[handwritten note inserted on top of the paper: to be presented in May 1961 if accepted]


Paper Summary for WJCC December 16, 1960



Douglas C. Engelbart

Stanford Research Institute

Menlo Park, California


Percy Bridgeman has described science as "doing one's damndest with one's mind, no holds barred." This modusoperandi description seems applicable any time any human tackles what to him is a complex problem. The social culture within which a human intellect matures provides a man with a bag of tricks that serve to augment his "native intelligence" and to provide a match between the basic capabilities of that intelligence and the problems of his society. In an abbreviated sense, we can say that when one is thus "doing his damndest" and barring no holds, he is exercising strenuously with his basic mental capabilitiese.g., association, memory, concept formation, pattern recognition, visualization, deduction, inductionwithin a procedural framework that consists of concept assignments, sign and symbol systems, conventions and artifacts for graphic symbol manipulation, etc.

In our culture, there has recently appeared a "symbol-manipulation artifact" of such power that we feel certain it will do much to "extend man's intellect." But the computer, as a demand-accessible artifact in man's local environment, must be viewed as but one component in the system of techniques, procedures, and artifacts that our culture can provide to augment the minds of its complex problem solvers. As we imagine the development of an evercloser working relationship between the individual and a computer, we can foresee an everincreasing range of exciting possibilities for redesigning the rest of the augmentation system to take fuller advantage of the computer. These possibilities promise marked increases in the effectiveness with which an individual can apply his basic mental capabilities to his role in the solution of society's complex problemswhose solutions, we must recognize, depend now and for some time to come upon such individual effectiveness. And when the day comes that intelligent machines begin to usurp his role, our individual would hardly still be human if he didn't want to continue developing his augmentation system to extend to the limit his ability to pursue comprehension in the wake of the moreintelligent machines.

To develop a balanced consideration of the future possibilities in this regard, to assess their feasibility and their worth, and to feel reasonably oriented as to what research to pursue, we need to develop an overall perspective regarding the augmentation of human mental powers. This paper discusses some of the results of a search for perspective, that is under way at Stanford Research Institute. Our initial interest was in the question of mancomputer teamwork possibilities, and this of course remains a very significant aspect in our thinking, but we feel to do this question justice requires a basic and general approach.

We have a tentative model to present, one that begins to show the sort of perspective we seek. The foregoing picture of an "augmentation system," in fact, stems from this model. What we have learned already in trying to fill out this model has enlarged our view and shifted our perspective rather markedly. For one thing, it has convinced us that future evolution of richly effective augmentation systems will require significant contributions from a number of disciplines that are "outside the computer field," and which are



rather unlikely to orient their work in this particular direction unless given stimulation and orientation from without. Besides making significant direct contributions ourselves in this evolution, we in the computer field are apparently the logical ones to provide the stimulation, first toward developing a perspective from which all relevant disciplines could derive their orientation, and then toward developing successive generations of evermore effective augmentation systems.

It is hoped that this paper will stimulate constructive criticism regarding the objectives and approach of our study. We hope that we can communicate enough perspective to others in the computer field that they can judge the worth of this approach. We are sure that there will be enough substance (including a bibliography) to evoke from others a better picture of this exciting and challenging aspect of "extending man's intellect."