Three Ways We Must Think

Alan Kay explains, In order to be completely enfranchised in the 21st century, it will be very important for children to get fluent in the three central forms of thinking that are now in use: "stories," "logical arguments," and "systems dynamics." page

Written remarks to a Joint Hearing of the Science Committee and the Economic and Educational and Opportunities Committee. October 12, 1995.

The way of thinking and giving meaning to one's life and society in terms of stories and narratives is universal over all cultures, and is in our basic "wiring" as human beings.

Yet if we look back over the last 400 years to ponder what ideas have caused the greatest changes in human society and have ushered in our modern era of democracy, science, technology and health care, it should be a bit of a shock to realize that none of these is in story form!

Newton's treatise on the laws of motion, the force of gravity, and the behavior of the planets is set up as a sequence of arguments that imitate Euclid's books on geometry. All scientific papers since then are likewise given as special kinds of arguments, not stories.


Kay goes on to explain how children must be embedded in an environment that values the more advanced forms of thought and why inserting a computer into the classroom is insufficient.

Kay uses reasoned argument as sufficient example of difficult thought. He says little about dynamic systems other than to observe that computers can interpret their own symbols.

See how internet media provides a Candy Diet exploiting the public's inability to reason.

See how metrics subvert Disciplined Thinking even among academics.

See how the Four Ways We Say anything in wiki gently pushes us beyond the story of the moment.

See how Abstraction of Method operates behind this implementation of wiki as it interprets itself.

See another way: Notions Explained to see how an inspiration can be said: to begin to be an idea.