of 2015 HCLE report. We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

Our staff of 1.3 FTEs, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the spring quarter of 2015.

  • Attended and presented at a series of conferences (AAM, MW, Brink, STS)
  • Contacted original members of the Homebrew Computer Club for stories and funding
  • Creation of a metadata superset for simplified coordination with other institutions
  • Developed a list of supportive scholars for future proposals
  • Expanded our list of collaborators including, Pratt SILS, OAC/CDL, CITE, Henry Ford Museum, SHOT CIS, …
  • Extended our outreach via podcasts, and possible publications

With these accomplishments (and with the appropriate funding) HCLE should be able to produce a Proof Of Concept virtual museum web site in 2015. Subsequent to the proof of concept will be the major tasks of digitizing and curating the collection, and designing the complete virtual museum interface. Those tasks may not be completed in 2015, but significant progress is anticipated.

Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.


 

  • LO*OP Center

    • Open Education Systems (OES)
      • Liza published the first draft of the OES concept on the HCLE wiki. HCLE is about the past. OES is about the future. The two naturally work together with HCLE providing the data and insights that direct the OES vision.

 

  • Fundraising

  • HCLE currently relies on general operating funds provided by LO*OP Center, Inc. Future sustainability requires additional underwriting from individuals, members, foundations and government agencies. At present there are no plans to generate revenue through fees to access the Virtual Museum.
    • To increase the chances of grant awards, we initiated a search for a professional fundraiser/grantwriter. No selection has been made, yet.
    • CLIR
      • A proposal for the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) was prepared but not submitted. The exercise, however, produced an impressive list of scholars and collaborators who now support our work.
    • A letter to scholars has been drafted to encourage research, maintain relations and to provide a source of Letters of Support for grant proposals.
    • We made a direct appeal to member of the original Homebrew Computer Club. While the primary intent is to collect their stories, a secondary benefit is to increase our visibility to potential funders. See Stories for their response.
    • A draft was created for a Kickstarter project to crowdfund the Proof of Concept.
    • We have received a promise of grant writing assistance from Jeremias Herberg (Luneburg University).

 

  • Operations/Virtual Museum Web Site

  • As HCLE progresses from the present start-up phase into normal operation this section will enlarge.
    • Proof Of Concept (PoC) web site
      • Preliminary conversations were carried out with Jessica Sullivan about the Proof of Concept web site. Preliminary specifications were sketched out. The PoC site is a high priority. Funding is being sought with public, crowdfunded, and private sources.

 

  • Collection

  • The content of the HCLE Virtual Museum comprises materials collected and preserved by founder-director Liza Loop and currently owned by LO*OP Center, Inc. Additional items are being donated and related items, owned and hosted online by other individuals and institutions are being referenced in the HCLE catalog.
    • The Collection continues to be digitized as resources allow. Mark Pilgrim is digitizing Apple ][ disks, Anthony Cocciolo (Pratt Institute) digitized various floppies and Betamax tapes, and Jerry Herberg (Luneberg University) aided Liza in sorting, cataloging, and digitizing parts of the Collection. Discussions with Henry Lowood (Stanford) and Fred Turner (Stanford) continue.
    • All digitization efforts are being encouraged to use the Catalog, though some translations may be required.

 

  • Catalog

  • The Catalog is the software that contains and manages the database. No free open-source software was found that met our criteria, so we are developing this capability internally.
    • The Catalog is in use and enabling the digitization of the Collection.
    • Stan Crump, our programmer, improved the operation and coordinated with the digitization project at Pratt. The more we use it, the more we learn about how it must handle needs such as multiple users; especially, collaborators.

 

  • Metadata

  • Information about each item is stored in the Catalog and can be displayed in various formats for scholars, museum staff and visitors. Maintaining a rich set of metadata is essential for locating documents and images as well as understanding their context and significance.

    • Svetlana Ushakova completed her metadata crosswalk work, effectively providing a comparison between three external metadata sets (EADS, MARC, Dublin) with our internal metadata set.
    • A metadata superset was created based on the work done by Svetlana. A superset will allow us to capture enough metadata to export subsets that match the requirements of collaborators.
    • Svetlana will document some of her work as part of a class project.
    • We began a search for a new metadata coordinator because Svetlana needs to concentrate on her studies.
    • We prepared a metadata schema (list of fields with explanations) and distributed it to various collaborators so we can better coordinate our efforts.
    • We’ll pass along this quote from a collaborator that distinguishes metadata from search data.
      • museums systems were not developed with public search in mind, and they do not support much descriptive metadata.” – from Ellice Engdahl

 

  • Wiki

  • This informal web site serves as an online rallying resource for those building the formal Virtual Museum. It will continue to provide a virtual sandbox and conversation pit for staff and volunteers after the museum site is launched.

    • The wiki continues to grow and the style continues to mature and stabilize. A restructuring has been proposed, but only style elements have been incorporated. This may take a dedicated individual for an intense, short-term effort. The main additions have been:
      • OES (see LO*OP Center above)
      • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)

 

  • Stories

  • Our stories highlight how folks learned to use computers between 1955 and 1995 and how and what teachers taught with them. Our emphasis is on learning and teaching; we leave documenting the history of the computing industry to others. Our story tellers are not the celebrities of the high tech revolution. They are the unsung heroes who changed the way we educate ourselves and our children.
    • HCLE EdTech Pioneers: our growing list
      • We launched a new initiative to contact each HCLE EdTech Pioneer, if possible, asking them to improve their pages, nominate others for the list, and contribute, information, insights, artifacts, introductions and any other resources that HCLE can use.
        • The following people were kind enough to be interviewed; and have nominated several other EdTech Pioneers.
          • Liza Loop, our founder – whose page hadn’t been given the attention it deserved, until we consolidated several pages into one.
          • Bob Albrecht – interviewed by Jon Cappetta and possible blog
          • Glen Bull – who will also propose to CITE’s funders about publishing Pioneer stories on a regular basis, and who may work with Jacoby Young on podcasts.
        • The following people have been contacted. There have been some improvements to their pages, but the bulk of the material awaits existing links or an interview.
          • Marge Cappo
          • Kevin Lund
          • Mitchel Resnick
          • Dan Bricklin (Innovator)
      • HCLE Pioneer Meeting
        • We are organizing a meeting of the HCLE Pioneers to demonstrate our appreciation, provide a venue for collaboration and gather more stories. Formal, structured interviews are useful, but informal, casual conversations from Pioneer to Pioneer may reveal insights an interviewer wouldn’t know to pursue.
    • Atari podcast
      • Thanks to an interview of Liza Loop on an Atari podcast, contacts were made that may extend the reach of our Pioneers’ stories
        • Jacoby Young – podcast
        • Glen Bull (CITE) – an HCLE column in the CITE Journal

 

  • Exhibits

  • Online exhibits will simulate a gallery of objects to wander through, take the visitor on a guided tour or invite hands-on participation.
    • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)
      • The PIAL exhibit will provide gamers and the curious the opportunity to play the original games within browser-based emulators of the original environment, while providing data to researchers interested in investigating what the gamers learned, and how.
        • A draft page has been produced and will be heavily modified.
        • Bibliographic references to game design have been added to aid designers and researchers.

 

  • Outreach

  • As a new institution, HCLE is making contacts in the worlds of museums, formal education and independent learners — both online and face-to-face.
    • Conferences
      • A variety of conferences, seminars, and gatherings were attended to improve HCLE’s network, identify interested scholars, publicize our progress, enlist collaborators, and identify potential funders.
        • Museums and the Web
          • attendance and blog
        • Alliance of American Museums
          • attendance and represent Online Museum Working Group
        • Brink Institute
          • panel participation and blog
        • Science and Technology Retreat Conference
          • recruiting for HCLE
    • Publications
      • We are pursuing the (re)publication of two books:
        • ComputerTown USA! e-book
        • Future Flashback – a new look at the past and future of educational technology
          • We are considering convening an Ed Tech Pioneer private meeting to generate additional material for Future Flashback
    • Podcasts
      • Liza Loop participated in one podcast (Atari) which may inspire an HCLE series through the actions of Jacoby Young.
    • Social Media
      • We have been reasonably successful at engaging other professionals by commenting on and sharing posts and publications found on social media. Though informal, these contacts have expanded our network and produced opportunities for collaborations, funding, and increased visibility.
      • We continue to use social media as a source of Initial contacts
      • Social Media Traffic Report
1/1/2014 12/29/2014 3/28/2015 6/30/2015
Facebook 59 91 92 97
Twitter 67 271 294 354
WordPress 18 42 43 46
Wikispaces 12 41 42 49
  • #EdTech could use a dose of #EdTechHistory

 


 

  • People/Volunteers

  • We are a community of builders, researchers, educators, learners and enthusiasts. We aim to recognize each person who contributes to HCLE. Their contributions are described throughout this newsletter
    • Svetlana Ushakova – Metadata coordinator, soon to be emeritus
    • Stan Crump – Programmer, soon to be emeritus
    • Jon Cappetta – Interviewer (Liza Loop, Bob Albrecht)
    • Helen Passey – in negotiations for graphic illustration
    • Jeremias Herberg – assisted Collection, is a Collaborator, and may provide insights into funding

 

  • Collaborations

  • HCLE is such a small organization that it must join with more established partners to accomplish its mission. Happily, we are finding willing colleagues.
    • Associate Professor Anthony Cocciolo from Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Sciences enlisted a class of students to help digitize and present some of HCLE’s artifacts.
      • Artifacts: floppies and Betamax
      • Timing: summer project
      • Coordination: Anthony and Stan are getting media into catalog
    • Henry Ford Museum
      • Liza Loop visited the Ford to establish contact and to investigate possible collaborations.
    • Letters of Support (consequence of preparing CLIR proposal)
    • OAC/CDL (works with DPLA) – contact = Adrian Turner
      • Application to be Contributing Institution in process
    • Texas Coast Bend Collection shared their (private) example of a digital museum.
    • tschak909 – Thom Cherryhomes, Atari Education System
    • Kimon – exhibit, Retrocomputing

 

  • Admininstration

  • Even virtual organizations must attend to the tasks that make them “real” within the surrounding social and governmental context.
    • Possible Advisory Meeting
      • We are considering convening an advisory meeting to get an informed, outside opinion of HCLE’s progress and direction.
        • IEEE History Project
        • SHOT
        • Museum of Play
        • The Henry Ford
        • Larry Cuban
    • Newsletters
      • We continue the production of these quarterly newsletters, partly to spread the word about our progress, and partly to capture and preserve the history of this history museum.
    • Backups
      • They may be dull, but backups are a high priority for a virtual museum.

 

 

Pratt Helps Digitize HCLE

We can’t do this without help. Well, yes we could, but building our virtual museum would take too long and there is an urgency to our work. Thankfully, more collaborators are arriving, finding bits of the work that benefit them and us, and they take on the task. One impressive project was just completed by Professor Anthony Cocciolo’s (@acocciolo) students at Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science (@prattsils). They used a selection from our historic digital media collection and turned it into an accessible and useful exhibit.

Born digital does not mean lives eternal. Electronic media continue to be a maturing technology. Even in 2015, solid state USB drives and SD cards have limited lives. Go back to materials from 1985, and realize how much more fragile they were and are. Floppies (big and small) and video tapes (Betamax, etc.) were created with magnetic-sensitive materials applied to other materials that held them in place; and then were read by running them at high speed past read sensors. There are plenty of opportunities for errors and failures. Old magnetic media and the data on them are perishable. Hence, one of the aspects of our urgency.

 

Prof. Cocciolo assigned his students with the careful task of taking artifacts from HCLE’s collection, gingerly handling them, properly cataloging them, and recording the information on more modern media online. It wasn’t as simple as ‘hit play and record’ because some of the artifacts showed their age. Their careful persistence is appreciated. – And then they went further. They took the initiative to create an online exhibit that gave credit HCLE and its parent organization, LO*OP Center, rather than themselves. A very altruistic action.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 at 11.52.24

They deserve more credit, which is one reason for this post. If you’ve been a student or a professor you know ways to commend (and recommend them) for what they’ve done. I recommend that you visit the exhibit they created. There’s good reason to believe that eventually some of these students will be looking for jobs. They’ve already proved they can go beyond textbooks and homework.

For HCLE, they have produced a basic model of what we will produce for HCLE’s virtual museum. Our collection is far larger, which means there is more opportunity for others to help; and, undoubtedly there are artifacts that benefit other scholars, too. If you are interested in collaborating, great! Contact us. If you know someone who might want to help, please make that introduction. If you want to thank Anthony, his students, and Pratt, please do so. They may have just preserved a critical bit of history that enables your or other’s research.

We have a big project. We can’t do it alone. It is more fun to do it with other people and organizations. And then we get the other task, the stewarding of the various contributions to create a consistent and reliable resource for scholars and the curious. We learned a new way to learn, and now students are showing us a new way to teach others about that history. Thank you.

Thinking on the Brink

I returned on Monday (June 8, 2015) from the Brink Conference in Palm Springs, CA, USA. As the name implies, Brink is a collaboration of futurists, not historians; so today I find my mind stretched between the historical focus of HCLE and the possibilities that history implies. Here’s an example.

This morning I received an email offering free, lifetime “cloud services” to LO*OP Center, Inc. as a non-profit organization. Sounds wonderful — free, accessible file storage so all HCLE participants can collaborate. But wait. In my dark entrepreneurial past I was involved with an encryption/security company, then a company specializing in data storage and forwarding services and I helped found a company that ran a server farm. I know that “the cloud” is a metaphor, not a reality. I know  that there are holes in our data encryption shields. So before signing up for this “cloud” I checked out the company’s web site and even phoned technical support. I wanted to discover “where” my data would be stored and “who” would have access to the physical machines that masquerade as a “cloud”. Pity the poor young, Philippina, technical support operator who answered my call. After consulting her knowledge-base and her supervisor she could tell me that my data would be secure “in the United States”. She could not tell me where in the US the corporate headquarters were located. I didn’t sign up for the service although it is probably just as secure as anything available. I renewed my resolve never to put critical information online but to use “the cloud” for everything I want to share.

Those of us who work in a screen-illuminated office or wander around with a connected device in our hand are living what was science fiction just a decade or two ago. At Brink, I listened to over two dozen pitches for cutting edge products and services that are available today to extend our lives, obsolete our mental and physical labor and entertain ourselves during the time we save. It was exciting, inspiring. But only fleetingly did we nod at the 10-ton elephant in the room. What happens to our human sense of meaning and purpose when we no longer need “work” as we now know it? Are we prepared to completely revise the assumptions, values and taboos on which we have built the previous 3,000 years of culture? Are we going to turn our backs to the possibility of everyone surviving without struggle because we can’t figure out how to adapt to it?

Computing, and the communication and artificial intelligence it entails, threaten the foundations of our social meritocracy. All commercial activity in the developed world is currently aimed toward a consumerism which we are exporting to lesser developed regions as fast as we can. Our valuation of everything we produce is dependent on the fundamental assumption of economics — scarcity —  which we are eliminating through our technologies. We distribute and redistribute our real wealth according to a money-mediated system of employment and “interest” — what was, at one time, called usury and is today called by the US Internal Revenue Service “unearned income”. The folks who gathered at the Brink meeting are among those best prepared to embrace this elephant but we tiptoed around her — this time. And what does the sci-fi future we viewed at Brink have to do with HCLE? As Santayana warned, we are in danger of repeating the past if we ignore it. I talk to Millennials every day who think ideas like the importance of engagement in learning are new and unique. How much further could their thinking take us if they started at the cutting edge of 30 years ago instead of having to reinvent and rediscover over and over? But the technology for idea archeology has changed so we have to put our artifacts where they are digging. That’s why HCLE is virtual — headed for “the cloud.”

In that future (which started while you were reading this blog) we need to understand how our metaphors dance with the real — what concepts are just fog created by highly creative and well-paid hype-crafters and what fundamental hypotheses are crumbling under the tread of adorable-looking robots. We are already sitting on the elephant. If we want to participate in deciding where we go together it behoves us to consider where we both came from and where we are willing to go.