Tuesday 12pm, 7 November 2017

Alan cooper bio chm

Thinking Like a Good Ancestor: Finding meaning in the technology we build

Alan Cooper

Founder - Cooper


Alan will be discussing his new course, DES INV 190-9: Thinking Like a Good Ancestor.

About the course: The high-speed disruption culture incubated by Silicon Valley companies and startups lacks tools to look beyond the immediacy of its path-to-market strategies. The tech world relies on user experience professionals to look beyond its engineering offices, but even then the scope of what we look at is the short-term reception of our developments by our users, and not the long-term shifts that will derive from them.

The pace of social change, driven by technical innovation, has accelerated to the point where each one of us has become our own ancestor. That is, we each become victims and beneficiaries of the inventions we create. Thus, we propose to translate the notion of ancestry from the domain of genealogical legacy to the context of technological development and innovation.

Through the new concept of Ancestry Thinking, this course will propose ideas to broaden our understanding of the technological ecosystem we live in. Throughout the semester we will discuss ways to internalize what would otherwise remain as externalities or byproducts of tech developments. Our goal is to enable future tech practitioners to build holistic narratives around their developments.


Alan Cooper has been a pioneer in the software world for more than 40 years and, in his role today as éminence grise in the user experience field, he continues to influence a new generation of web designers and entrepreneurs. In 1992, Alan and his wife, Sue, co-founded the first interaction design consulting firm, Cooper. Within a few years Cooper had established the basic design methods that are used across the industry today and helped to popularize the notion that digital technology shouldn’t terrorize its human users. In particular, his invention, design personas, are almost universally used in the field. He shared his tools, knowledge, and experience in two best-selling books, still in print and widely referenced.

In 1988 Alan invented a dynamically extensible visual programming tool and sold it to Bill Gates, who released it to the world as Visual Basic, arguably the most successful programming language ever. This is how Alan earned the sobriquet, “The Father of Visual Basic.” He started his first software company in 1976 and produced what has been called “The first serious business software for microcomputers.” Today, Alan continues to advocate for more humane technology from his 50-acre former dairy farm in the rolling hills north of San Francisco.