Engelbart on Improving Improvement

screen-shot-2014-02-08-at-12-28-13-pmFrom guest author Jim Spohrer, IBM’s Director of Cognitive OpenTech. This article originally appeared in Service Science Education and Research, 8 April 2016, 8:23 am. Republished with permission.

Doug Engelbart is most well-known for the invention of the mouse, and being an internet pioneer (the first leg of the internet connected to his lab in California).

However, for those who know his work, these contributions are not the most significant.

Doug’s vision for improving improvement to better tackle complex, urgent problems is to many his most significant contribution.

Here is one of Doug Engelbart’s papers on that topic:

By Douglas C. Engelbart, April 2002, Keynote Address, World Library Summit, Singapore. Republished for the IBM Co-Evolution Symposium September 24, 2003.

My favorite quote from that paper is this:

The shovel is a tool, and so is a bulldozer. Neither works on its own, “automating” the task of digging. But both tools augment our ability to dig. And the one that provides the greatest augmentation, not surprisingly, takes the most training and experience in order to use it really effectively.

The capability infrastructure requires the co-evolution of the tool system and the human system, as Doug so simply put it.

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