- Mar 2019
You are quite elated by this freedom to juggle the record of your thoughts, and by the way this freedom allows you to work them into shape. You reflected that this flexible cut-and-try process really did appear to match the way you seemed to develop your thoughts
Cut-and-try process sounds so much less technical than copy/paste. It sounds friendly like mistakes and learning are allowed, and like curiosity and making art. I know everybody loves it, when they first find out about copy/paste, but I wonder if such a little change in language could shift perception from just being able to rearrange and fix mistakes to what I think Engelbart might have intended here: people becoming aware of the process of their own thinking as a form of sculpting. It might unconsciously relax a lot of people who feel anxiety about expressing themselves?
- Feb 2019
He claimed that he could comfortably rattle off about 180 words a minute—faster than he could comfortably talk.
That's funny, because would't that mean to also think in these abbreviations? Because I usually even if I don't say them aloud "voice" my thoughts at least inside my head. Not sure I am that much of a fan of speed and efficiency to give up wanting to think in words and sentences.
"A typical shorthand system provides symbols or abbreviations for words and common phrases, which can allow someone well-trained in the system to write as quickly as people speak." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorthand
The other thing is even with today's voice capture and dictation systems ( if they work without hiccups) still, isn't the essential part that makes anything worth reading afterwards the pretty slow procedure of editing? I guess I don't think the real challenge with augmenting human intellect is speed.
It is rather amazing how much superfluous verbiage is contained in those papers merely to try to make up for the pitifully sparse possibilities available for symbol structuring in printed text."
No argument here. :)
The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.
the entire scaffolding... Like being able to look inside their brains and how it works. I know that for me the greatest teachers have always been the ones, who were able to explain to me how they think. The ones who not only told me why they reached their conclusions, but how they got there. I'd love this.
There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.
Wouldn’t that be grand! Finally an attractive job description for people, who are great at following and gathering information and by linking it, creating new knowledge. Even though they might not be able to summarise this new found knowledge in their own words?
But unlike curators today, they could be freed of having to meet a popular taste. The more obscure and unknown the trails, the better. Trails that could be used by others to make them their own.
Don’t know if anyone will get this detour: But do you remember Soulseek? It used to be a network to share music. Yes, it probably wasn’t really legal. But it was awesome. You opened up the folder with your music collection on your computer to others, who likewise granted access to theirs. I absolutely loved it. Never again did I have access to such wealth of interesting new music, because what you get was truly individual taste. I used to search for not well known artist I loved, and then in the libaries of others, who loved this artist too, I found more likewise obscure but beautiful music. It was fantastic.
Trust me, Spotify is not the same.
(Just checked, Soulseek still exists. But they updated their terms quite a bit..or... I never read them before. Everybody I knew was using it like I described. I think I might have stopped using it after moving back to Germany from Argentina years ago, where copyright wasn't such a big deal. One of the reasons, I am sure, it was Argentina, where I learned what amazing things the web could be used for.)
And his trails do not fade.
I love the image of trails.
When I research a topic on the web, I often feel like an adventurer exploring a wilderness of articles and pages as I keep on “walking” and finding my way.
And oh, how I wish I had a memex!
A memex to keep track of all the treasures I find and to build a map of what I would like to remember and to be able to find again.
I’ve tried what seems like everything. I used bookmarks and all kinds of tools to organize bookmarks. I even had a blog for years, where I used to post everything that seemed worth keeping. Adding my thoughts, or just to save it, because I knew it would be helpful with something else, some other time. But I lost so many things.
My mind definitely works by association. Often I remember something suddenly, a connection that for others might seem to not even fit the topic. I would love to find the link, I know I saw somewhere. Find it for myself, because my brain, just told me, it wants to enter that thought trail. But besides, often, because I would like to make this ‘LINK’ understandable to others too, and I might not remember or be able to express, what exactly excites me about it. Other sometimes it’s just that this link contained facts I would need to make my point in an argument.
But while my mind loves to associate and making links, it is not good at all at remembering names. So the search box often is of no help. And even searching on that long gone blog (or Evernote today) stops being all too useful after one passed the number of a couple hundred posts. The reason is, I struggle with indexing and tagging in a useful way. Trails I keep in “notebooks” on Evernote but associations and linking trails, I guess, would have to be accessed trough a organized use of tags somehow. And I never figured out how to do that right.
But I believe if I had a memex and everything would be stored and never lost, I wouldn’t give up hope to find it. I’d keep digging because I know it’s there. And probably the memex could help me with the tagging too? Learning from how my brain works?
I get sad when I think how much time I spend trying to organize bookmarks and links in all those apps and tools that don’t even exist anymore. Or I remember giving up on MOOCs after learning that all the knowledge we students gathered in the forum of a course was deleted, with the argument given that new students would be able to cheat…
I get even sadder when I think, that all this trailing seems to be possible already, but all it is used for is surveillance and making money.
These are only a few of the total, I'm sure
As an educator, it's encouraging - in an odd sort of way - that formal schooling, the work of teaching, and (especially) K12 learning was not mentioned in this list given dominant narratives about technology replacing/improving the practices of teaching and learning.
such that computer processes based upon these rules can be said to extract meaning from these statements and to do operations based upon this meaning.
Given both recent research and highly publicized corporate missteps, is it not prudent to ask: What role does human bias play in designing the computer processes that extract meaning and perform operations?
if you were being given a personal discussion-demonstration by a friendly fellow (named Joe)
I thought it might be useful, at the outset of this section, to inquire about Engelbart's choices as an author. I'm struck by his decision to craft this expository and hypothetical description, to provide us readers with another set of entry points and scaffolds to better understand his prior arguments. Though the style and tenor is quite different, I'm reminded of Bernard Suits' book The Grasshopper that relied upon dialogue and extended analogy to rebut Wittgenstein's claims of "family resemblances." In any case, perhaps I'm most curious about unpacking authorial motivation and decision-making, for this section differs in so many ways from more conventional technical reports, literature reviews, or surveys of theory. This section may not have been necessary, but - presumably - it was included because it accomplished something the previous sections were unable to capture? Or is this "merely" for the purposes of exposition?
maintain stoutly that a practical augmentation system should not require the human to have to do any computer programming—they feel that this is too specialized a capability to burden people with
Jon Udell's conversation with Gardner Campbell touches upon this point, around minute 11. https://youtu.be/-lClojNraK4
we very rarely go back to it in its original form
I'm reminded of the Annotation for Transparent Inquiry project that is part of the Qualitative Data Repository.
something like footnotes, only much more flexible
Something, perhaps, like open annotation?
Let us use what we call 'antecedent links'
'What's this?', 'How come?', and 'So what?'
Oh, it's a dissertation defense.
Golly, you could be writing math expressions, ad copy, or a poem, with the same type of benefit.
Coming to this observation, as I read more deeply into this narrative, I'm curious about the generative tension between text (n) and text (v). How have others perceived, and perhaps also contributed to, the augmentation of text (n/v) - in terms of composition, editing, visualization...
The writing machine and its flexible copying capability would occupy you for a long time if you tried to exhaust the reverberating chain of associated possibilities for making useful innovations within your capability hierarchy.
I wonder and doubt that school children, when they are introduced to word processors, often get invited to grasp and start exploring the possibilities of the capability expanding writing machine.
I left school in Germany 1995 and till then had never written anything on a computer. But when I finally did, I still felt ashamed about my “messy” writing/thinking process. A process, which transformed from countless notes and rewrites of scratched out text on paper to having many digital documents open at the same time and copying and pasting like crazy. Not only my own writing but gathering text and ideas from others to help me with my own thoughts and how to express what I want to say.
At least in Germany, we still tell children that knowledge is worthless, if it’s not stored in your own head. We make them believe that the important part of using your intellect, is not about using knowledge and making new connections, but about “being original.” While, on the other hand, learning is represented as just being good at memorising facts. That’s why, till today, one of the biggest concerns is plagiarism. I was told that even without an assignment being an official test, kids still sometimes are prohibited to make use of wikipedia. This idea about knowledge is also reflected in that people often take it as a cue to dismiss your reasoning as unfounded, when (to back up an argument) you take out your phone to search for facts, you know about but can’t recollect.
(Of course in Germany young people are often seen as not being able to think for themselves at all - one example is the recent attack on Greta Thunberg and the #FridaysForFuture protesters by Angela Merkel, who insinuated them being marionettes controlled by “external influence” https://twitter.com/jdoeschner/status/1097089168365228032 ).
This article argues that a digitalisation of German schools is too expensive, will only make children play games and chat during lessons and is therefore unnecessary… It’s from 2018.
“The claim that smartphones in the hands of children and adolescents are primarily instruments of the knowledge society is adventurous.” (*smart phones because since nobody wants to pay for computers in schools “the solution” proposed by the school minister of North Rhine Westphalia is that school children should bring their own devices) https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/digitalisierung-der-schule-grosser-unfug-15519960.html
We sadly seem to be extremely far away from even imagining collectively augmenting human intellect.
II. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Here's the beginning of the first excerpt we're focusing on for Week 2: Section II, parts A & B.
The second excerpt is below, Section III, Part A, subsections 1 and 2.
We are focusing on specific excerpts to make this lengthy document a little more manageable for this iteration of the project. That said, you are of course welcome and encouraged to annotate any part of the document you find noteworthy.
III. EXAMPLES AND DISCUSSION
This is the beginning of the second excerpt we're focusing on in Week 2 of the Engelbart Framework Annotation Project, This second excerpt comprises Section III, part A, subsections 1 and 2. Engelbart tells his readers early in this report that Section II often proves very difficult at first reading, and advises those who find Section III tough going to head to Section III, read it, and then go back to Section II.
Section III also includes the "Joe" section, the "fiction-dialogue" as Engelbart calls it. This section will be our focus in Week 3.
the H-LAM/T system's repertoire hierarchy.
These words mark the end of the first excerpt we're focusing on during Week 2 of the first iteration of the Engelbart Framework Project.
We'll focus on the rest of Section II, probably the hardest section of the document to understand readily, in a subsequent iteration. As always, you're welcome and encouraged to annotate you find noteworthy in any part of the document.
In amplifying our intelligence, we are applying the principle of synergistic structuring that was followed by natural evolution in developing the basic human capabilities. What we have done in the development of our augmentation means is to construct a superstructure that is a synthetic extension of the natural structure upon which it is built. In a very real sense, as represented by the steady evolution of our augmentation means, the development of "artificial intelligence" has been going on for centuries.
Engelbart explicitly noted that what he was trying to do was not just hack culture, which is what significant innovations accomplish, but to hack the process by which biological and cultural co-evolution has bootstrapped itself to this point. Culture used the capabilities provided by biological evolution -- language, thumbs, etc. -- to improve human ways of living much faster than biological evolution can do, by not just inventing, but passing along to each other and future generations the knowledge of what was invented and how to invent. Engelbart proposes an audio-visual-tactile interface to computing as a tool for consciously accelerating the scope and power of individual and collective intelligence.
For instance, an aborigine who possesses all of our basic sensory-mental-motor capabilities, but does not possess our background of indirect knowledge and procedure, cannot organize the proper direct actions necessary to drive a car through traffic, request a book from the library, call a committee meeting to discuss a tentative plan, call someone on the telephone, or compose a letter on the typewriter.
In other words: culture. I'm pretty sure that Engelbart would agree with the statement that someone who could order a book from a library would likely not know the best way to find a nearby water source, as the right kind of aborigine would know. Collective intelligence is a monotonically increasing store of knowledge that is maintained through social learning -- not just social learning, but teaching. Many species engage in social learning, but humans are the only primates with visible sclera -- the whites of our eyeballs -- which enables even infants to track where their teacher/parent is looking. I think this function of culture is what Engelbart would call "C work"
A Activity: 'Business as Usual'. The organization's day to day core business activity, such as customer engagement and support, product development, R&D, marketing, sales, accounting, legal, manufacturing (if any), etc. Examples: Aerospace - all the activities involved in producing a plane; Congress - passing legislation; Medicine - researching a cure for disease; Education - teaching and mentoring students; Professional Societies - advancing a field or discipline; Initiatives or Nonprofits - advancing a cause. B Activity: Improving how we do that. Improving how A work is done, asking 'How can we do this better?' Examples: adopting a new tool(s) or technique(s) for how we go about working together, pursuing leads, conducting research, designing, planning, understanding the customer, coordinating efforts, tracking issues, managing budgets, delivering internal services. Could be an individual introducing a new technique gleaned from reading, conferences, or networking with peers, or an internal initiative tasked with improving core capability within or across various A Activities. C Activity: Improving how we improve. Improving how B work is done, asking 'How can we improve the way we improve?' Examples: improving effectiveness of B Activity teams in how they foster relations with their A Activity customers, collaborate to identify needs and opportunities, research, innovate, and implement available solutions, incorporate input, feedback, and lessons learned, run pilot projects, etc. Could be a B Activity individual learning about new techniques for innovation teams (reading, conferences, networking), or an initiative, innovation team or improvement community engaging with B Activity and other key stakeholders to implement new/improved capability for one or more B activities.
In other words, human culture, using language, artifacts, methodology, and training, bootstrapped collective intelligence; what Engelbart proposed, then was to apply C work to culture's bootstrapping capabilities.
However, the computer has many other capabilities for manipulating and displaying information that can be of significant benefit to the human in nonmathematical processes of planning, organizing, studying, etc. Every person who does his thinking with symbolized concepts (whether in the form of the English language, pictographs, formal logic, or mathematics) should be able to benefit significantly.
Rich representations -- besides computational power -- are absolutely key for the described scenario.
This description, written half a century ago, is more or less realized. It reminded me of the Microsoft Vision 2019 created around 2009 that is yet to be realized.
the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity.
A situation characterized as The Ingenuity Gap by Homer-Dixon.
We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.
I appreciate the recognition of both the "arts" and "science" of problem solving.
We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.
To get to this moment in the document, Engelbart had struggled past many requests for just such clever tricks. People around him imagined that computing would make this thing faster, that thing more comprehensive, that other thing more automatic. What people couldn't imagine was that computing could, if understood and used wisely, lead to a way of life in an integrated domain that could be more mindful and potentially more humane. A human-computer symbiosis that could be a greater force for good than we had yet seen. And sometimes that is indeed what has happened. And sometimes, spectacularly, not.
Nowadays, with deep digital and network literacies apparently on the decline, it seems that surveillance capitalism has become a nightmare inversion of the integrated domain. While most of us live our fragmented digital lives full of clever tricks that help in particular situations, sinister people who think largely about integrated domains engineer our entrapments, not the liberations Engelbart envisions here.
All the more reason to rewind to 1962 and read this remarkable document together.
Our culture has evolved means for us to organize the little things we can do with our basic capabilities so that we can derive comprehension from truly complex situations, and accomplish the processes of deriving and implementing problem solutions. The ways in which human capabilities are thus extended are here called augmentation means, and we define four basic classes of them: 2a4 Artifacts—physical objects designed to provide for human comfort, for the manipulation of things or materials, and for the manipulation of symbols.2a4a Language—the way in which the individual parcels out the picture of his world into the concepts that his mind uses to model that world, and the symbols that he attaches to those concepts and uses in consciously manipulating the concepts ("thinking"). 2a4b Methodology—the methods, procedures, strategies, etc., with which an individual organizes his goal-centered (problem-solving) activity. 2a4c Training—the conditioning needed by the human being to bring his skills in using Means 1, 2, and 3 to the point where they are operationally effective. 2a4d The system we want to improve can thus be visualized as a trained human being together with his artifacts, language, and methodology. The explicit new system we contemplate will involve as artifacts computers, and computer-controlled information-storage, information-handling, and information-display devices. The aspects of the conceptual framework that are discussed here are primarily those relating to the human being's ability to make significant use of such equipment in an integrated system.
To me, this is the most prescient of Engelbart's future visions, and the seed for future study of culture-technology co-evolution. I talked with Engelbart about this passage over the years and we agreed that although the power of the artifacts, from RAM to CPU speed to network bandwidth, had improved by the billionfold since 1962, the "softer" parts of the formula -- the language, methodology, and training -- have not advanced so much. Certainly language, training methods and pedagogy, and collaborative strategies have evolved with the growth and spread of digital media, but are still lagging. H/LAMT interests me even more today than it did thirty years ago because Engelbart unknowingly forecast the fundamental elements of what has come to be called cultural-biological co-evolution. I gave a TED talk in 2005, calling for an interdisciplinary study of human cooperation -- and obstacles to cooperation. It seems that in recent years an interdisciplinary understanding has begun to emerge. Joseph Henrich at Harvard, for one, in his recent book, The Secret of Our Success, noted:
Drawing insights from lost European Explorers, clever chimpanzees, hunter-gatherers, cultural neuroscience, ancient bones and the human genome, Henrich shows that it’s not our general intelligence, innate brain power, or specialized mental abilities that explain our success. Instead, it’s our collective brains, which arise from a combination of our ability to learn selectively from each and our sociality. Our collective brains, which often operate outside of any individual’s conscious awareness, gradually produce increasingly complex, nuanced and subtle technological, linguistic and social products over generations.
Tracking this back into the mist of our evolutionary past, and to the remote corners of the globe, Henrich shows how this non-genetic system of cultural inheritance has long driven human genetic evolution. By producing fire, cooking, water containers, tracking know-how, plant knowledge, words, hunting strategies and projectiles, culture-driven genetic evolution expanded our brains, shaped our anatomy and physiology, and influenced our psychology, making us into the world’s only living cultural species. Only by understanding cultural evolution, can we understand human genetic evolution.
Henrich, Boyd, and RIcherson wrote, about the social fundamentals that distinguish human culture's methods of evolving collective intelligence in The Origin and Evolution of Culture:
Surely, without punishment, language, technology, individual intelligence and inventiveness, ready establishment of reciprocal arrangements, prestige systems and solutions to games of coordination, our societies would take on a distinctly different cast. Thus, a major constraint on explanations of human sociality is its systemic structure
- former scholar
- collective intelligence
- framework annotation project
- social learning
- machine learning