Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle

This is a one-hour long video uploaded about a month ago. Bret Victor can be described as a professional interaction designer. He designs software interfaces and usability features to make life easier for the people using software tools. Here he talks about inventing on principle – a brilliant talk in my opinion and also judging from the comments online.

In this video, he talks about his principles when it comes to his work, which is interaction design for software. He then talks about other people’s principles when it comes to creative work, innovation or invention. He ends his talk with a plea to the audience about the importance of principles.

1) My Principles

In the first part of the video when he talks about his own principles, he says that ideas are very important to him. He likes great art because it brings ideas into the world. And he says artists nowadays use a lot of software tools to create their art.

He noticed that they usually have to compile a program before they could see whether it works. However, it is Bret’s principle that “creators need an immediate connection to what they create”.

Bret shows five examples of software features he has invented to make life easier for artists using software tools. These features allow the artist to see the result in real-time whenever they make changes to the program. The artist can then see the data immediately and compare it to the changes they are making. The five examples are:- of a programmed painting, a Mario Bros lookalike game, a binary search algorithm, a designed electric circuit and an animation of a falling leaf.

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He says that artists need the right software environment to nurture their ideas, and that this environment should give immediate feedback as a reaction to their ideas. Creators should not be constrained by their tools. Every problem that the artist faces becomes an opportunity for Bret to find a solution.

2. Other people’s principles

Part 2 of the talk is about a broad humanist stance when it comes to inventing and creating meaningful ideas or technology. Here, Bret relates the notion of having principles to morality and values. Inventing should entail usability and accessibility as a motivation.

He cites people like Doug Engelbart (creator of the mouse, idea of real time interaction with computer, idea of knowledge worker to harness collective intelligence), Larry Tesler (computer scientist specializing in human-computer interaction, contributed to Object-oriented extensions in Pascal, and some Apple software products), Alan Kay (Object oriented programming, design of the desktop interface, relating usability to how children think) and Richard Stallman (creator of the free software foundation, Linux, believes software must be free).

These are people who fight for their ideals, who have swam upstream against the current of prevailing authority or the mainstream crowd in order to bring about useful inventions.

3. Your principles

Here Bret makes a plea for the audience to find their own principles as a motivation for their work.

Inspiring indeed.

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