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Category: Correspondance

“Wanted: Toolsmiths” & The Future of Text

Email to William Regli at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), currently serve as the Acting Deputy Director of the Defense Sciences Office (DSO)


I read with great enthusiasm your article in Communications of the ACM today, where you call attention to the continued development of tools for science. I am particularly impressed with your reference to Licklider’s classic  though rarely hear about these days – notion of man-computer symbiosis.

I had the pleasure and honour of working with one of his chief ‘investments’ if you will; Doug Engelbart, who very much became my mentor. We put together a brief web-documentary quite a while ago, which I’m afraid has suffered from the digital ravages of time making much of the video non-playable – I really need to update the site at some point, but some contents is still live:

I am contacting you about what may be a bit below your radar, the notion of improving text for serious communication in order to allow for the development of deeper literacy:

In support of this I host an annual Symposium on the Future of Text, where people who are passionate about the powerful augmentations future text developments can provide, if we invest in making it come about:

This year will be the 7th annual event, which will be attended by Vint Cerf (who co-hosts when we do the event in California) as well as people from industry and my host university – I am currently a mature PhD student at the University of Southampton supervised by Dame Wendy Hall.

I would finally like to let you know of how I am personally ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ so to speak, with the development of a word processor for academic use which will feature a very rich thinking space called Liquid Views:

I thank you again for the inspirational article, you have brightened my weekend and if you are at all all interest in any of the activities, including joining us at the Future of Text September 11th and 12th, or if you feel someone else at ARPA would be interested, that would be great also.


Frode Hegland
The Liquid Information Company





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More Convenient Conveniences for Women

Mr. Khan,

I have lived in many places around the world but I am proud to call London my home. I see such vitality and growth here and therefore feel that one issue which has received little attention but which affects the lives of half of your citizens on a daily basis could maybe warrant your attention; the issue women have with the lack of convenient conveniences. As a man this is a concern for me – I love the inclusivity of London but I am concerned that we could do more for women to have the same, real, opportunities as men.

The space of a mens toilet is more useable since men use urinals which are more space efficient than stalls and this often leads to longer queues for women who are thus not able to access a toilet as quickly and men. This results in a constriction of movement for women, particularly professional women, who will not be able to hop around town as easily or as carefree as men.

However, in places with shared stalls the experience should be equalised but some men do not understand the concept of lifting the toilet seat and this results in urine splash onto the seat which of course is off-putting for women who need to sit and for men when they also need to sit, as well as for other men.

My suggestion/invention is simply this:

• Make a toilet seat which is actively hinged in the ‘up’ position which can easily be moved down (like some of the seats on the tube) when they are needed (maybe with a lever on the side sticking out a bit for extra hygiene) – so that the toilet seat is always in the ‘up’ position when not in use and easily in the ‘down’ position when needed.

This would result in significantly less or no spillage from careless men and would make the experience for women markedly better, more hygienic and more more convenient, with a particular benefit for professional women who would not longer need to be concerned about finding a useable and timely toilet since this would open up the opportunity to many more shared sex toilets and therefore would even the practicality for men and women to find a timely toilet between meetings.

Luxury options could of course include sensors and actuators for a hands-free experience.

I am sending this to you since London could legislate or even simply recommend such an addition to public toilets. I have no commercial interest in this invention.


Best Regards, from a Norwegian Londoner who is proud to call this city his home,

Frode Hegland

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11 November 2016 Chris Stringer

Hi Frode, great you are doing this PhD but I don’t think I’ve got the time to engage with it properly now or add much of use.
I might question the ‘I reckon to I know’ quote though. I tend to say that once you have finished your PhD, then you’ll know how you should have done it!
Also, I think once we become confident that we ‘know’ something, we may become complacent. I’ve been surprised a few times recently and it’s good to be reminded that our knowledge is only provisional!
Hope Japan was great…
Best Chris

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