>>LEIGH: I’m sure you’re familiar with the STEM movement right? So it would seem that you would be more… So are you also familiar with STEAM? With the reintroduction of art into all of that?>>BEN: Exactly right. So STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math or medicine. And then A for arts makes it STEAM. And then D for design makes it STEAMED. And then SHTEAMED, the H for humanities makes it, you know, across the disciplines. So, you know, there’s a bit of
joking about that, but on May 7th the National Academy of Sciences published a
report from a three-year study about integrating science with humanities and
arts education and the benefits to people and, you know, some of the evidence
is that Nobel Prize winners winners have a very high degree of
multiple disciplines. Polymaths they’re called. That they’re often musicians or
artists or writers or performers or craftspeople or glass blowers. That Nobel
Prize winners have a much higher level of crossing over discipline than even
the members of the National Academies in the US and and similar institutions in
the UK, which are still higher than the general population. So that kind of
evidence that people are looking at to suggest that we should continue to
bridge these disciplines and give students the chance to experience the
design process and be sensitive to the arts and to the empathy of human of the
human experience. I think that’s really important for future technologies. >>LEIGH: So I think we’re kind of into the field of Leonardo’s Laptop at this point.
Would you briefly describe in your own words the the book Leonardo’s Laptop?>>BEN: Leonardo’s Laptop. The subtitle is Human Values in the New Computing Technologies.
And the idea that human values should be driving future technologies
was always important to me. And when people ask me what’s the next big thing
in computing, I say trust, empathy, responsibility, and privacy, which
conveniently is TERP. So I thought that was an easy way to remember it. But
trust, empathy, responsibility, and privacy. And I continue to advocate for
the design of technologies that raise the level of trust between participants. And we can see how the failure of that, with the fake news and scams and spams
and cybercrime and so on, the attention to human values, to privacy, to security,
to trust, was insufficient. We needed to do more and my hope and belief is that
as we go forward there’ll be further attention to those things. So there’s,
within HCI, the development of what’s now called value sensitive design. And a
wonderful report called ethically aligned design, which talks about
shifting from the current focus on artificial intelligence and robots to a
more human-centered view of the future, which is very much
Leonardo’s Laptop.>>LEIGH: Okay wonderful. So with the book you were trying to get
this message out that we should be focusing more on your TERP message. So, have you always kind of been
inspired by Leonardo da Vinci? He plays a really big role. Where’d that come from?>>BEN: Right, well I think Leonardo was a remarkable human being. I read last year’s book by Walter
Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci, which although I had read about 25 books on
Leonardo preparing to do the book Leonardo’s Laptop, this one really pushed
forward the idea of how amazing Leonardo was and how much his capacity to draw
was influenced by his knowledge of science and how his knowledge of science was amplified by his capacity to draw. So his portraits of people were the first
to show proper musculature in the neck and the face, because he had done about
30 dissections of cadavers.Very difficult thing to do in his day, but he
would go through that process to study the muscle and the nerve structure, and
that scientific knowledge led him to make beautiful art. But the art and the
careful drawing led him to make scientific discoveries about musculature
and so on. But his drawing of the circulatory system in the body was a
hundred fifty years in advance of William Harvey who’s usually given
credit for understanding how the body’s blood circulates. In Leonardo’s day the
belief was that the blood just sort of flowed from the heart out through the
arteries to the fingers and actually the idea of circulation was not there, but
Leonardo’s drawings, his careful drawings, the capacity to see carefully, enabled him to make that interpretation. He didn’t write that fully explicitly, but it’s pretty
clear if you look at those pictures he understood what was going on.
Also his careful precision to watch the way the feathers of a bird flapped and
whether the bird, get this, I mean he was able to see whether a bird
flapped down more rapidly than they flapped up. Okay it’s a pretty careful
thing that you have to tune your vision to, and he saw those patterns of swirling
in the air and swirling in the water and he was able to make these
generalizations across disciplines and across areas to really understand the
world in a much stronger way. So he advanced the world in lots of ways.>>LEIGH: So you use Leonardo da Vinci as kind of a muse for new computing in your book,
and I was wondering if you think there are any current Leonardo da Vincis in
this world we should be paying attention to.>>BEN: Wow! It’s a great question, though the one that leaps to mind, well there
are some heroes of mine, people who were influential who continue to write
wonderfully, but the one that leaps to mind is a young woman researcher named
Neri Oxman at MIT Media Lab who’s done amazing and beautiful artwork that’s
installed in museums around the world. And she publishes these terrific papers
in, you know, engineering journals about new chemical processes, new ways of
forming glass. So I mean she does some, you know, just clever things so I guess I
think of a few, but she made a refrigerator-sized 3-D printing device
that used hot molten glass, and she could control the plasticity of the glass as
it flowed out and as it moved around and created these amazing shapes that are
just beautiful to behold. But interesting as as art, and they also are
publishable as engineering work. Other things, she’s just, you know, she
understood that you wanted flexible and pliable things, and she found that the
most flexible pliable material was the shell of shrimps so she bought 10,000
pounds of shrimps. She got the, you know, the shells, and she crushed them and ground them and made a plastic material plastic-like material that allowed her
to make just aesthetically beautiful 15-foot wings that you could just wear
and, you know, imagine flying. But her combination of deep understanding of
chemistry and engineering plus devotion to artistic projects make her my
candidate for today’s Leonardo.

Tech Story: Ben Shneiderman, UMD Human-Computer Interaction Expert – Part 4
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