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Category: Deep Literacy

Facilitated Evolution

Doug Engelbart discussed the need to facilitate evolution and this is a hugely important aspect to his work, not only as it shows his intellectual openness and lack of pride in his specific ideas (he always expected others to go further and was very disappointed after the 68 demo that the category of work didn’t seem to take off) but because it accepts our lack of understanding of any ‘ultimate’ future end point and highlights the need to ‘fumble’ our way to a better future, learning as we go along.

{ Please note there have been comments on how evolution is not evolution if it’s facilitate. This is something which can be argued over coffee for those who would like to take the time but please consider that Darwin used the word ‘evolution’ only once in writing and preferred ‘descent with modification’ which makes more sense. The earlier meaning of the word was simply ‘growth to maturity’ which fits the current use of the term well }

Evolution is a product of environment and actors co-evolving, so if someone changes the actors or the environment the evolutionary pressures change.

I feel this is a very strong concept and speaks to the complexity of the world. We simply cannot ‘design’ everything we need or want because the world is too complex and our needs and wants will change as we evolve ourselves as well.

[ Another Aside: A real-world instance of facilitated evolution is education, where the curriculum and the culture of the country and the specific institutions provide a framework for thought and behaviour, facilitating innovation in some direction and curating it in other. (a curious artifact of this in the United States is how people of a right-wing persuasion say that universities have become ‘infested’ with left wing ideology, not for a minute considering that maybe getting a good education opens and enlarges the mind and this is how a more free-thinking, or ‘liberal’ mindset manifests. ]

The need to somehow facilitating evolution then asks us to look at what the elements of our thinking and working are and how we can frame the space of the innovation.

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Deep Linking for eBooks

This is based on the idea of a citation having two parts (document name and location/page number), just as it did in the physical world, and that the reader should be able to choose how to access the cited book or journal article. The proposal was then this:

1) Author selects text in a digital book (Kindle, iBooks, whatever) and chooses the option ‘Copy Location’ (same as we can do in YouTube videos). No copying of text is necessarily necessary.

2) The author then pastes this in their own book/article as a citation, which, importantly, has two parts:

• The document identifiers (name of book plus authors, ISBN and/or more – the more the better, for redundancy)
• The internal location (which different document types already have, this proposal is partly to establish a common standard which libraries will endorse)

3) The reader then has the option to follow this citation reference and the system presents a dialog (this is one of the key innovations we are talking about):

• This book is available on Amazon. Purchase it?
• This book is available on ‘Whatever online Store’. Purchase it?
• This book is available on Google Books. See the page? (full book not available)
• This book is available digitally from your university library. Access it?

At this point the user can choose whatever way they want to access the book – and here is the big deal: Once they choose how to access it (‘own’ it and the reader system knows what books are in what access application), the system will open the book to the very location referred to!

This means that copyright is not an issue but we have high resolution addressing. VERY useful I was told by many, which is nice.

Issues include

• Researching current in-document location systems and seeing which systems can be used universally
• Building relationships with book vendors to allow for what is sometimes called ‘deep linking’ where you can have a link and specify what application to launch it in. (We can of course build our own for testing before anyone else agrees to join us)

I have a friend who works at Audible but is very well connected within the rest of Amazon who I’ll present this to, in order to have it presented further in the company. Amazon already has a location system, which is why you can listen to a book on audible and then the Kindle page you are on will automatically update.


The benefit is that it makes it more easy to find, access and buy books, which is good for authors and publishers and it the benefit to the reader and author is the fluidity of movement within their knowledge environment.