Technology interaction and ethics: how to live a good life and make a better world

Bret Victor was once a "Human Interface Inventor" for Apple, and was apparently key to the iOS/tablet efforts at the company. In this hour-long presentation to CUSEC (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference), he delivers a stirring manifesto for interaction design and relates it to having a principled stand on technology and ethics. It's an extraordinary presentation, first for the dazzling technology on display, and second for the thoughtful way Victor connects it to a larger question of human ethics and life.

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle (Thanks, Danny!)


  1. zero comments? are you all asleep? this is the sweetest mind-bender/life-changer you’ll ever see, especially with a tech pedigree. I think being creative is the ONLY real reason to come to this planet, and here is a Master of a visionary life for that pursuit. Yes, we can change the world.

  2. Principle means doesn’t mean much if it is only a principle to yourself or a selected few. An idea’s connection to the well-being of others is what makes it important. Creating closed-source material only benefits a few, no matter the strength of the underlying principles.

  3. I confess: I was expecting something different than a guy coding in real time.   the title, the openculture twitts, everything pointed to something of general interest, not a presentation like the ones you see in Microsoft’s events where a geek starts talking while typing in Visual Studio.

    1.  If you peruse his web site you’ll find he’s done working for Apple. It sounds like he had a good run but he’s ready to move on to other things.

  4. This was my first CUSEC, and it was a great time.
    I really enjoyed Bret’s talk, and it helped with some of the internal struggles that I’ve had over the years during my CompSci education.
    Chiefly that it’s okay to care, to want your work to matter, and not just in terms of dollars and units shipped.

    Something that kept coming up from others was that this was a “mind blowing” presentation. And I suppose for a lot of the people there that was the case: considering that we as tool makers aren’t operating separate and distinct from other parts of our society and world.
    I wish that weren’t the case; that the engineers and devs and nerds and geeks in the audience had greater aspirations/purpose for their work from day one. Whether that is a perspective of service to humanity, the environment, art, whatever.

  5. As an illustrator I have to say that this was inspiring. Not just from a philosophical viewpoint, but from seeing an animation tool that I actually want to use. One that speaks to the artist as opposed to the geek.

    Crying shame you can’t buy that.

  6. I was so excited by, and so identified with, the first half of this presentation that I sent it out to everybody I knew and put a super excited post about how important it was for programmers to watch this video in the BoingBoing submitterator.

    Then I watched the second half, and realized this video was even more important and had a much bigger message.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a presentation that I’ve identified with more.

    The tools are totally amazing.  They demonstrate things I’ve thought about quite a bit.  In fact, I program the way he shows without those awesome tools… I reload and rerun my code very frequently so I can get feedback often.  I play with variable values.  Over the last 20 years of programming I’ve developed an ability to simulate and visualize multiple code path executions in realtime in my head while I program.  It sure would be nice to have these tools and free up some brain space.

    And the message he delivers in the second half is pitch perfect.  I’m not even sure I have words for my reaction yet.

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