Douglas Engelbart: "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework"

Original author: Douglas C. Engelbart
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I present to you the collective (habra-) translation of the main document (282,000 characters), the work of the whole life of Douglas Engelbart. (MORE: 50 years later. The Mother of All Demos )


I believe that:

  1. Primary sources are extremely important, otherwise “interpreters” appear who interpret for their own benefit (if not stupidity).
  2. The project should be done openly, publicly and collectively, and not secretly sawed the product for a couple of years to “conquer the markets”. And all the more so since all the “troubles” of a closed organization are inherited into a product .
  3. The project should be free and even more radical - to cause damage to a variety of industry players (goodbye venture investors).
  4. The project should be created outside of capitalist logic, copyright, current law and morality.

Word of Douglas Engelbart:

Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework

By Douglas C. Engelbart
October 1962

1. Introduction

A. General provisions

By “enhancing the human intellect,” we mean / understand the increase in a person’s ability to take on complex (complex) problem situations, reach understanding according to their needs, and find solutions. In this context, the increase (expansion) of capacity (capabilities) means the combination of the following items: accelerated and improved understanding, the ability to reach a useful level of understanding in a situation that was previously too complicated, making better decisions with greater speed, and the ability to find solutions for problems that previously seemed intractable. And by “difficult situations” we understand the working tasks of diplomats, managers, sociologists, biologists, physicists, lawyers and designers, i.e. Does this situation exist for 20 minutes or 20 years? We do not consider some ingenious tricks,

We are talking about living in integrated areas, where guesswork, take-and-try principle, intangible things and human instinct usually coexist with powerful concepts, orderly terminology and notation, complex methods and electronic devices with great power.

The population of the world and the global gross product are growing at a significant pace, but the complexity of the problems facing humanity increases even faster, and the urgency of finding solutions is steadily increasing in response to the growing scale and increasingly global nature of human activity. The possibility of enhancing human intelligence in the sense in which it is defined above would be the basis for a full-scale project to achieve such a goal in an enlightened society if it were possible to demonstrate a reasonable path to this goal and possible benefits.

This report covers the first phase of a program aimed at developing tools to enhance the human intellect. These “tools” can include many things, and all of them in fact turn out to be mere additions to tools developed and used in the past to help a person apply his sensory, mental and motor abilities. Such a system is very important for our society, and, as for most systems, the best way to increase its productivity is to apply the concept in which the whole is considered as a set of interacting parts, and not to treat these parts separately from each other.

Such a systematic approach to human intellectual effectiveness does not give us a ready-made conceptual framework, similar to that found in established disciplines. Before starting work on a research program that would intelligently approach the implementation of this approach, where in a reasonable time it would be possible to gain practical benefits, and also obtain results that would not lose relevance for a long time, it is necessary to find (define) a conceptual framework, such that would focus on the important elements of the system, on the relationships between them, on their changes, which reveal possible improvements in productivity, as well as on promising research goals and methodology.

At the first (search) stage of our program, we developed a conceptual framework (framework), which seems satisfactory for the current needs of the development phase of research. Section II contains the essence of this structure (framework), resulting from the application of several different approaches to the analysis of a system consisting of a person and his means for enhancing intelligence.

The process of developing this conceptual framework (framework) revealed a number of important assumptions (conclusions):

  • that the intellectual efficiency used by a particular person today is hardly limited by intelligence
  • that there are dozens of disciplines in the field of engineering, mathematics and social, life and physical sciences, which can contribute to the improvement of the system of tools for enhancing intelligence;
  • it can be expected that any such improvement will cause a chain reaction of related improvements;
  • that until each of these disciplines comes to a standstill and we do not exhaust all the improvement opportunities that we could learn from them, we can expect further development of improvements in this system of human intelligence;
  • that there is no particular reason for not expecting an increase in personal intellectual efficiency from a coherent system-oriented approach, comparable to those that have been made in the area of ​​personal geographic mobility since the era of horse riding and sailing.

The dry description of the capabilities of a systems approach to enhancing human intellectual efficiency, presented in Section II, contains a basic analysis of such capabilities, but does not convey the wealth and diversity of opportunities that we imagined while working on this description. Therefore, Section III is devoted to illustrations of real meaningful opportunities that flow from the conceptual framework (framework) presented in Section II - illustrations, described not by a technical language familiar to such documents, but through a dialogue from a fantastic story, in order to convey feelings from the wealth and diversity of opportunities in that area of ​​“improvement space”, which is roughly outlined in Section II.

Section III is easy to read. If the reader gets tired of reading Section II, then he may skip from Section II-B directly to the third section. If the reading of Section III helps to form the necessary presentation, then the reader can go back and finish up Section II with less effort.

In Section IV (Research Recommendations), we present a general strategy for carrying out research aimed at improving the human intellectual efficiency. This strategy is the result of the evolution of ideas from Sections II and III; One of its basic principles was to focus on the fastest results in the first place, in order to use the resulting increase in intellectual efficiency to obtain additional results. We believe that the fastest results will be obtained by (1) providing a person with fast digital computer services, equipped with a CRT display, and (2) developing new thinking and working methods that allow a person to use the services of such a computer. In accordance with the same strategy, we recommend developing a prototype of such a system,

In order to give the reader an initial idea of ​​how a computer support system might look like, we give a brief description of a possible implementation of such a system. This illustrative example should not be considered as a description of a real system that will be created during the program. Its purpose is to show the general direction of work, and the art form is chosen for greater clarity.

Consider the "enhanced" architect at work. He is sitting at a workstation that has a display with a side of 3 feet; it is his work surface, which is controlled by a computer (his “electronic assistant”), with which an architect can communicate with a small keyboard and other devices.

He designs the building. He has already come up with several plans and architectural forms, and brought them to the screen. Overview data on the current plan has already been entered, and he gives the electronic assistant a request to show in perspective the slope of the hill on which the future construction will unfold, the road, the symbolic symbols of different trees, most of which should be preserved, and equipment service points. The view occupies the left ⅔ of the screen. He selects two points with the cursor, walks the keyboard with his left hand, and the distance and height difference between the selected points is displayed on the right side of the screen.

Then using the pointer and the keyboard, he sets the level line. Gradually, the screen begins to show the work of the architect - a neat excavation appears on the hillside, then updated again and again. After some time, the architect displays a view of the excavations from above. A few minutes of study, and he sets a list of items for further placement using the keyboard, checking each of them as soon as it appears on the screen.

Without looking at the screen, the architect then begins to enter a series of specifications and data — a six-inch floor slab, twelve inch concrete walls eight feet high at the site of the earthworks, and so on. So he finished the job, and the view on the screen has changed. The building took shape. The architect checks it, corrects it, stops from time to time and asks the electronic assistant for information from directories and catalogs for various points, makes the necessary corrections. He often finds his work records with specifications and notes in the computer in order to refer to them, modify or supplement them. These records grow into an increasingly detailed, interrelated structure that represents the mature thought behind the project.

By placing here and there different planes, bending surfaces and moving the entire structure about 5 feet, he finally gets an approximate appearance of the building that fits into the surroundings, and he is confident that this look is compatible with the available building materials and with the purpose of the building .

Then he begins to enter detailed information about the interior. The ability of a computer to display any view that it wants to explore, whether it is an interior detail or a view of a building from a highway on a hill, will be invaluable. He chooses home furnishings and studies how they fit into a particular room. He checks that the sun glare from the windows does not dazzle the driver on the roadway, and the electronic assistant determines that one of the windows will strongly reflect sunlight on the road between 6 and 6:30 am in the middle of summer.

He then begins a functional analysis. He has a list of people who will occupy this building, and daily sequences of their actions. The electronic assistant allows him to monitor each in turn, studying how the doors open, where special lighting may be required. Finally, he orders the computer to combine all these sequences of actions in order to indicate the places with heavy traffic in the building or where an overload may occur, and to estimate the most probable maximum load on communications.

All this information (the project of the building and the associated “mental structure”) can be stored on a tape and used as project documentation for the building. Having downloaded this tape into your computer, another architect, builder or client will be able to study the documentation, finding the necessary details or answers to the questions in it - and will be able to supplement the documents with their own notes for their own future use or for other readers.

In a similar symbiosis between the person solving the problem and the computer “assistant”, the computer’s ability to perform mathematical calculations will be used as needed. However, a computer provides many other possibilities for manipulating and displaying information that can be very useful for a person in non-mathematical processes, such as planning, management, training, etc. Every person who thinks about concepts, expressing them with symbols (it doesn’t matter with the help of English, pictograms, language of formal logic or mathematics) will be able to use these opportunities with great benefit.

I invite all like-minded people to help translate the next section .

Translators: Jeditobe, Danila Medvedev, Yuri Sverdlov, Vladimir Frolov, Andrei Dunaev, Christina Roppelt, Artyom Larin, Yevgeny Sychev, Jean Kolesnikov.

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«Все люди мечтают, но каждый по‑своему. Те, кто мечтают в середине ночи, погрузившись в пыльные закоулки своего сознания, просыпаются разочарованными: их мечты — тщета. Опасны те, кто мечтает при свете дня. Они думают о заветном с открытыми глазами и поэтому делают заветное возможным. Я поступаю так.»
— Лоуренс Аравийский

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