(2016-05-11) YComb Kay HARC
YCResearch — Silicon Valley accelerator YCombinator’s nonprofit research lab — today announced its latest initiative, a broad-minded effort called the Human Advancement Research Community, or HARC. The project stems from a conversation between Y Combinator president Sam Altman and the legendary computer scientist Alan Kay.
In our increasingly interconnected world, every individual’s actions can affect billions of others in complex and invisible ways. We believe every individual must have access to technologies that allow them to build their own understanding of the world and its systems in order to act conscientiously, responsibly, and effectively, both as individuals and in collaboration with others.
We are focusing on areas where we believe the structures created today will have the most impact on the future, and that can most benefit from having dedicated resources outside the for-profit world. At the moment, these areas include programming languages, interfaces, education, and virtual reality.
In partnership with InfoSys and SAP, HARC is starting with 20 of the top researchers in fields related to human learning and understanding, many of whom previously worked in SAP’s Communications Design Group. They include Principal Investigators (in alphabetical order): Vi Hart, Dan Ingalls, John Maloney, Yoshiki Ohshima, Bret Victor, and Alex Warth. HARC will be chaired by Patrick Scaglia, who has spent his career leading similar long-term research initiatives. Alan Kay and Patrick will jointly contribute to the group’s strategic vision. Chris Clark will run the group operationally (along with YCR’s other groups).
Sept01'2017: Vi Hart's EleVR group is being shoved out. Unfortunately, a combination of forces in the world make nonprofit long-term research a tough sell right now. It doesn’t matter how good we are at what we do. Everyone is overextended trying to solve all the world’s problems at once, and we’re in the unpopular space of being neither for-profit nor directly and immediately philanthropic. We think investing in the future of VR/AR is crucial now, while it’s still malleable, while it can still be influenced in the direction of empowering humanity. We think people’s big lofty visions of how VR/AR will revolutionize education, and understanding, and communication, and human expression, are not big enough—it’s going to allow humanity to see, think, and feel in entirely new ways. But it takes a true believer to trust that vision above the more immediate problems to react to in the world, and that kind of belief and trust takes time to develop. Basically, while the four of us are going to try and stay together and look for a new home and new support, we’re feeling pretty unfundable right now. If even our extensive and powerful network hasn’t been enough, we’re not sure what a blog post can do.
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