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Day: October 11, 2018

Tools For Thought. The Torch (Panel Intro Propsal 11 Oct)

Proposal for introduction to a panel discussion on the 9th of December to celebrate Doug Engelbart’s Demo’s 50th anniversary. This introduction would be shared with the panelists beforehand so that they could have pre-thought-through and written 1 min notes:

Our dear friend Doug’s passion was to augment how we solve urgent problems together.


In order to do this he had the great early insight that we should use computers to their full extent because computers allow us to manipulate symbols. This was a great insight, and it was made even more powerful by his paradigm, the way he looked at it: Not simply passive and easy to use, not as AI constructs to do our work for us, but to augment our intellect and the way we work together.

shining a light on the future

He did not think that any one person or group could ever design the ultimate augmentation system. The man who practically invented all of the computer interactions we use today was well aware of the limits of his vision. This is extraordinary.

He used the illustration of shining a torch into the distance. He thought we should build the most powerful torch to see as far as we could–that is to say–we should build the most powerful augmentation systems we could–and then we should use them to see how they really worked really live in them–and use that experience to build yet more powerful systems.

Systems to augment our ability to solve urgent, complex problems collectively–to build systems to enable a deeper literacy, a deeper engagement with our knowledge–and with each other.

This is not an engineering problem. This is a whole–humanity problem.

first half

I ask the panel here today to start with a 1 min intro of something they feel we can power our torch with right now; what are the easy, low hanging fruit (to mix metaphors)? What can be done with relatively little time and money to increase the power of the knowledge worker–a term once remote and fancy and which now covers basically everyone?

second half

At the half way mark I will ask us to consider the distant future. If we agree on a goal of truly augmenting humanity to have rich and powerful interactions (which we do, since we have been in discussion before this panel), what kind of tools should we aim to build–and more importantly, how should we go about building them and what infrastructures will need to be crated to support them?


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