bret victor

bret victor bw

first intro’d to Bret via David – (math friend – see below), the re-intro’d via Monica – (amazing ai mind – see below), then again via Bernd (lovely mentor – sharing live tool – here):

live bret victor tool via bernd


Global Game Jam 2013 Keynote


The Future of Programming

july 2013:

tech changes fast, peoples minds change slow

the real tragedy – if people forgot we could have new ideas.. about programming

don’t grow up with dogma

this all happened in 60’s 70’s because nobody knew what programming was.. so they tried everything.. the most dangerous thought you can have a creative person is to think you know what you’re doing.. then you become blind

step 1: say to self..

i don’t know what i’m doing.

once you truly understand/believe that.. then you’re free..


find/follow Bret:

link twitter

his site:

bret victor site




saturday, february 25, 2012

Inventing on Principle

bret victor

Bio: Bret Victor invents tools that enable people to understand and create. He has designed experimental UI concepts at Apple, interactive data graphics for Al Gore, and musical instruments at cool… what he’s showing with code.

finding a principle – is a form of self discovery

what you believe in – how you want to live your life

bringing ideas into the world…

creators need an immediate connections w/what they create

coding allows immediate connection

at least watch at 14 min…

being able to try ideas as you think of them

nothing hidden – nothing to simulate in your head – replace squiggle lines… with new medium

fight injustice by inventing

recognize a cultural wrong, imagine a world w/o that wrong, and dedicate life to that end..

Doug Engelbart – to enable mankind to solve the world’s urgent problems..

Alan Kay – to amplify human reach and bring new ways of thinking to a faltering civilizatino that desperately needed it – (thru children – if computer became a new form of literacy – new form of enlightened society)

Richard Stallman – software must be free as in freedom – a matter of moral right and wrong

dedicating their lives.. with a very clear right/wrong.. often fighting because majority of world didn’t see the wrong.

this lifestyle is an option that is available to you..

social activism

craftsman, problem solver, 

Larry Tessler – not defined by his craft.. defined by his cause – modelessness

finding a principle is a form of self discovery – took me a decade

using experiences to analyze self – self talk ness

Larry – nobody should be trapped in a mode.. made it easy to see.. you can look at a person and say – is this person trapped in a mode

if your guiding principle follows a specific insight – it will guide you..

every aspect of your life is a choice..

am i doing what matters…

took me 4 decades – dang

via Monica Anderson on fb..
more from him previously..  kill math


tuesday, july 19, 2011

bret victor

ah Bret.. i love you. i love this:

Interactive Exploration of a Dynamical System from Bret Victor on Vimeo.kill math using data viz

But the point is that the equation isn’t the math; it’s not the insight, the creativity, that actually happened inside Einstein’s head. What if Einstein didn’t have to resort to symbol-manipulation to express and communicate the idea that “matter is equivalent to energy in this exact way”? What if the next Einstein doesn’t have to do that? If fact, what if “not having to do that” is how we get the next Einstein?


sounds like Conrad Wolfram’s computer based math?..

Bret’s site 
his post on this
thanks to David Wees


Real challenge: instead of seeing empathy as a personal virtue, design a medium that engenders empathy by default.

Original Tweet:

indeed. a nother way. deep/simple/open enough.. for us to see/be us.

A beautifully-done interactive animation explanation game essay (?) by @ncasenmare —

Original Tweet:


via tweet from Will:

A good way to think about it, via Saul Griffith, is that it’s the role of technologists to create options for policy-makers.

and/or.. make policy irrelevant..


In the meantime, the fossil fuel industry is being subsidized at about half a trillion dollars a year.

Public funding for clean energy is a problem to be solved. It’s not a technology problem. But it’s a blocker that prevents us from getting to the technology problems.

let’s do this first: free art-ists.

energy exponentiated and sustainable..

deep/simple/open enough


Relying on sun and wind is only possible if we can store up their energy for when it’s not sunny or windy. Many people assume that we’ll “just use batteries”, but the scale is off by a few orders of magnitude. All the batteries on earth can store less than ten minutes of the world’s energy. At currently anticipated growth rates, we wouldn’t have the batteries we need for eighty years.



Stories & stats are two extremes, both myopic: one too specific, one too general. Neither can represent the truth of a complex situation.

But stories & stats are relics of the paper medium. The dynamic medium allows a “ladder of abstraction” b/w them. 3/

ladder of abstraction

“In science, if you know what you are doing, you should not be doing it. In engineering, if you do not know what you are doing, you should not be doing it. Of course, you seldom, if ever, see either pure state.” —Richard Hamming, The Art of Doing Science and Engineering

How can we design systems when we don’t know what we’re doing?


Systems at this boundary often rely on emergent behavior — high-level effects that arise indirectly from low-level interactions.


standing on concrete -We don’t understand this system well enough to predict its behavior, so we need to prototype. We start with the simplest possible design, and thoroughly explore it

controlling time -To understand a system, we must be able to explore it. To explore, we must be able to move freely, under our own control.

controlling the algo – we also need a way to easily and fluidly adjust our guesses, see the consequences, and develop a sense for how they affect the behavior.

abstracting over time – our representation above, at any given moment, only depicts the system at one particular time. But we can go higher, and concoct a representation that statically depicts the system across all time.

stepping back down – when creating abstractions, stepping down is as important as stepping up.

abstracting the algo -with a representation that depicts the system for all possible algorithms instead of any particular one…. to bring out high level patterns

stepping back down – We stepped up a level of abstraction to see a high-level pattern, and then stepped down to discover the explanation for that pattern. I believe that this dance is where the deepest insights are born — not at any one level of abstraction, but in the transitions between them. This is why it is crucial that our representations provide both a step up and a step back down.

zoom dance

controlling the data – our goal is an algorithm that handles any road it encounters.

abstracting the data – let’s embrace the spirit of abstraction, and omit some details in the interest of exposing patterns. We’ll use a coordinate transformation to warp the trajectories into the same space, so we can compare them.

stepping back down

the ladder: …To understand a system, we must explore it. The three features above — time, structure, and data — define the territory. We explore this territory by controlling parameters, abstracting over them, and stepping down from these abstractions.

I believe that the deepest understandings will come from a new form of “reading” which is actively moving up and down such a ladder. 4/

Step 1 requires a *medium* that makes it possible for many people to mess around and learn from each other. For infographics, that was print

hosted life bits that io/zoom dance


Very interesting; very possible

Original Tweet:


a particular kind of thinking.. understanding systems..

media are thinking tools.. if we want to build powerful new systems.. need powerful new representations..

incredible opp to rethink how we think about systems (ie: now we still think linear/paper even when on computer)

3 min – a very well written paper.. but incomprehensible.. author’s have very rich picture in their head.. but narrow medium. . then reader has to take it in and picture again

4 min – intertwine pic in head with words ie: when read word log.. don’t have to reproduce picture in head.. it’s just there… showing behavior of algo

7 min – instead of being a dead static symbol.. it’s a behavior.. instead of being made out of symbols designed for pencil and paper.. it’s made out of live data

8 min – richard hamming: perhaps there are thoughts we can’t think..there could be unthinkable thoughts

9 min – for me.. the sounds that we can’t hear and sights we can’t see.. how do we even know about them in the first place.. well.. we build tools..that adapt these things that are outside of our senses

10 min – we build tools to adapt these unthinkable thoughts to how our mind works.. for things that were previously unthinkable..

like.. seeing with our hearts.. other hearts…eudaimoniative surplus

ie: hosted-life-bits via self-talk as data.. with and/or without words

probably the greatest adapting tool in the history of humanity: writing.. writing made thought visible.. it allowed us to think about thinking..

but also gets in the way.. no..? because of words..

imagining.. x-d glasses ness with hosted-life-bits.. and idiosyncratic jargon (or whatever).. at least open the potential of communication up quite  a bit

not about data.. about be ing.. non judgmental.. just leaving trail (self-talk as data) for (mech/others/our-own) insight

thinking in speech used to be this fleeting thing.. writing allowed us to capture and study it.. it’s why it’s considered that the invention of writing is the invention of reason.. of rational thinking.. capture thought and think about it explicitly

11 min – if you have literacy.. now able to think in this much more powerful way.. even if you’re not writing at that very moment.. you’re still able to think literally..  maccluhan.. intro a medium and introduces new thought patterns to society

another great tool: mathematics… paragraph to equation.. a structure that’s visible in the (equation) form that’s hidden in the (paragraph) form.. once made visible.. can think explicitly about it.. to develop means of manipulating it

12 min – i think it’s interesting that the birth of modern math is not any particular math concept but a user interface.. (equation where x could be anything.. not just a number.. ie: velocity et al)

13 min – if making a thinking machine/tool.. helps if know something about thinking.. so from bruner.. 3 ways people have of thinking about things: enactive; iconic; symbolic.. in modern ui terms: interactive (thinking by doing); visual (thinking by seeing); symbolic (thinking with language/step-by-step reasoning)

first one.. interactive.. discovery of dna.. went to machine shop.. built models.. tried to fit together.. ridiculed by colleagues.. playing with toys.. but structure of dna was unthinkable.. but moved it from symbolic to interactive so could move with hands..

15 min – channel switch.. something purely symbolic.. first charted graph..

this channel switching is what i’m trying to do here

18 min – seeing 5 diff perspectives on system.. how they all dance together.. allows you to build associations in your mind… that leads to intuition

very diff way of thinking than traditional analytic.. write a bunch of equations

19 min – we need to see the behavior of the system.. entire behavior.. entire system..  be able to interact and see how it changes..we need mult reps of behavior .. see from diff perspectives/angles…. need to be able to interact with the behavior  .. do more than look at it

22 min – showing: solving systems of equations.. treated as searching.. a very diff way of thinking about it

23  min – so looking at entire families of systems .. not any particular plot

27 min – chasing a piece of data .. all the way through the pipeline.. entire history

28 min – if you want a medium for these representations.. how you create them is essential.. i think it’s essential that they be created by thinking visually.. that’s just called.. drawing..

29 min – before computers.. that was only way to do it

30 min – there’s this wonderful directness/expressiveness in drawing.. when you want to see something.. the downside.. producing by hand.. limits how complex you can be.. and a one-off for particular data set.. (have to start all over if change data) so people have turned away from drawing and started.. writing code..working in this very indirect/symbolic/linguistic/non-visual way of creating pictures

31 min – so tool for drawing data driven tools.. so can draw.. then.. drop in new data set.. or take part of drawing and move it.. see data change.. direct manipulation of data itself.. thinking geometrically/visually instead of algebraically/in-language

36 min – to sum up:

1\ need to see behavior of system.. if we want a new medium for understanding systems in powerful new ways.. that’s (see behavior of system) what we can do now that we couldn’t do with pencil/paper

2\ need to see entire state of the system.. across all variables all at once.. to compare et al

3\ need to be able to adjust the system.. immediately be able to tell how behavior responds.. associations between what we’re changing and how behavior responds

4\ need multiple representations of the system.. looking at behavior in diff ways thru diff lenses .. diff insight.. compare them..

5\ not just see behavior but interact with it by measuring/searching/transforming it.. whatever makes sense..

37 min – this idea of being able to interact with the behavior of the system is super important.. not the structure.. not the code.. those don’t matter.. what matters is what the program is doing.. so we need reps where we’re on the doing side.. focusing-on/staring-at/interacting-with behavior of the system..

the behavior of the system becomes what it’s all about

sounds so much like rev of everyday life.. emerging/indigenous us..

via ie: hosted-life-bits via self-talk as data..  as the day [aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]

6\ need to be able to abstract over individual systems.. and see entire families of systems..

so zoom dance ish..

7\ need multiple reps that are linked together..

that can io dance ish

8\ need diff reps for diff types of data..

and most importantly

9\ need way of creating these reps that’s in line w everything else.. i think that means drawing it.. direct manipulation

38 min – everything i’ve shown you so far.. are hints.. nibbling at the corners of the big problem.. being.. what is this new medium for understanding systems.. we need to get away from pencil/paper thinking.. esp programming.. written language..

paragraph to equation to ? – i don’t know what that new medium is.. but if you’d like to help find it .. let me know

rev of everyday life (system)

hosted-life-bits (medium)


Y’know, Bret Victor (@worrydream) wrote this 6 years ago & he’s still 10 years ahead. [via @elfsternberg, sort of]!/ABriefRantO

a timid increment from the status quo

partial is killing us.. keeping us from us

Something that genuinely improves how we interact.

2 convos.. via idio jargon.. hosted on life bits that io dance

  A tool addresses human needs by amplifying human capabilities.


Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.

To me, claiming that Pictures Under Glass is the future of interaction is like claiming that black-and-white is the future of photography. It’s obviously a transitional technology. And the sooner we transition, the better

be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities. Don’t just extrapolate yesterday’s technology and then cram people into it.

a nother way