The Knowledge Home Manifesto

The Knowledge Home Manifesto

1. We believe that people are entitled to full understanding and active use of all the machinery of the information age.

2. We believe that the price of this entitlement is eternal learning. Like any live language, this machinery is constant flux, at an especially rapid rate today. Understanding and operating it in a creative way rather than just using some of its packaged products will require a great deal of structured learning.

3. We believe that the best way to learn is through a community, with formal instruction playing only a secondary, supporting role.

4. We believe that a community can be built only if the individuals participate voluntarily, being secure in their own possessions, and not required to leave their existing traditions just to become members of the community.

Given the above beliefs shared by the signers of this manifesto, our goals are

A. To create Knowledge Homes for individuals (see the Knowledge Home white paper)

B. To generate a culture of information and knowledge handling that directly benefits the individuals

C. To incorporate the best from all pedagogical traditions from Logo to Python into this culture

D. To create tools that help the individuals build personal structures as well as contribute to a communal enterprise

What follows is some commentary on the "positive" Manifesto above, necessarily in negative terms, but not with negative intent: when we say that something is not part of the Knowledge Home, we do not imply that it is in any way bad or unworthy, but KH is not intended as a solution to all the world's ills, and we have to draw the boundaries somewhere.

About the name: The Knowledge Home is not about a wired house and information appliances. Creative programming of such appliances may be facilitated by the KH culture, but this is a side effect, not our focus.

1. We do not envision KH as a political movement beyond stating the obvious, namely that people are entitled to a decent education. To some extent every act is a political act. Our goal is to bring what is considered sophisticated, or even arcane, computer science knowledge to the general public, and this may be considered an attack on the current social order, where such knowledge is reserved to a narrow meritocracy. However, our focus is not on disenfranchising the few, but on empowering the many. In fact, what we propose will require the active support of those already empowered.

2. We do not see that the way to better use of computing machinery is through better cosmetic interfaces. Our focus is on structure and understanding; immediate ease of use is viewed as secondary. We do not intend to support a "be productive the first day" learning curve.

3. The role of standardized schooling from an early age should not be underestimated. Part of our goal is to push down many relevant concepts from college to high school, and wherever possible, elementary school level.

4. We view the formulation of well-balanced intellectual property and individual privacy policies, laws, and regulations not only as worthy goals, but in many ways the bedrock layer on which the KH must be built. However, our primary focus is on the tools and the culture, not the legal matrix surrounding it.

A. We are less interested in groupware and creating arenas for communal interaction than in work for, of, and by the individual.

B. We are not interested in making the life of the "knowledge worker" easier. The intended beneficiary is neither the employer nor some abstract societal goal -- we will be successful only to the extent that the participants benefit.

C. We do not believe in wholesale replacement of the existing computing environments, be they proprietary or open. The idea is not to do a "more user friendly unix" or a "less walled-off windows", rather, the idea is to have a reasonably portable conceptual and computational environment.

D. Because the signers can only do so much, we realize we can only seed this process. Since growth will be organic, we do not expect the emergence of a highly systematic, monolithic, and intelligently designed KH environment, though such an ideal is not necessarily a bad thing to keep in mind.

Tommaso Toffoli, Andras Kornai, Stavros Macrakis, David Petty

Last updated January 27 2003

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