Title
#present-company
j

Jan Ruzicka

04/20/2022, 5:34 AM
Does someone have an update on https://dynamicland.org/ ? At least according to their roadmap, they were working at a new version of Realtalk, and this year, they were planning to present their work to the world. Sorry if this was mentioned already 😅
Srini K

Srini K

04/20/2022, 11:28 AM
this has been the most recent update by their ethanographer: https://www.christophlabacher.com/notes/ethnographic-research-on-dynamicland
i

Ivan Reese

04/20/2022, 1:28 PM
Last I heard (a few months back), stuff is happening, slowly. I don't believe Bret wants to share more publicly until there's something meaningful to announce. He seems to adhere to the motto that one should keep their powder dry.
Corey

Corey

04/20/2022, 6:12 PM
Understandable not to want to share things too soon, but at the same time I worry they are spending too much time in private or limited production before release. I understand they want to get it right, but they've been at it for 8 years. They had a lot of mindshare a couple years ago, but nowadays a lot of people react with "oh yeah, that project? That's still alive?" We did all development in the open with Eve because it provided a lot of great feedback, and Eve wouldn't have evolved as it did without that. Projects like Jai and Dynamicland look promising but sadly we can only get glimpses of that promise. Those projects started almost a decade ago at this point and still they are tight lipped about them. I think we in this community know why: there's approximately an infinite amount of work to do, and the line for "meaningful" progress is blurry. What that means is that "meaningful" almost never comes, as there's always more work to do before you finally decide the work is full of meaning. I noticed myself doing this with Mech, which also I have been working on since 2014, but really only implementing since 2018 after Eve was done. It's been 4 years of more or less private development for me, and it's time to get this stuff out the door in front of people finally. I'm really hoping Dynamicland and Jai make a public debut soon, or else we might not see them until 2034!
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Ivan Reese

04/20/2022, 6:56 PM
I don't think the goal of Dynamicland is to make something that gets released in the commonly held sense. They're not making software, they're making something more akin to a public library, science center, museum, concert hall, etc. I don't know that they need or care about mindshare, because they're not trying to get adoption the way a new software tool might.
Corey

Corey

04/20/2022, 6:57 PM
I think that's all the more reason to do the development in the public. But obviously they've done the calculus and have their own reasons for not. Just... 8 years is a looooong time. One has to imagine it's either close to release and we'll see it soon, or nowhere near done and we'll never see it.
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Ivan Reese

04/20/2022, 6:58 PM
Why is 8 years a long time? Compared to what?
Srini K

Srini K

04/20/2022, 7:04 PM
yeah I think it’s tempting to think of Dynamicland as “software” but that’s really only part of it. They have an idea that is going to take a long time to make more thinkable / workable thru iteration & bootstrapping to understand how to refine the idea. When they know what the thing / system really is, they’ll be comfortable releasing it in the ways that align with their vision & values. I mean, if you dig the software then go play with paper programs! https://paperprograms.org/ JP’s work here is great, and encapsulates the “software” component to their vision
Corey

Corey

04/21/2022, 9:08 PM
8 years is a long time on a human scale. It's basically 10% of a lifetime. I'm very supportive of the Dynamicland project and their vision don't get me wrong. My main criticism is that they are aiming for a grand society-level project but have been doing their work in secret for so long. In my experience, the longer you stay away from your target audience, the more your direction is divorced from their needs. I'm sure the folks at Dynamicland know this, but that's why I'm really really curious as to how they are addressing this concern of mine. I guess we'll see one day.
Daniel Krasner

Daniel Krasner

04/22/2022, 10:59 AM
The question is, what is Dynamicland and related work trying to accomplish? If the goal is to create some artifacts that people can play with that is one thing. If the goal is change the way people think about computing that's another. From what I know of Bret and the people who directly inspired him (in learning about their work, and in the time I've spent with them), the goal is the latter. And the fundamental realization is that this latter goal is utterly selfless in the sense that you are unlikely to see the true fruits of your labors. You can be Plato or Socrates arguing about the merits of literacy, and you can argue the potential of the underlying technology one way or the other, imagining what kinds of thinking they might lead to, but you are not going to imagine modern science or the US constitution or any such artifact. A new generation of people, wired differently, and rewired by these ideas will be ones to think anew. And this is hard, both to do but even more so to accept. So what's 8 years on that scale!? .... On the other hand you can ask the question of what Dynamicland has already accomplished. Leaving Realtalk, projectors, papers with dots aside, I can make a pretty strong case that it has already forced us to recalibrate some of our thinking about computing(ers). Depending on where you 'come from' Dynamicland has lands somewhere on the confirmation to realization continuum. Minsky wrote that "computer science is not about computers themselves" when he was still hopeful that this stuff can shape into some sort of science - that aside - Dynamicland is definitely not about computers. So when we are dabbling around with new IDE's, tapping into the QWERTY, and looking at screens, excited to try out out another "hello world" in a new language (potentially of our own making), a 'new' interpreter, a <<new>> environment etc there will be these things in the back of our minds we can't just ignore. And that's a big deal.
j

Jan Ruzicka

04/22/2022, 12:33 PM
I agree with you, @Daniel Krasner, that making people rethink their conception of computing is a laudable achievement. Yet when you look back on the analogy with Socrates and Plato, Socrates certainly was "the originator" of many ideas that inspired some of his contemporaries. Yet without Plato and Xenophon, who actually wrote the ideas down and shared them with the world, Socrates would be forgotten, possibly with his ideas. Who knows what the world would be like in that case... The point is, the goal should be not only to generate ideas, but to generate knowledge. Ideas may eventually vanish, but knowledge is (usually) preserved and accumulates. You might recall a recurring theme in Alan Kay's talk about Da Vinci, Newton and Ford, and his point about knowledge and context being superior to smartness and/or great inspiration. I believe Dynamicland is trying to generate "knowledge" (through the working system), and not only ideas. However, if the group falls apart (and according to the article summarising the sociologist's findings, there's at the moment just one person apart from Victor working at Dynamicland) without sharing any of its findings, then the knowledge generated by the ideas around Dynamicland would remain in the form of PaperPrograms and other such prototypes. These may not reflect the full vision of Bret Victor, but at least they're openly available. I think it's a trivial observation that out of knowledge that's lacking but openly available, and knowledge that's complete but esoteric, the suboptimal one proliferates. I don't want for the knowledge around Dynamicland to be lost. I believe (hope?) that the group is still functioning, but naturally I'm worried that exactly that might happen. They don't want to be sharing their progress openly (at least not online), which will result in a loss of the whole system if they're undertaking too big a problem. This is partially what happened to the Frank system developed at VPRI. The working system is available, but not discoverable (I have a link to it somewhere, but there's no other way to get to it, I believe) nor working out of the box (and naturally has no documentation). However, VPRI at least published many writings that documented aspects of the system; which is something that Dynamicland lacks.
Daniel Krasner

Daniel Krasner

04/22/2022, 1:58 PM
@Jan Ruzicka Let me clarify what I meant with the literacy and Plato / Socrates example. It's not so much that they had ideas which were then set into writing, and which we can now debate. It is the fact of choosing to share those ideas in writing and, hence, in adopting literacy as a medium for knowledge that is the point of the comparison. The very act of writing these down was in itself a statement about the technology itself. The other option at the time was to let these ideas propagate through an oral medium (bards, poets, mnemones etc) and this was the option Socrates encouraged. If you want to be quant, it's the meta idea of using the writing medium that I am referring to, not the utility of writing. Dynamicland . I see, I hope, to be this meta idea. No argument on making sure that the good ideas do not die in oblivion, with the VPRI example a really good one. Just look at how much work it is to learn something about the big ideas in computing. Wouldn't it be nice if these things were just part of the core "CS curriculum"..... Of course, maybe Dynamicland has nothing more to say at the moment. It's reassuring to know that every spasm isn't immediately a blog post or a tweet.
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Ivan Reese

04/22/2022, 3:39 PM
Yeah, they don't want to share news until there's something actually newsworthy. They have a private mailing list where smaller updates go out. Stuff is still happening, they have real people testing DL and are doing what they can to keep working on it despite the pandemic. If they have something to share that'll change the world, they'll share that publicly. If they don't have something of that nature yet, they'll keep working toward that goal. I personally wouldn't want it any other way.
Corey

Corey

04/22/2022, 9:46 PM
Well according to their roadmap, 2022 is the year that Dynamicland meets the world, so I'm excited!
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Ivan Reese

04/22/2022, 10:06 PM
Link to that roadmap?
Corey

Corey

04/22/2022, 10:07 PM
oh, just the one on their homepage
10:07 PM
the 50 year plan
10:07 PM
or 5000 year project lol
10:08 PM
Is that an old roadmap? I wonder if covid changed any plans
Vijay Chakravarthy

Vijay Chakravarthy

04/23/2022, 6:24 AM
Having visited there a few times and spoken to a few people including Bret (and others who were trying to get it funded) - my perspective is actually that they would benefit a lot by trying to apply it into the real world, and also think through the scaling of the medium. For example, I think letting a number of people build out microprojector plus webcam based learning environments wouldve been valuable from both a funding and feedback perspective. Consider something like Osmo (https://www.playosmo.com/en/) which is a small step but quite simplistic compared to Dynamicland - there are playbooks to learn from IMHO. This is not a criticism but rather wistfulness on my part.. the research is excellent but there are tangible aspects of community building, etc. that they could benefit from.
n

Naveen Michaud-Agrawal

05/09/2022, 7:29 PM
@Jan Ruzicka I get the sense that they are doing research in the 'sciences of the artificial' sense. Build an artifact (the Realtalk programming system), and see what kinds of computing comes out of it. Regarding your comment on them working in private for a long time, I think Bret's taken to heart Alan Kay's lament that Smalltalk stopped changing after it was released from PARC, "almost as if it had been handed down by the gods". See the above point from @Vijay Chakravarthy about other people building out microprojector/webcam based systems - I think that design was more from necessity than the final way they envision the ultimate system. They probably don't want people to get fixated on the technology and lose the broader context.
7:33 PM
I remember seeing an offhand comment attributed to Alan Kay that computing should be like Kleenex - you use one and then throw it away. That seems to be the larger context - computing so pervasive that it embeds the fabric of our daily lives (but not in the current setup with small siloed devices that can only do what a small number of people have pre-decided (in the form of apps))
7:33 PM
After all, people don't write by using a pre-defined set of sentences or paragraphs 'designed' by a class of literati