Allow me struggle through this a little with Eric's questions before me
having to move on to other things.
About human systems "naturally" evolving and "pushed to evolve," some
Evolutionary psychology holds that underneath new culture lies old
psychology. Humankind has adapted to changes in culture (see first word of
this sentence) and artifacts. I don't think there is much quarrel about this
Next part, "pushed to evolve" or stimulating evolution. When we send out
children off to school, aren't we stimulating them to evolve? Isn't it the
school experience in addition to natural maturation giving them a different
outlook on life, behave differently, more quickly and more self-assuredly
adapting themselves to societal life, and in some way gaining some control
over their relationship between self and family and friends and larger
social circles? Aren't school and work, visits to new places, and meeting
new people experiences that add value to the human system in the sense that
it can perform better? ren't education and experience giving us better tools
in hand and in head? In a way, aren't human systems to a large extend tool
systems as well? (Maybe we are contemplating a bit too sharp a dichotomy
between human system and tool system. When we "get hold of ourself," we have
a human system acting on the very self as a tool system. Company's employees
are largely paid for because of their "tool status." When I took my dose of
Economics 101, I resented labor being treated as part of a demand-and-supply
Creating a "working dichotomy" between human system and tool system seems to
me very useful when looking at human beings enhancing their talents with
computers. At this point, I feel compelled to first think of the human
psyche as part emotional, part rational. I further understand that incoming
signals to the brain may follow two rather distinct kinds of pathways: one
via our emotional center, another bypassing it. Cognition has an emotional
component. Fine-grained cognition will have grains in them with different
blends of the rational and the emotional. That's the nature of the beast.
Hence, when we seek to augment with computers, this realization calls for
extra care because the human organism may revolt at facing the truth. Truth,
logic can be devastating.
There is little doubt in my mind that we can augment the rational aspect of
humans so as to stimulate it to perform at higher levels of the cognitive
domain. Or maybe I should say that it will "waste" less time on the lower
levels (doing longhand division, for example) and thereby become more
productive. Doug's Air Force" proposal of 1962 has computers stimulating the
mind in faster, more productive action by replacing a slow proces of people
internally creating a picture by having computers concretize it for them -
showing them the effects on a display terminal. The evolution is not so much
in the human system as it is in how the human system performs. That is an
evolution that, methinks, can be stimulated by purposeful design. (If you
have the patience and time, may I refer you to
http://www.fleabyte.org/testbed/augment.html where, without knowing even the
name Engelbart, I essayed on just a little part of all the things Doug has
been saying. And this sort of thinking is why I feel at ease with him.)
One more word here. Doug's purposeful design is not one that takes big risks
by making big leaps. No Big-Brother Masterplan putting everyone at risk. His
notion is to tread carefully, but decisively with as continuous a feedback
as possible so as to avoid breaking the dishes.
Back to Eric's questions:
1. Q. Will the human system go on as before unchanged?
A. Quick answer: that old psychology remains unchanged, but as a working
agent adapts to forever changing LAM/H for survival. (LAM/H is Doug's
synopsis for language, artifacts, methods in the human system.)
2. Q. Will the human system evolve naturally in the new environment?
A. That old psychology will only over those long periods that are part and
parcel of natural evolution. Don't expect any change here over the next
century or so. But the way the psychology lets us behave will, and fast
(think of "crazes," for example, or oppressive regimes for another; the
effect of masses' conduct on individual behavior and convictions).
Q. Eric continues the question with "If so, the evolution that will take
place is worth mentioning in a companion piece, but it is not an integral
part of the system that is being proposed."
A. Going back to my point that the human system is partly also within his
tool system, that makes it an integral part.
3. Q. Is the proposal seriously attempting to change human systems
simultaneously with a change in technology?
A. I believe the question is less of "attempting to" than "expecting of."
Then the answer would be "yes."
Sorry, Eric, my philosophy is darn uncultured, but, I like to believe, still
a cut above clax bovis.
Eric Armstrong wrote:
> It has the same difficulty as the colloquium,
> in my view -- it covers way too much ground to
> be a practical recommendation for anything.
> When it begins talking about the "human system",
> in particular, it reflects the colloquium. Like,
> the colloquium, the specific impact on the
> "human system" is never adduced. Three possibilites
> spring to mind:
> * Will the human system go on as before
> unchanged? If so, it scarcely needs
> * Will the human system evolve naturally
> in the new environment? If so, the
> evolution that will take place is worth
> mentioning in a companion piece, but it
> is not an integral part of the system
> that is being proposed. The only significant
> relationship to the human system (as far
> as it leads to acceptance) is what *benefit*
> will the system have on the human system.
> * Is the proposal seriously attempting to
> change human systems simultaneously with
> a change in technology? If so, what is
> going to be different, and why is there
> any reason to believe that the effort
> will be successful? (I suspect that any
> such effort is fore-doomed. I'm willing
> to be convinced otherwise, but have yet
> to see a convincing argument.)
> Analogy: What we really need is a
> transportation system that allows your
> personal auto to become part of a "train".
> That allows efficient, hands-off travel
> while preserving the benefit of autonmous
> travel at your destination. But that
> requires everyone to change everything,
> all at once, and it just ain't gonna happen
> in this lifetime...
> Toffler pointed out that new technologies first
> replace the preexisting models. Only later are
> they expanded into new territories. It seems
> clear to me that a system which provides immediate
> benefits comes into use. The co-evolution that
> occurs in system functionality and human use then
> produces even greater benefits.
> But to speak of the "human system" as anything
> other than a naturally evolving system is to
> defeat the project before it gets started.
> If the evolutionary hypothesis is accepted, then
> the only significant aspect of the system is how
> it will make your life better today -- before you
> change anything at all about the human systems
> you are used to.
> Again, I believe the document you've constructed
> accurately reflects the issues as they have been
> formulated to date. I just believe that the
> particular formulation we've all seen has always
> been, and will continue to be, an "impossible sell".
> Believe it or don't, use it or toss it.
> Them's my thoughts.
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