for Douglas Engelbart “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual
(95) By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems.
(95) Augmenting man's intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach and some plausible benefits.
As Engelbart puts more succinctly in the footnote, an explicit framework-search phase preceding the research is much to be preferred; he lays out a framework, then a research program, and spends decades implementing it.
(95) Before a research program can be designed to pursue such an approach intelligently, so that practical benefits might be derived within a reasonable time while also producing results of long-range significance, a conceptual framework must be searched out – a framework that provides orientation as to the important factors of the system, the relationships among these factors, the types of change among the system factors that offer likely improvements in performance, and the sort of research goals and methodology that seem promising.
The initial interface and capability enhancements he recommends solve the problem noted by Licklider of speed mismatch and desk-surface display and control. Doing many small things repeatedly is the way to augment intelligence, starting with increasing our effectiveness in computer programming.
(96) We see the quickest gains emerging from (1) giving the human the minute-by-minute services of a digital computer equipped with computer-driven cathode-ray-tube display, and (2) developing the new methods of thinking and working that allow the human to capitalize upon the computer's help. By the same strategy, we recommend that an initial research effort develop a prototype system of this sort aimed at increasing human effectiveness in the task of computer programming.
Depiction of augmented architect at working station: if only we had three-foot square screens, recalling Heim.
(96-97) Let us
consider an “augmented” architect at work. He sits at a working
station that has a visual display screen some three feet on a side;
this is his working surface, and is controlled by a computer (his
“clerk”) with which he can communicate by means of a small
keyboard and various other devices.
(97) With a “pointer,” he indicates . . . gradually the screen begins to show the work he is doing.
(97) He often recalls from the “clerk” his working lists of specifications and considerations to refer to them, modify them, or add to them. These lists grow into an ever more detailed, interlinked structure, which represents the maturing thought behind the actual design.
Beyond Bush photographic recording is dynamic generation of views based on manipulable data.
(98) Here the capability of the “clerk” to show him any view he wants to examine (a slice of the interior, or how the structure would look from the roadway above) is important.
A rich sense of symbol manipulation takes Engelbart beyond Licklider conception of what can be routinizable.
(98) 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.
B Objective of the Study
III Examples and Discussion
2 Comments Related to [Vannevar] Bush's Article
(98-99) The associative trails whose establishment and use within the files he describes at some length provide a beautiful example of a new capability in symbol structuring that derives from new artifact-process capability, and that provides new ways to develop and portray concept structures.
(99) These illustrate the types of changes in the ways which people can cooperate intellectually that can emerge from the augmentation of the individuals.
3 Some Possibilities with Cards and
Relatively Simple Equipment
(99) We can being developing examples of this by describing the hand-operated, edge-notched card system that I developed and used over the past eight years.
a An Existing Note and File
(99) These represent little “kernels” of data, thought, fact, consideration, concepts, ideas, worries, etc.
(99) Mainly what is new is the use of the smaller units of information, in restricted-subject sets (notedecks) so that I gain considerable flexibility in the manipulations of my thought products at the level at which I actually work in my minute-by-minute struggle with analytical and formulative thought.
b Comments on the System
(100) I want to work in problem areas where the number and interrelationship complexity of the individual factors involved are too much for me to hold and manipulate in my mind.
(101) A very quick and simple human process [using the cards] thus initiates the automatic extraction of the next item on the associative trail.
d An Experiment Illustrating Usage
and Further System Possibilities
(101) I found rather quickly that the job of extracting, rearranging, editing, and copying new statements into the cards which were to represent the current set of product statements in each grouping was rather tedious.
(101) I also found that there would have been great value in having available the associate-trail marking and following processes.
Engelbart card system, inspired by Bush, is instantiated in RDBMS.
(102) It would actually seem quite feasible to develop a unit record system around cards and mechanical sorting, with automatic trail-establishment and trail-following facility, and with associated means for selective copying or data transfer, that would enable development of some very powerful methodology for everyday intellectual work. . . . The relative limitations of the mechanical equipment in providing processes which could be usefully integrated into the system would soon lead to its replacement by electronic computer equipment.
B Hypothetical Description of
Computer-Based Augmentation System
4 Structuring an Argument
(103) Conceptually speaking, however, an argument is not a serial affair. The old paper and pencil methods of manipulating symbols just weren't very adaptable to making and using symbol structures to match the ways we make and use conceptual structures. A conceptual network but not a conceptual chain. . . . With the new symbol-manipulating methods here, we have terrific flexibility for matching the two, and boy, it really pays off in the way you can tie into your work.
An imagined dialog with Joe, which Manovich is keen to identify as a description of new media with respect to the new behaviors, guiding us through the augmented workplace; what he just described fictionally The Mother of All Demos has examples of his using the computer system to handle little things over and over.
This computerized system is used over and over and over again to help
me do little things – where my methods and ways of handling little
are changed until, lo, they've added up and suddenly I can do
(104) Joe picks up the light pen, poises his other hand over the keyset, and looks at you. You didn't need the hint, but thanks anyway, and let's start rearranging and cleaning up the work space instead of just dumping more raw material into it. With closer coaching now from Joe, you start through the list of statements you've made and begin to edit, re-word, compile, and delete. It's fun - “put that sentence back up here between these two” - and blink, it's done.
(104) You reflected that this flexible cut-and-try process really did appear to match the way you seemed to develop your thoughts. Golly, you could be writing math expressions, ad copy, or a poem, with the same type of benefit.
The figure of the Initial Augmentation-Research Program has a great quote that describes the interdisciplinary approach from which dynamic media grew.
(104) [Figure of Initial Augmentation-Research Program, from section
IV.E] An integrated set of tools and techniques will represent an art
of doing augmentation research. Although no such art exists
ready-made for our use, there are many applicable or adaptable tools
and techniques to be borrowed from other disciplines. Psychology,
computer programming and physical technology, display technology,
artificial intelligence, industrial engineering (e.g., motion and
time study), management science, systems analysis, and information
retrieval are some of the more likely sources.
(104) we can benefit in matching better to the conceptual structure if we can conveniently work with certain non-serial symbol-structuring forms within sentences. Most of the structuring forms I'll show you stem form the simple capability of being able to establish arbitrary linkages between different substructures, and of directing the computer subsequently to display a set of linked substructures with any relative positioning we might designate among the different substructures.
Engelbart linking types go beyond one-way hyperlinks and anticipates the discussion of link types by Landow; the light pen is replaced by the mouse as the preferred pointer device.
(104-105) Joe picked out one of your sentences, and pushed the rest
of the text a few lines up and down from it to isolate it. He then
showed you how he could make a few strokes on the keyset to designate
the type of link he wanted established, and pick the two symbol
structures that were to be linked by means of the light pen. He said
that most links possessed a direction, i.e., they were like an arrow
pointing from one substructure to another.
(105) Some good methods, plus a bit of practice, and you'd be surprised how much a diagrammatic breakdown can help you to scan a complex statement and untangle it quickly.
(105) You helped him pick out the primary antecedents of the statement you had been studying, and he established links to them. . . . The subject statement went to the bottom of the frame, and the antecedent statements were neatly listed above it.
Engelbart later calls example of augmenting programming capability by programming improving improvement, Type C activity; must be an essential facet of critical programming studies to develop and utilize such practices.
(105) [Figure of Regeneration, from Section IV.F] we would recommend
turning loose a group of four to six people (or a number of such
groups) to develop means that augment their own programming
capability. We would recommend that their work being by developing
the capability for composing and modifying simple symbol structures,
in the manner pictured in Section III-B-2, and work up through a
hierarchy of intermediate capabilities toward the single high-level
capability that would encompass computer programming. . . . In other
words, their job assignment is to develop means that will make them
more effective at doing their job.
(106) To help us get better comprehension of the structure of an argument, we can also call forth a schematic or graphical display. . . . When you get used to using a network representation like this, it really becomes a great help in getting the feel for the way all the different ideas and reasoning fit together – that is, for the conceptual structuring.
(107) We have also evolved some handy techniques for constructing abbreviation labels that help your memory quite a bit.
General Symbol Structuring
(107) If you are tangling with a problem of any size – whether it involves you for half an hour or two years – the entire collection of statements, sketches, computations, literature sources, and source extracts that is associated with your work would in our minds constitute a single symbol structure.
(107) One can also append special substructures, of any size, to particular other substructures. . . . These different appended substructures can remain invisible to the worker until such time as he wants to flush them into view. . . . If he is interested in only one type of appended substructure, he can request that only the cues associated with that type be displayed.
(107) One can choose from a symbol structure (or substructure, generally) any arbitrary collection of its substructures, designate any arbitrary structuring among these and any new substructures he wants to add, and thus define a new substructure which the computer can untangle from the larger structure and present to him at any time. The associate trails that Bush suggested represent a primitive example of this.
(108) Actually, it is much closer to the truth to say that it is like trying to project n-dimensional forms (the concept structures, which we have seen can be related with many many nonintersecting links) onto a one-dimensional form (the serial string of symbols), where the human memory and visualization has to hold and picture the links and relationship.
(108) Some of these techniques are quite closely related to those used in automated-instruction programming – perhaps you know about 'teaching machines'?
This reuse of taggings sounds like what we have with web pages today, although its specific form for Engelbart is Hyperscope, which sounds like Licklider symbiosis, although Engelbart did not try to include speech recognition in his preliminary research program.
(108) the project now has an optical character reader that will convert our external references into machine code for us. The references are available for study in the original serial form on our screens, but any structuring and tagging done by a previous reader, or ourselves, can also be utilized.
Engelbart, Douglas. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.“ The NewMediaReader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003. 95-108. Print.