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Category: DougDemo@50

A dip into the SEA

I wrote this as an excursion into possible interactions into something I believe we are working towards in the group.  


The Name#


To write about this I need to know what to call it. “The augmented thinking space. Jump space. Knowledge Space. Facility (facilitated evolution). Sea” ? I like ’Sea’, since it is also ‘C’, as in Doug Engelbart’s ‘C’ level activity and of course links to my own philosophy of Liquid Information: and  


I’ve even turned it into an acronym (a ‘backronym’): ‘Special Environment for Augmentation’. It’s just a suggestion.  


How we change the evolutionary environment away from simple direct monetary rewards for consumer sales needs to be seriously thought out and I have posted on this as well this morning. We need to facilitate the evolution (in Doug’s terms):  


The Open SEA#


The main difference between a traditional computer work space and this work space is how open it is. By ‘open’ I mean that there is no social media giant where you need to go to interact with your social circle, all the connections are open to be followed anywhere. (This is a key reason why the way evolution needs to be facilitated requires real thought and effort, otherwise we are developing a Dead Sea). 


I open my laptop and simple and nice things are available against a beautiful, dark gradated background: My friends and colleagues arenrepresented with icons docked with status information about them. I can effortlessly see that Bruce has posted something related to AI and that Bjørn has released another drone video. I check them both out and flick into my citation space, it’s time to get some research done. 


In my citation space the research I am doing is not represented by paper-legacy rectangular form, though that is a view I can switch into. I choose to see this space as a basic list to start with, filtering the view to show me only the documents I have read where I have highlighted ‘Engelbart’ or something strongly related to Doug Engelbart. This takes me half a second to specify and the view change is instant. I choose to see more information about all the documents through a quick and familiar keyboard shortcut (I’m not on my tablet where I would use a gesture of some sort) and I choose to hide the documents I have read the most and cited the most–I’m on a quest to learn something new.  


For the sake of this scenario let’s say I come across CoDIAK and I decide to investigate it a little further. I highlight the term and execute a Find command (cmd-f on my Mac) and only sentences which have ‘CoDIAK’ are shown in the document (all others are temporarily hidden), and off to the sides of the document a myriad of connective links appear, pointing to easy-to-read occurrences of the term in hyperGlossaries and the Knowledge Domains my friends have given me access to or which are public as well as public domains. It’s like a beautiful octopus.  


I choose to follow the entries in domains my friends have posted and I navigate through them with the ease of a video game and read and connect as fluidly as possible. Once I see that this is indeed a powerfully useful term I decide to add it to my own hyperGlossary and drag and drop passages of other definitions I agree with and disagree with, being careful to specify the relationships as such. 


During this process Mark Anthony posts an update to a new aspect of the protocols which I can see on my general space when I come back into it. It’s pulsing since he has marked it as important for our community. I have a brief look and fling it as an action item over to Jacob who will know better what to do with it. Jacob reads it and either adds it to a list of actions to do, store it as reference or sends it back to me. If he chooses to take it on as an action my own To Do list will list this and his status, automatically.  


The day grows old and I grow tired and I remember that I have discussed this Christina but I can’t remember when. I decide to speak the command: “Show me occurrences of CoDIAK in conversation with Christina” and my screen morphs into a timeline. I look but find nothing useful, it turns out to be a long list. I then remember that Houria was on the call when we spoke about it so I say: “only show conversations when Houria was there” and here I see a sentence which catches my attention. I click on it to hear the audio and yes, this is what I was thinking off. I can’t remember why we spoke about it so I bring up my calendar for that day and see it was during a planning meeting and that gives me the perspective I need. I now thread my perspective of CoDIAK a bit more carefully and I really like what I have authored and therefore tag it as important. My colleagues who also have worked on this term see my little icon on their systems light up with this new knowledge node, which they can choose to interact with or ignore. If they interact with it we can start a useful, connected dialog or simply list references to each other as not agreeing.  


The CoDIAK notion has sparked my imagination so I message Frank about possible opportunities and Jeff about further clarifications. All of these messages are owned by me, not a service or software provider so I can choose to see status of any of them. For Jeff, since he is so busy, I choose to set a ‘no reply alert’ for one week: If he does not reply I get a notification and can choose to re-send or ignore. When I get a reply from them they can mark the messages as private and I can only read them or leave them public so that I can easily integrate them as citations into my future work on this. 


And thus ends my exploration. I am dealign with information, not applications. I choose what container boundaries and views are. And to end with my old exultation: I dive into the information, I don’t just surf.  


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Facilitating Evolution

A founding principle of this ecosystem is that it must support what Doug Engelbart called facilitated evolution, which is an interesting and important concept. Evolution in nature happens when the environment the organism is in changes. Random changes making the organism better ‘fit’ the new environment to the degree that the organism can reproduce (the only evolutionary measure of how well it fits the environment–effectively the reward system) or not. 

Planned evolution does not occur in nature and when it does in the human realm we call it innovation and it has proven a powerful force for change. Innovation primarily happens along a designed path though, with specific hoped-for outcomes and this puts it quite firmly in what Doug Engelbart calls the ‘B’ level of activity []. 

In order to facilitate evolution we must design the ecosystem and the reward system. Designing the reward system is designing the investment system and it is crucial since we cannot afford, as a human species, to loose innovation for mind augmentation in a world which is constantly increasing in complexity, we must invest in investing.  

Neither a completely free-market system nor a completely government-run system is sufficient since the rewards would not support enough risk in the free-market (since monopolies would soon appear and stifle innovation) nor enough exploration in a government-run system (who would assign resources?). 

Therefore we must look at multiple rewards to both support a B level of activity but also importantly, C level [], which is riskier but supports more change and therefore can give us more opportunities for fitness in the ever changing information environment we live in. 

I have no real answers in this post, but we need to address this issue, particularly if we develop a more open environment (which I think is a major goal) where no-company can invest in making a walled empire, in the social space like facebook or in the document world like Adobe or Microsoft.  

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Watching Our Language

We discussed naming and terminology on the Doug@50 call yesterday, or rather, I moaned about our lack of language for the work, and here are two pertinent realisations:

The Thing It Is

In Author, when we switched into the dynamic view, which is essentially a graph or a map where the headings become nodes which can be flexibly re-ordered and connected, I initially called the headings ‘nodes’ when in this view since they are indeed nodes when viewed this way. However, for the user, this turned out to make no sense, since they still ‘are the same thing’, it’s just the interaction which has changed. This is important because we need to use current language as a start for where we are going and we need to see this from a new-world perspective, not try hard to shoe-horn old concepts into a new conceptual space. ‘The thing is the thing’, no matter where it is or how it’s viewed.


The other issue is one of scale. In a conversation today the obvious issue of how some of us are dealing with and are interested in large scale knowledge graphs and some of us, myself included, are interested in extremely small graphs, such as the dynamic view scale where items on the screen can usefully be represented by text and not a cloud or other shape. I’m sure this has been obvious to many for a while, but it just became clear. The large scale knowledge graph work (LSKG?) is more concerned with AI analysis while the small scale work is more concerned with human-visual analysis.


To keep these two quite different projects connected it would be great to find a way to make them interoperable in an active way if possible, or passive if that is all that’s useful and this is where the notion of a hyperGlossary comes in. The idea is to have a way for a user to manually add or define ‘nodes’ to a system which can be used to serve the nodes to other systems (Chris’s notion of a node server). A primary way to do this could be via a hyperGlossary where an author can define the personal meaning of a word or a term for the sake of elucidating the reader (as glosses originally were used) with a short definition, a long definition and then with specific connections to other terms. These connections would then build a basic graph which can be interactively viewed visually or even connected to large scale graphs.

This could be a very useful way of scaling the scale issue.

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