Douglas Engelbart

A founding father of HyperText. Now leveraging his ideas through the Bootstrap Institute. Core project is the Open Hyperdocument System. (see section on "Pioneering Firsts")

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Doug began seeking an approach that might offer the most cost-effective leverage for accelerating the advancement of our Collective IQ capabilities (Collective Intelligence) to the highest levels in the shortest timeframe. Why the urgency? If you consider the rate and scale of change in the world, with the complexity (Wicked) and urgency of every challenge (Grand Challenge) we face increasing exponentially, what will be the difference between the organizations, initiatives, and societies that find the shortest path to significantly elevating their Collective IQ, and those that don't?

from Tools For Thought: Nobody disputes that Engelbart's vision was the single factor that stayed stable through twenty of the most turbulent years of computer science, and those few colleagues who know of his importance to the evolution of computing are loathe to speak unkindly of him, yet the tacit consensus is that Doug Engelbart the visionary allowed himself to remain fascinated by an obsolescent vision. NLS was powerful but very complex, and the notion of a kind of knowledge elite who learned complex and difficult languages to operate information vehicles is not as fashionable in the world of less sophisticated but more egalitarian personal computers created by Engelbart's students.

So he gave a killer Mother Of All Demos of NLS in 1968. But in 1975 ARPA dropped support, and things dwindled down. What happened?

Some factors:

  • he was never weighted Ease Of Use heavily, thinking it reasonable to spend a year learning to use a piece of software that had high capability (Expert Friendly).
    • so he started to hope that technologies of Self Improvement (or, rather, imposed-on-group improvement) would motivate people to take his path, hence his interest in Mao Zedong and EST (Guru).
  • he was too early in terms of what was practical (cheap, scalable)
  • he got zapped by Worse Is Better PC technology.
  • his people felt things weren't moving foward, so they jumped to where the next phase of action was: Xerox PARC

Died Jun'2013

See 1992 paper Toward High-Performance Organizations:A Strategic Role for Groupware Groupware will support important, special new knowledge capabilities in these infrastructures, and also can play a key role in an evolutionary strategy. Some key concepts:

  • A/B/C activities: "A" is that ultimate work (producing products, marketing, etc.); "B" activities aim to improve the process of performing "A". "C" activities aim to improve "B" activities (faster, smarter improvement).
  • CoDIAK: Concurrent Development Integration and Application of Knowledge.
    • Intelligence Collection (getting input from the outside world)
    • Dialog Records: discussions leading to decisions
    • Knowledge Product: plans, etc.

See 1985 Workstation History and the Augmented Knowledge Workshop for good history of Engelbart activities.

The original: 1962 Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework

Infamous Dec9,1968 mother of all demos chapter in Howard Rheingold's Tools For Thought

the 1998 Salon profile the 2000 Unfinished Revolution Colloquim including transcripts and forums

speech from 2002 - That payoff will come when we make better use of computers to bring communities of people together and to augment the very human skills that people bring to bear on difficult problems.

readings compiled by Eugene Eric Kim

Augmenting Human Intellect

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