5 predictions, from 1984
With surprising accuracy, Nicholas Negroponte predicts what will happen with CD-ROMs, web interfaces, service kiosks, the touchscreen interface of the iPhone and his own One Laptop per Child project.
But imagine that screen having lots of objects on it and the person has touched an object – one of N – like he did there, and then pushed on it. Now, imagine a program where some of those objects are physically heavy and some are light: one is an anvil on a fuzzy rug and the other one is a ping-pong ball on a sheet of glass. And when you touch it, you have to really push very hard to move that anvil across the screen, and yet you touch the ping-pong ball very lightly and it just scoots across the screen. And what you can do – oops, I didn’t mean to do that – what you can do is actually feed back to the user the feeling of the physical properties. So again, they don’t have to be weight; they could be a general trying to move troops, and he’s got to move an aircraft carrier versus a little boat. In fact, they funded it for that very reason.
Flow, the secret to happiness
I grew up in Europe, and World War II caught me when I was between seven and 10 years old. And I realized how few of the grown-ups that I knew were able to withstand the tragedies that the war visited on them – how few of them could even resemble a normal, contented, satisfied, happy life once their job, their home, their security was destroyed by the war. So I became interested in understanding what contributed to a life that was worth living. And I tried, as a child, as a teenager, to read philosophy and to get involved in art and religion and many other ways that I could see as a possible answer to that question. And finally I ended up encountering psychology by chance.
Well, when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists. So existence is temporarily suspended.
So what it’s telling you here is that obviously this automatic, spontaneous process that he’s describing can only happen to someone who is very well trained and who has developed technique. And it has become a kind of a truism in the study of creativity that you can’t be creating anything with less than 10 years of technical-knowledge immersion in a particular field. Whether it’s mathematics or music, it takes that long to be able to begin to change something in a way that it’s better than what was there before. Now, when that happens, he says the music just flows out. And because all of these people I started interviewing – this was an interview which is over 30 years old – so many of the people described this as a spontaneous flow that I called this type of experience the “flow experience.” And it happens in different realms.