We Solve For ‘x’ In This Class

12 October 2010

I had an Intermediate Algebra class on 11 October 02010 that started at noon. Prior to class I had read a press release from Geron Corporation announcing the “enrollment of the first patient in the company’s clinical trial of human embryonic stem cell.” I made mention of this historic moment near the start of the class and I had to immediately change the subject. We solve for ‘x’ in this class.

Prior to this embryonic stem cell moment, I had presented the QOTW (Quote Of The Week).

The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. I have tolerated a lot — Doug Engelbart (01925-)

I briefly mention how the way we use computers today can be attributed to Doug Engelbart’s work back in the 1960s. I also mentioned that Engelbart is alive and still working on his lifelong dream of augmenting human intelligence.

Student: What do you mean by augmenting human intelligence?
Me: Make all people equal when it comes to IQ.
Student: What?!?!? How do we do this?
Me: Well, one example, the Googlers want a Google object implanted in our brains.
Student: What?!?!? Won’t we be like robots?
Me: We solve for ‘x’ in this class. Search Google for site:wired.com bill joy future and read Why the future doesn’t need us.

Prior to this embryonic stem cell moment, I mentioned that is was nice having two binary dates in a row. Yesterday was 10/10/10 and today was 10/11/10. Next month will be fun because we have 11/11/11 and 11/11/11 will be the last binary date until 1 January 02100. I wasn’t able to move of this topic until I pointed out the blasphemy of using a 2-digit year.

Me: I should be shot for using a 2-digit year. If anything, we should be using a 5-digit year.
Student: 5-digit year?!?!?!?
Me: Yes. 2010 is really 02010. But you don’t want to start using a 5-digit year because that will put you completely out-of-sync with the rest of society.
Student: Nobody uses a 5-digit year.
Me: We solve for ‘x’ in this class. Visit http://longnow.org

At the very start of class (i.e. prior to this embryonic stem cell moment), I mentioned that The Simpsons last night was a mathy episode (Lisa coached baseball using statistics/probability) and I tweeted about it.

At this point the energy level of the class started its fall to zero because it was time for us to solve for ‘x’.

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An Example of the Power of Twitter

25 August 2010

2010.08.24: During the first day of the Introduction to Computer Science class, I asked the 26 students the following question: How many of you use Twitter?

My question prompted some gentle giggling, but a couple of hands were raised.

I shared with the class about how I’ve been trying to turn students on to Twitter, but that my current grade would be an F-.

I shared with the class that for me the power of Twitter was in whom I followed. I told the class that the first thing I do when I log into my computer is scan my un-read tweets. I pointed out that if the “right” people are followed, then Twitter can be a treasure trove of great stuff.

Student (sitting in row one): Give us an example.
Me (excited): Did I pay you to say that?

The following example was then presented…

On 2010.08.20 at 6:14am @compufoo tweeted:

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

Student (excited): Doug Engelbart?
Me (yet more excited): Yes. Do know about Doug Engelbart?
Student: Yes, he invented the computer mouse.
Me: How do you know that?
Student: I learned it last semester from Peter Martin. Engelbart was his idol.

Back to the tweet…

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

I explain how my tweet was a re-tweet (RT) of a tweet by @hrheingold (i.e. I follow Howard Heingold on Twitter). Howard Heingold lives in Silicon Valley and he’s a visiting lecturer at Stanford and UC-Berkeley; a research fellow at the Institute for the Future; and a guru when it comes to understanding “virtual communities” (and these days “social networking”). Howard Heingold tweets; he is a user of Twitter. In his Twitter biography, Howard says he’s an “online instigator, educator, offline gardener.”

I click on @hrheingold and we see (which at that time was) Heingold’s most recent tweet.

Thank you! @jimmy_wales for great interview on collaboration. Will publish video eventually.

Wow! Look at that… It appears as though Howard Heingold has interviewed Jimmy Wales and he’s going to share the interview with the world. Question to the class: Who is Jimmy Wales? There’s a pause, so I tell the class that if they use the Wikipedia, then they should give thanks to Jimmy Wales. I also point out to the class that they too can follow @jimmy_wales on Twitter.

Back to the tweet…

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

I point out the class that the power of Twitter is significantly amplified by the ability to insert hyperlinks into tweets. Hyperlinks make the web the World Wide Web (WWW) that it is. But well before the WWW (almost 30 years before), one technologist was thinking about hypertext. Question to the class: Whom do think this technologist was?

“It felt like having Newton and Galileo over for dinner,” wrote Howard Heingold on having dinner with Engelbart and Nelson.

At this point, this power of Twitter example is over. With one tweet I was able to introduce Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart to the students in an introductory Computer Science class. In addition, the students were introduced to Howard Heingold and Jimmy Wales.


Doh! It turns out this power of Twitter example isn’t over. On 2010.08.26 (i.e. day two) of class, the following was presented.

Let’s rewind three weeks to a tweet by Mitch Kapor.

2010.08.03 at 2:10pm @mkapor tweeted:

I’m grouchy that so few people (except us old-timers) have even heard of Ted Nelson http://bit.ly/cGbsWC (Wikipedia bio)

Observe… Mitch Kapor hyperlinked into the Wikipedia.

2010:08.03 at 2:11pm @mkapor tweeted:

All of the web is in essence a pale shadow of just one of Ted Nelson’s dreams. Now do I have your attention?

2010.08.03 at 2:15pm @nanofoo in reply to @mkapor:

I’m going to make sure my CS1 students learn a bit about Ted Nelson this fall. They’ll come in knowing Gates & Jobs, but not Nelson.

@nanofoo never got reply from @mkapor, but @rossk did…

2010.08.03 at 2:48pm @rossk in reply to @mkapor:

where should the Nelson-newbie start?

2010.08.03 at 8:07pm@mkapor in reply to @rossk

Read “Computer Lib” by Nelson. Also see the Wired article on him for a dissenting view

Mitch Kapor did not provide his followers with hyperlinks, but here they are…

Computer Lib/Dream Machine (dot-pdf) and Wired.com: The Curse of Xanadu

Ted Nelson

Ted Nelson

Hmm… Who is Mitch Kapor and more…


Augmenting human intelligence

20 November 2009

This was my Facebook posting on 02009.11.20.

It’s all about augmenting human intelligence. What happens if somebody cracks (“hacks into”) a person’s brain implant?

Direct Link Between the Brain and Computers Coming in 2020 [02009.11.20]

“It’s possible now, more than ever, to augment human intellect.” — Bill Joy (from an article about Doug Engelbart titled “The Dream of a Lifetime”)

I tweeted the following two days ago [02009.11.18]

Covered peta-scale computing in class yesterday. Student asked: Why supercomputers? Tomorrow they’ll see http://ow.ly/DkwZ

Nutshell: “IBM has simulated a brain with 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses–about the equivalent of a cat’s cortex, or 4.5% of a human brain.”

The computing roadmap at the end of 02009: 20 petaflops by 02012 and 1,000 petaflops (one exaflops) by 02018-02020.

[extra] While writing this blog entry, the following tweet from @hrheingold was received.

Engelbart’s 1962 “Augmenting Human Intellect” is well worth rereading every year or two.

I retweeted Howard Rheingold’s tweet and added the following bookmark to my Delicious.com account.

AUGMENTING HUMAN INTELLECT: A Conceptual Framework