The ultimate knowledge work environment is above and beyond all hugely and richly interactive and as such we need to work on the most powerful ways we can interact with it.
Doug’s pillars of the Capability Infrastructure, of the Human System and the Tool System rests on our basic capabilities, so let’s start there.
We have eyes of certain capabilities, hands, skin, touch and so on, all acting as our primary interfaces with the world and with our own minds.
The Development of a Limb
When we are born we are not born with a fully formed map and instruction manual for how to interact with the world through our limbs for all our stages of physical growth. We have to bang our limbs around and see what happens – this is how mirror neurons teach us how long our arms are, for example, and what happens when we try this that and the other. These mirror neurons are the very same neurons which activate when we see other people doing the same actions so our vision and our other senses inform us about ourselves and how we are part of the sensory process of others.
Our optimal high-resolution work area is approximately the size of a modern desktop monitor, it’s a good place to have your fovea flit around. Any larger and you need to move your neck too much. The area around this is where we have the best receptors for motion so peripheral vision can be employed as powerful quick-reaction impulses.
Humans are the only species that can communicate meaningfully with the hands*. We must build on this. We must build on the incredible power of the hand – hey, we are talking of plugging into cyberspace here, let’s use the highest bandwidths we have.
The human hand has evolved ‘hand-in-glove’ with the human mind, to take us from the world of the animal-immediate and into the world of the human imagination. I would say that we would not have evolved the ability to mentally leave our immediate surroundings to wonder, terrors, dreams and opportunities, to self-reflection and consciousness, had we not also evolved the limb* which puts us closer to our physical world.
“It has been proposed that the hominid lineage began when a group of chimpanzee-like apes began to throw rocks and swing clubs at adversaries, and that this behaviour yielded reproductive advantages for millions of years, driving natural selection for improved throwing and clubbing prowess. This assertion leads to the prediction that the human hand should be adapted for throwing and clubbing, a topic that is explored in the following report. It is shown that the two fundamental human handgrips, first identified by J. R. Napier, and named by him the ‘precision grip’ and ‘power grip’, represent a throwing grip and a clubbing grip, thereby providing an evolutionary explanation for the two unique grips, and the extensive anatomical remodelling of the hand that made them possible. These results are supported by palaeoanthropological evidence.”
Richard W Young,
Evolution of the human hand: the role of throwing and clubbing
Keyboard Shortcuts & Gestures
Keyboard shortcuts and gestures are powerful ways to give the user control. The evolution of the human hand as the primary interface for tool use, with a correspondingly large section of the brain – ¼ – dedicated to the hand.
Rest of Our Bodies
We can employ many interfaces including haptic on our skin with our hands and away from our hands, smells and better use of sounds, for alerts and state changes.
Direct brain electric or chemical connections will at some point become a useful interfaces and will require the same level of some kind of mirror neutron development to fully integrate. This will be a challenge but not an outrageous one most likely – you have already done this when you learnt to drive a car – the whole vehicle integrated into your brain. Same as driving a bike or skiing.
For me, all this comes down to for now, is that in the future we can develop all kinds of AR and VR reality systems which need to integrate with the physical information-processing people that we are. A powerful start however, can be to develop better software systems for the already incredibly powerful hardware we have.
The first question that has to be addressed when building systems to augment our ability to solve problems together is which kids of problems.
If the problems are primarily geographically based we should build systems with powerful geographic visualisation and manipulation systems and so on.
We know from our daily work and from Doug’s work that one of the deep problems we face is the ‘figuring things out together’ bit and how this can be quite messy. The presentation of findings is a separate and important problem but there are at least two reasons why the figuring things out bit is of burning importance: It is where the work really happens. It is messy and not so well supported. And finally, even with powerful presentations of what is decided/found, recourse to the dialog behind what happened is an important missing link.
Hamlet Action : Thinking Space which Tracks Dialog
I therefore propose that we work on designing a shared thinking space which tracks our dialog.
By that I think we should design a concept map space for multiple users where we can beautifully move nodes around and view it by whatever criteria the user prefers, with full history, links and so on.
By tracking dialog I mean building systems to record our speech online and in real time and build powerful document formats to link this into the thinking space.
The result should be a beautifully simple top-level view for anyone entering our conversation to understand our current agreement and then easily dig into what’s being it.