2022 marked the 60th Anniversary of Doug Engelbart's landmark 'manifesto' Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework!

A Field Guide to 'Augmenting Human Intellect' 0

  Report cover Browse the research report | Table of Contents
wordle Wordle of 1962 Report

Watch short documentary (6 min.) to see what sprang from Doug's Framework


Engelbart did not think of the computer as merely improving human thinking, but as transforming the processes of our institutions in a more profound way...
— Janet H. Murray, on Inventing the Medium in New Media Reader


Watch Prof. Gardner Campbell present "Doug's 1962 Framework" (12 min.)


Watch Alan Kay present "Why we need to understand what Doug Engelbart was trying to do" (30 min.) -- Highlights: 1968 Demo - Key Takeaways | Today? | Why Engelbart? | Systems Thinking to Help Us Think | Big Idea
(see below for full details.)


Watch Doug present "The Augmented Knowledge Workshop" (1986) -- watch Framework highlights: Intro | Framework Purpose | Framework Report | Expressed in 1968 | Framework Detail / Call to Action
(see below for full details.)


Doug thought at scale. He understood that a car is not simply a faster tricycle. He had faith that an augmented intellect, joined to millions of other augmented intellects, could clarify individual thought even as it empowered vast new modes of thinking, new modes of complex understanding that could grasp intricately meaningful symbols as quickly and comprehensively as we can recognize a loved one's face.
— Gardner Campbell, Dreams About How The World Could Be

What it is 1

Welcome to our 'field guide' to Doug Engelbart's most seminal work. It all started with a vision for humanity and a compre­hen­sive two-year study of what he came to call 'Augmenting the Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework', culminating in a compre­hen­sive research report, an article distilling his findings, and a concise summary proposal (detailed below) – which then served as the guiding force behind his award-winning pioneering research through­out his career, and still inspires today.

Goal – The aim of this ground­breaking study was to flesh out his ideas for making the world a much better place in the fastest possible timeframe. His basic premise? If we could discover how teams could work dra­mat­i­cally smarter, better, faster, then all the initia­tives tackling important challenges could be much more effective pursuing their mission.

By 'augmenting human intellect' we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble.
— Doug Engelbart, in his Introduction to Augmenting Human Intellect

This would be especially important, he reasoned, in the midst of accel­er­at­ing change (which he also predicted), where the issues and oppor­tuni­ties we face would be growing increasingly complex and urgent, at an unprecedented rate and scale. Consider it the grand challenge of grand challenges, important to success of organi­zations, communities, insti­tu­tions, sectors, regions, whole nations, and cross-cutting efforts large and small.

In the course of this study, funded jointly by Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Doug forged a new discipline he called Augmenting the Human Intellect, with in-depth conceptual framework, research agenda, and strategic approach for bootstrapping the results at scale. The above writings, which summarize his findings and recommendations, were informed by these essential breakthrough discoveries:

What Augments Us: A Human-Centered Paradigm – Augmenting humans means equipping them with the necessary skills and know-how, along with any tools of the trade. Engelbart recognized this to be capability repertoire, essentially a system of interdependent parts which have been co-evolving over time. Thus we are already augmented, so how to improve on that. He boiled it all down to "Humans using Language, Artifacts, and Methodology in which they are Trained", or H-LAM/T system for short, employed as a system, improved through human-tool co-evolution and innovation. Reflecting on his researh through this lens opened up a whole new vision of human intellect and the representation of thought, manipulation of concepts and symbols, where intelligence happens, intelligence amplification and synergy, and capability improvement, including what and whom to improve first, and the critical importance of co-evolving the whole system of interdependent parts in a balanced way.

Bootstrap Approach: Facilitating the Co-Evolution – It turns out 'augmenting human intellect' presents a special opportunity for the augmentation research teams. They can directly improve their own effectiveness by harnessing the results of their work. "The feeding back of positive research results to improve the means by which the researchers themselves can pursue their work." This discovery led Engelbart to design a design strategy to capitalize on this positive-feedback, regenerative opportunity, with bonus provisions for facilitating and accelerating the human-tool co-evolution.

See our Glossary of Key Concepts for helpful definitions and descriptions.

Significance 2

R&D funding ensued, and so the Augmenting Human Intellect Research Center (AHIRC) was born. In a few short years, following the core principles set forth in his Framework, Doug and his team forged a constellation of breakthrough firsts to herald in a new era in team effectiveness, as demonstrated first in 1968 in what is now known as the Mother of All Demos, again in 1969 with the 'sequel' to the Demo, and beyond. Pioneering firsts in organizational computing included interactive, hyperlinked, networked personal and collaborative computing, which he and his team co-evolved alongside organizational innovations and strategic design principles that were just as profound.

And for those efforts he was recognized with the National Medal of Technology & Innovation, the Turing Award, the Lemelson-MIT Prize, an Honorary Doctorate from Yale, and more, even as he continued pointing to the future through his collaborations, lectures and management seminars.

And now widely acclaimed:

"In one 1968 presentation, this inventor shaped modern computing"  - Smithsonian Magazine
"One of recent history's most acclaimed innovators"  - Inventors Digest
"Visionary is one of the most overused terms in tech, but it almost seems insufficient to explain just what Doug Engelbart was'  - Fast Company

In other words, Doug's conceptual framework for augmenting the human intellect drove one of the more revolutionary research agendas on record, and, like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, is still enormously relevant. And yet we have still barely scratched the surface of fully appreciating, let alone achieving, its true potential.

And all this traces back to this seminal study – the strategic thinking, big picture vision, phenomenal thought experiments, unifying conceptual framework, organizing principles, strategic approach, and application scenarios – which informed and shaped all subsequent work.

Find it here 3

Browse with our usual enhanced navigation features (see About Our Website), or other formats as shown below. For full citation and publication notes, including possible abridged versions, click the Citation hotlink.

Report: Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, 1962 (134 pages) – the final research report in full.
   Formats: permalink | PDF | eReader | HyperScope(?) | Citation

Article: A Conceptual Framework for the Augmention of Man's Intellect, 1963 (35 pages) – distilled for management in Vistas in Information Handling, Howerton & Weeks [Ed.], 1963, Chapter 1.
   Formats: permalink | PDF | eReader | HyperScope(?) | Citation

Summary: Program on Human Effectiveness, 1961 (7 pages) – proposal summary including framework, approach and research agenda.
   Formats: permalink | PDF | eReader | HyperScope(?) | Citation

New! See also Case Examples under Papers below, as well as:

Audio: Readings of the first few sections of the 1962 report by Prof. Gardner Campbell for his Framework Annotation site, now available as a collection on our Audio Resources page, here's a teaser:

Resources 4

In Perspective 4a

Explore 4b

  • Join the conversation at Professor Gardner Campbell's Framework Annotation site framework.thoughtvectors.net, building on his guided group annotation of Doug's 1962 report, including video conversations with guest annotators, and more. Prof. Campbell is a foremost Engelbart scholar and practitioner of Framework strategic principles. 4b1
  • Test drive the The Mother of All Demos - our interactive video tour of the early implementation of Doug's Framework and Bootstrapping Strategy; for more on the demo visit theDemo.org including a short Trailer on the demo, fun facts, memorabilia, impact and a glimpse behind the scenes. 4b2
  • Visit the Virtual Exhibits from Doug's Lab - our online exhibit space created from the Engelbart Archive Collection - oral histories, texts, archive photos, video footage, arranged by topic 4b3
  • MouseSite's annotated timeline of writings from Doug's Lab leading up to, and stemming from, this seminal research report 4b4
  • Just For Kids - this section of the website is devoted to kids interested in learning more about Doug Engelbart's life and work. 4b5

Then and Now 4c

The research world and market forces took a very different trajectory, falling way short of the true potential Doug Engelbart laid out so clearly in his Framework, and proved out the basics in his own research – now more relevant than ever. He continued to iteratively refine, implement, and evolve his message throughout his career.

  • Doug's Vision for the Future, Strategy for Bootstrapping the Future, and Call to Action -- the revolution he forsaw is still needed to reach humanity's highest potential across all sectors. See how his articulation of the Framework evolved under Selected Papers below. 4c1
  • The Engelbart Academy - watch Doug and friends articulate the strategic framework in today's terms, along with paradigm shifts and strategies still needed to pursue what became known as the Unfinished Revolution. 4c2
  • Augmenting Human Intellect: Then and Now - To celebrate the 35th anniversary of his 1962 report, Doug and key team members came together to reflect on what it was, what was accomplished and what remains to be pursued. See the event site for details and to watch their presentations. 4c3
  • The Augmented Knowledge Workshop - Doug's historic 1986 presentation unfolding conceptual framework, tool evolution, and key framework principles for evolving toward full potential envisioned. See the event site for video, description, slides, items referenced, and more. Or sample framework highlights in the side panel above right. 4c4

Press 4d

Selected press coverage:

Papers 4e

Selected Engelbart papers:

Learn More 5

About Doug 5a

The Archives 5b