Nicholas Negroponte is a famous architect, designer, and computer scientist, and certainly one of the most amazing creative thinkers of our time. You may know him as the founder of the MIT Media Lab and the $100 laptop computer guy (he's the founder of The One Laptop per Child association). He was also the original investor in Wired. Negroponte is pretty good at imagining the future it seems as well. This week TED put up 23 minutes of a much longer talk that Negroponte did for the TED Conference back in 1984. (This, you may remember, was the year that Macintosh was born.) Years before the term "convergence" was being tossed around, Negroponte was talking about using technology in ways that today we take for granted. In this talk he makes five predictions about the future. See how many turned out so far.
Negroponte is a smart, articulate, engaging speaker and I really enjoyed this edited presentation (more of this presentation will becoming from TED later). This was before the days of PowerPoint and bullet points, so when Negroponte used visuals on the large screen behind him they were either large photographs or videos. Today we would run these stills and video right off the laptop seamlessly in Keynote or PowerPoint, but for a guy changing his own laser disks (remember those?), he was quite smooth. Projectors were not what they are today so the room is dark, but as long as the lights are on the presenter it works well. In fact darkness, save for the large screen and the lights on the speaker, give the presentation a feeling of theatre.
Stills from the 1984 talk. Presenting well with simple multimedia and no bullet points years before PowerPoint changed everything.
Negroponte on education
My favorite part of this presentation is his comments on education. Here's my takeaway.
"Good education has got to be good entertainment."
— Nicholas Negroponte
Personally, by "entertainment" I think what Negroponte means is "engagement" or "meaning" or "personal involvement" and so on — this is how I take it. Education is knowledge and information, but the hunger, drive, and the curiosity in the pursuit of understanding and meaning is emotional, it's human. Entertainment has gotten a bad rap I guess in popular culture. You know, if it's "entertainment" it can't be good for you. If it is "entertainment" learning must not be going on. Many presentation situations and education in general have a lot in common; there is nothing wrong with entertaining. The thing about entertainment is that it is other-focused, the way it should be. It's not about us, it's about them. Different audiences are "entertained" in different ways—it's up to us to figure out what the most effective methods are for stimulating, affecting, and informing. Entertainment is not necessarily a distraction, diversion, or escape. Entertainment in the best sense is about engagement, connection, and meaning as well.