Watch Doug share his vision - past, present and future - from his 1968 demo to a 2002 interview and beyond

Doug's Call to Action 0


PREFACE: Doug Engelbart was perhaps best known for inventing the computer mouse and other seminal technologies, credited with laying the foundations for the interactive computing and personal computing revolutions, and "demonstrating the power and the potential of the computer in the information age." However, the main thrust of his work, his greatest visionary achievement, was embodied in the accelerative approach he devised for increasing humankind's collective capacity to address its most challenging problems.

As early as the 1950s Doug began seeking an approach that might offer the most cost-effective leverage for accelerating the advancement of our Collective IQ to the highest levels in the shortest time frame.

Why the urgency? If you consider the rate and scale of change in the world, with the complexity and urgency of every challenge we face increasing exponentially, what will be the difference between the organizations, initiatives, and societies that find the shortest path to significantly elevating their Collective IQ, and those that don't? Thus emerged Doug's bootstrapping strategy – a high-leverage approach which he designed specifically to accelerate progress toward this goal. As he predicted, when embedded in the inner workings of his own research team, a very fast sort of turbo-charged mushroom effect in their learning curve ensued, resulting in revolutionary breakthrough innovation. The computer revolution that ensued has only skimmed the surface of the potential magnitude he envisioned.

Doug Engelbart's call to action from the beginning was not to get everyone on the web using a mouse, hypertext and groupware so we could all work together online. It was and still remains a wake up call to private and public sectors to recognize the exponential trajectory of humankind's serious challenges, and to respond commensurately with the vigorous proactive pursuit of quantum leap increases in Collective IQ in business and society, facilitated by much more highly evolved information technology than we see today.

Using the same strategic principles already proven by Doug Engelbart in his early work, embedded in today's organizations and institutions with next-generation interactive computing as a springboard, imagine the levels of innovation and Collective IQ that could be unleashed.

Christina Engelbart, Executive Director, the Doug Engelbart Institute



Augmenting Society's Collective IQ 1

By Doug Engelbart, adapted from the abstract Augmenting Society's Collective IQ which acccompanied his Keynote Speech at Hypertext 2004 (AUGMENT,133319,), with subsequent minor editing by Christina Engelbart.

Watch Doug share his timeless vision on JCN Profiles: Visionaries of the Information Age (1995)

The complexity and urgency of the problems faced by us earth-bound humans are increasing much faster than our aggregate capabilities for understanding and coping with them. This is a very serious problem. Luckily there are strategic actions we can take, collectively.1a

Consider a community's "Collective IQ" to represent its capability for dealing with complex, urgent problems – to understand them adequately, to unearth the best candidate solutions, to assess resources and operational capabilities and select appropriate solutions and commitments, to be effective in organizing and executing the selected approach, to monitor the progress, to be able to adjust rapidly and appropriately to unforeseen complications, etc.1b

I contend that a strategy for "facilitating the evolution" of our organizations' Collective IQs will be the optimum approach.1c

"Collective IQ" is a special set of capabilities, built upon our basic human capabilities, such as sensory, perceptual, cognitive, motor, etc. Any significant capability is achieved by "augmenting" these basic human capabilities with training, enculturation, etc. in the operational use of: (a) appropriately coordinated systems of tools and artifacts (i.e. the "Tool System"); and (b) vocabulary, conventions, roles, organizational structures, values, rules of conduct, methods of cooperation, education, etc. (i.e. the "Human System"). Together the Tool and Human Systems comprise the "Augmentation System."

To maximize our Collective IQ, the point of greatest leverage is to accelerate the natural co-evolution of our Tool and Human Systems toward ever-more powerful Augmentation Systems enabling increasingly effective Collective IQ. I call this strategic approach a bootstrapping strategy, an important aspect of which is the teams that are accelerating the co- evolution use what they are developing in support of their own collective work. They are thus simultaneously improving Collective IQ capability for themselves and for their end "customers", while enhancing their ability to improve Collective IQ capability (improving how they improve). 1d

Watch Doug with Jeff Rulifson discussing "Engelbart's Unfinished Revolution" at Stanford event (1998)

My hypothesis is that ever-more effective "Dynamic Knowledge Repositories" (DKRs) will be central to improving a community's Collective IQ – essentially the capability, in dealing with a complex problem, for advancing our knoweldge of, and providing the best, up-to-date understanding of, the current state of both the problem and its solutions. In this use of the term, "repository" is a living, dynamic ecosystem in which the group's knowledge work evolves and is readily captured, integrated and evolved. Our Tool Systems would be endowed with Open Hyperdocument System technology specifically designed to rapidly improve our collective process – especially the ongoing organic emergence and utility of comprehensive DKRs within that process. Specially trained teams could be on hand to add value to that process, for instance to ingest the ongoing dialog, help in adapting to the relevant ontological shifts, help monitor and solidify the argument structures involved in seeking coherence and plausibility, etc. They might also provide helpful alternate "views" of the knowledge to facilitate learning and leveraging the knowledge, probably different views for different categories of learners and contributors.1e

Consider an "Improvement Community" (IC) as a community engaged in collectively improving an agreed-upon set of capabilities – for example a professional society that continuously evolves its shared vision and advancements in the profession. Consider next a "Networked Improvement Community" (NIC) – an IC that is consciously and effectively employing best-practices for its DKR development and usage.1f

An opportunity arises for interested NICs to connect and collaborate in a NIC of NICs or "Meta NIC" for collectively improving core capabilities like DKRs. This introduces an accelerative multiplier for member NICs and their constituent NICs.1g

One type of MetaNIC will have special strategic significance, a NIC whose capability improvement focus would be improving the development and utilization of DKRs. I would encourage many such NICs to explore this frontier.1h

There are many sub-configurations of a community's Augmentation System for which provocative improvement possibilities will arise. The proposed evolution-facilitation strategy would be to provide the best possible "frontier map" of what is happening within the various leading edge organizations employing their various approaches to increasing their Collective IQ capability. A mutually supported "Collective IQ Frontier DKR" would provide every member organization with the best view of what's happening on the frontier, enabling each to make its own decisions as to which direction it should next move in its survival quest of increased Collective IQ.1i

This same "frontier-mapping DKR" strategy would also facilitate progress in any other NIC-based initiative. 1j

In our years wrestling with this facilitated-evolution strategy, there have emerged many candidate Tool- and Human-System innovations about which we would hope to have continuing dialog with parties interested in considering this strategic approach. 1k

We invite such dialog, and facilitate broad-based collaboration and experimental pilot prototype DKRs supporting member NICs in collectively advancing into the Collective IQ frontier. 1l

Further Inquiry 2

A powerful strategy for the Innovation Age 3

"Innovate how we work collectively... The real gauntlet that Doug Engelbart threw down on the table 40 years ago is for us to create the "Innovation superhighway," not just the information superhighway."
Patty Seybold, President & CEO, Patricia Seybold Group, and Author of Outside Innovation [Source 2008]


"While Demming provided the improvement approach for the industrial age, Doug provided the innovation approach for the knowledge age."
Curt Carlson, President & CEO, SRI International, and Author of Innovation: The Five Disciplines [Source 2008]