[Squeakland] the non universals

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Mon Aug 13 09:11:53 PDT 2007

Alan Kay has a couple of slides in his Europython 2006 keynote, illustrating
Universals and Non Universals

It's right at the start of this video:

>From anthropological research of over 3000 human cultures, he presented two
lists, the first were universals, the things that all human cultures have in
common. This list included things like:

   - language
   - communication
   - fantasies
   - stories
   - tools and art
   - superstition
   - religion and magic
   - play and games
   - differences over similarities (?)
   - quick reactions to patterns
   - vendetta, and more

He then presented a list of non universals, the things that humans find
harder to learn. This list was shorter and included:

   - reading and writing
   - deductive abstract mathematics
   - model based science
   - equal rights
   - democracy
   - perspective drawing
   - theory of harmony (?)
   - similarities over differences (?)
   - slow deep thinking
   - agriculture
   - legal systems

These lists are really important I think as a guide to what our formal
education system ought to be teaching - at least a starting point to a
discourse on powerful ideas, as distinct from the dumbing down and
smothering effect of generalised curriculum statements

I'm curious as to where alan got his list of "non universals" from and would
like more details about them. I put a question mark after a couple I didn't
understand but which sounded interesting.

When I google "non universals" anthropology not much comes up but the search
universals anthropology was more successful:


Bill Kerr
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://squeakland.org/pipermail/squeakland/attachments/20070814/ea9b6c66/attachment.htm

More information about the Squeakland mailing list