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Doug Engelbart


Doug’s vision was quite simply to augment our collective intellect. The vision is not complicated but it is dismissed by many as being vague and others think there must be more to it. We venture that the key aspect to his work was his paradigm, his perspective of how he viewed the world and knowledge work because his philosophy – and perhaps despite his philosophy – after all, he did manage to produce real work which solved real problems which was shown off in his great demo. Simply and briefly:


We need to improve how we

augment a group’s (small, large, internal, global etc.) …

capability to approach urgent, complex problems

to gain more rapid and better comprehension (which can be defined as more thorough and more critical) …

which result in speedier and better solutions (more contextual, longer lasting, cheaper, more equitable etc.)

And furthermore, we must improve our improvement process (as individuals and groups)


His seminal 1962 paper Augmenting Human Intellect, which resulted in the 1968 Demo, presents this perspective in great detail, as does further work available in the Doug Engelbart Library.



ENGELBART TERMS : organizational


All of the terms below are also available as blog entries in our nascent Glossary system: and are presented here simply as a brief introductory overview. There is also a glossary for further terms and projects for our DKR effort:


  • ARC Augmentation Research Center, The name of Doug's lab at SRI where he proposed a system called H-LAM/T in 1962 and developed and in 1968 demonstrated NLS: oNLine System, his platform for shared knowledge work research, later renamed Augment



  • Collective IQ is the notion that same as we have individual IQ's, the IQ of a group can also be measured, in terms of  its capability for “dealing with complex, urgent problems-i.e., to understand them adequately, to unearth the best candidate solutions, to assess resources and operational capabilities and select appropriate solution commitments, to be effective in organizing and executing the selected approach, to monitor the progress and be able to adjust rapidly and appropriately to unforeseen complications, etc.” 
    (augmenting society's collective iq)


  • Co-Evolution. Most capabilities are improved, or augmented, by many interdependent technical and non-technical elements, of which tools make up only a small part:
    • On one hand, there is the human system, which includes paradigms, organizations, procedures, customs, methods, language, attitudes, skills, knowledge, training and so on- all of which all exists within the basic perceptual and motor capabilities of the human being.
    • On the other hand, there is the tool system, which includes media, computers, communications systems etc.
    • Together, they comprise the augmentation system


  • Bootstrapping. The act of co-evolving the tool and human systems to make better tools and systems, thus pulling us up by our bootstraps. (For an overview, see the Bootstrap Paradigm Map). This is done on three levels:


  • A,B & C levels of activity are levels of work activity in the bootstrapping process:
    improving our ability to improve: a call for investment in a new future )
      • A level is the the work activity of the organization
      • B level is the activity of improving A, such as adding technological tools or improved work processes
      • C level is the activity of improving how we improve, something best done across organizations, in a:


  • NIC; Networked Improvement Community Consider an "Improvement Community" (IC) as collectively engaged in improving an agreed-upon set either of individual capabilities, or of collective group capabilities-e.g. a professional society. Let's introduce a new category, a "Networked Improvement Community" (NIC): an IC that is consciously and effectively employing best-possible DKR development and usage.”
    (augmenting society's collective iq)


  • For Doug it was clear that it is crucial that we improve our problem solving ability: “This is important, simply because man's problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society. The other contenders for first importance are all critically dependent for their development and use upon this resource.” (Engelbart 1962). Crucially it's not enough to improve our problem solving processes, we need to improve our improvement process.







  • OHS Open Hyperdocument System is an augmentation system of tools and procedures to produce and a:



  • xFiles Intermediary files in the OHS system.


  • ViewSpecs The notion that it is valuable for the user to be able to specify how to view information.


For more of Doug's terminology, please refer to the 'What Is Still Missing' section.






  • Spoken Record where Doug discusses key aspects of his work in The Audio Record


  • The Doug Engelbart Institute is where you can find his publications as well as other documents:


  • Doug Engelbart Web Documentary by Fleur Klijnsma and Frode Hegland produced: which unfortunately has videos unplayable because of the updates in Apple QuickTime but also includes other content and we'll be re-capturing the videos when we can







Vint Cerf, co-invnetor of the Internet and friend of Doug's writes: “Douglas Engelbart believed that computers could be used to augment human intellect and J.C.R. Licklider agreed with him. Doug and his team manifested this belief with his oNLine System, NLS. This was a document production and sharing environment intended to enhance collaborative work expressed in document form. There were many features of the system that shaped document production to enhance the structure and style of the documents and to facilitate cross-referencing through hyperlinking. Licklider's primary contribution, among others, was to pursue computer interconnection through the ARPANET project which led to the design and development of the Internet initially designed by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf. Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invented the World Wide Web protocols (Hypertext Transport Protocol, HTTP and Hypertext Markup Language, HTML and servers and browsers to implement them).


In the 21st Century, we have cloud computing that offers far more computing capacity to billions of users and we are developing new artificial intelligence tools including hardware-based machine learning, multi-level neural networks, machine translation tools, pattern recognition mechanisms and a host of other capabilities. The question is how to apply these new and powerful tools in a cooperative partnership with human users to augment our intellectual capabilities. We have already seen the effects of social media in the Internet and the power of search tools to sift through the vast and growing content of the Internet/WWW. Will these tools enhance the creation and curation of human knowledge? Can they be applied to developing better models of the way the world works so as to manage scarce resources better, to distribute knowledge and capabilities more uniformly and to generally improve the human condition on a global scale? I am confident that, were he alive today, Douglas Engelbart would have answered these questions in the positive and gone on to seek ways of finding and applying those answers.


It is up to us to follow in his footsteps to seek those answers and to put them to work for the benefit of all who inhabit this precious planet, Earth. It is that vision that we will celebrate December 9, 2018.”