Does the internet make you a bad mother?
Does the internet make you a bad mother? We have only had the chance to find out because of the work of a few key geniuses, one of whom just died:
Douglas Carl Engelbart, RIP
In 1950, Doug Engelbart had an epiphany.
Thinking about what he wanted to do with his life, he decided:
- he would focus his career on making the world a better place;
- any serious effort to make the world better requires some kind of organized effort;
- harnessing the collective human intellect of all the people contributing to effective solutions was the key;
- if you could dramatically improve how we do that, you'd be boosting every effort on the planet to solve important problems — the sooner the better; and
- computers could be the vehicle for dramatically improving this capability
In 1968, a year before humans landed on the moon, he demonstrated some ideas he'd come up, in what has since become known as 'the mother of all demos'. The live demonstration featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, and a collaborative real-time editor.
But he saw that as just a start, a step on the path to bootstrapping our collective IQ. Here's how he explained it, in his own words:
The complexity and urgency of the problems faced by us earth-bound humans are increasing much faster than are our aggregate capabilities for understanding and coping with them. This is a very serious problem; and there are strategic actions we can take, collectively.
Consider a community's "Collective IQ" to represent its capability for dealing with complex, urgent problems – i.e., to understand them adequately, to unearth the best candidate solutions, to assess resources and operational capabilities and select appropriate solution commitments, to be effective in organizing and executing the selected approach, to monitor the progress and be able to adjust rapidly and appropriately to unforeseen complications, etc.
I contend that a strategy for "facilitating the evolution" of our organizations' Collective IQs will be the optimum approach, aka a bootstrapping strategy.
"Collective IQ" is a special set of collective capabilities, built upon our basic human capabilities, such as sensory, perceptual, cognitive, motor, etc. Any significant collective capability is achieved by "augmenting" such basic human capabilities by means of training, enculturation, etc. in operational use of: (a) appropriately coordinated systems of artifacts and tools (the "Tool System"); and (b) vocabulary, conventions, roles, organizational structures, values, rules of conduct, methods of cooperation and education, etc. (the "Human System"). Together the Tool and Human Systems comprise the "Augmentation System." The purpose of the bootstrapping strategy is to accelerate the natural co-evolution of our Tool and Human Systems toward ever-more powerful Augmentation Systems enabling increasingly effective Collective IQ.
My hypothesis is that ever-more effective "Dynamic Knowledge Repositories" (DKRs) will be central to improving a community's Collective IQ – essentially the capability, in dealing with a complex problem, for providing the best, up-to-date understanding of the current state of both the problem and of its solution efforts. Our Tool Systems would be endowed with Open Hyper Tools specifically designed to rapidly improve our collective process, and especially the ongoing organic emergence and utility of comprehensive DKRs out of that process. Specially trained teams will be involved, for instance to ingest the ongoing dialog, help in adapting to the relevant ontological shifts, help monitor and solidify the "argument structures" involved in seeking coherence and plausibility, etc. And also for providing correctly associated "views" of the knowledge structure to facilitate learning – probably different such viewing forms for different categories of learners.
Consider an "Improvement Community" (IC) as collectively engaged in improving an agreed-upon set either of individual capabilities, or of collective group capabilities – e.g. a professional society. Let's introduce a new category, a "Networked Improvement Community" (NIC): an IC that is consciously and effectively employing best-possible DKR development and usage.
To be strategically prepared, we have formed the Doug Engelbart Institute, to be a "Meta NIC" alliance, or NIC of NICs, for collectively improving its NIC-member capabilities to in turn each improve its particular capability-improvement activities.
If ever a man should be described as "visionary", Engelbart was that man. And, more than just having a vision, he did practical things towards making it a reality. He will be missed, and for far more than his invention of the mouse. It is now left to us to finish what he started.