AUGMENTING HUMAN INTELLECT : A Conceptual Framework. By: Dr. Engelbart  1962


: Research Recomendations








Objectives for a Research Program

The report has put forth the hypothesis that the intellectual effectiveness of a human being is dependent upon factors which are subject to direct redesign in pursuit of an increase in that effectiveness. A conceptual framework is offered to help in giving consideration to this hypothesis, and an extensive and personalized projection into possible future developments is presented to help develop a feeling for the possi bilities and promise implicit in the hypothesis and conceptual structure.

If this hypothesis and its glowing extrapolations were borne out in future developments, the consequences would be most exciting and assumedly beneficial to a problem-laden world. What is called for now is a test of this hypothesis and a calibration on the gains if any that might be realized by giving total-system design attention to human intellectual effectiveness. If the test and calibration proved to be favorable, then we can set to work developing better and better augmentation systems for our problem solvers.

In this light, we recommend a research program approach aimed at (Goal 1) testing the hypothesis, (Goal 2) developing the tools and tech niques for designing better augmentation systems, and (Goal 3) producing real-world augmentation systems that bring maximum gains over the coming years to the solvers of tough, critical problems. These goals and the resulting design for their pursuit are idealized, to be sure, but the results nonetheless have valuable aspects.



Basic Research Recomendations

This should be an empirical approach on a total-system basis--i.e., doing coordinated study and innovation, among all the factors admitted to the problem, in conjunction with experiments that provide realistic action and interplay among these variables. The question of limiting these factors is considered later in the section. The recommended en vironment for this empirical, total-system approach, is a laboratory providing a computer-backed display and communication system of the general sort described in Section III-B. There should be no stinting on the capabilities provided--it is very important to learn what value any given artifact feature may offer the total system, and the only way to learn the value is to experiment with the feature. At this point no time will be taken to develop elaborate improvements in the art of time sharing, to provide real-time service to many users. This kind of development should be done as separate, backup work. The experimental lab should take the steps that are immediately available to provide all the service to the human that he needs in the experimental environment.

Where economy demands that a computer not be idle during the time the augmented subject is not using it (which would be a rather large net fraction of the time, probably), and where sharing the computer with other real-time users for which demand delays are a problem, then the only sharing that should be considered is that with off-line computations for which there are no real-time service demands to be met. The computer can turn away from off-line users whenever the on-line worker needs attention of any sort.



Whom to Augment First

The experimental work of deriving, testing, and integrating innovations into a growing system of augmentation means must have a specific type of human task to try to develop more effectiveness for, to give unifying focus to the research. We recommend the particular task of computer programming for this purpose--with many reasons behind the selection that should come out in the following discussion. Some of the more direct reasons are these:


  • The programmer works on many problems, including large and realistic ones, which can be solved without interaction with other humans. This eases the experimentalproblem. and realistic problems for the programmer to solve can be posed for experimental purposes that do not involve large amounts of working and reference in formation. This also eases the experimental problem.
  • Much of the programmerÕs working data are computer programs (he also has, we assume, his own reasoning and planning notes), which have unambiguous syntactic and semantic form so that getting the computer to do useful tasks for him on his working data will be much facilitated--which helps very much to get early experience on the value a human can derlve from this kind of computer help.
  • A programmerÕs effectiveness, relative to other programmers, can probably be measured more easily than would be the case for most other complex-problem solvers. For example, few other complex solutions or designs beside a program can so easily be given the rigorous test of ãDoes it actually work?Ò
  • The programmerÕs normal work involves interactions with a computer (although heretofore not generally on-line), and this will help researchers use the computer as a tool for learning about the programmerÕs habits and needs.
  • There are some very challenging types of intellectual effort involved in programming. Attempting to increase human effectiveness therein will provide an excellent means for testing our hypothesis.
  • Successful achievements in evolving new augmentation means which significantly improve a programmer's capability will not only serve to prove the hypothesis, but will lead directly to possible practical application of augmentation systems to a real-world problem domain that can use help.
  • Computer programmers are a natural group to be the first in the ãreal world to incorporate the type of augmentation means we are considering. They already know how to work in formal methodologies with computers, and most of them are associated with activities that have to have computers anyway, so that the new tech niques, concepts, methods, and equipment will not seem so radical to them and will be relatively easy for them to learn and acquire.
  • Successful achievements can be utilized within the augmentation-research program itself, to improve the effectiveness of the computer programming activity involved in studying and developing augmentation systems. The capability of designing, implementing, and modifying computer programs will be very inlportant to the rate of research progress.


Workers in an augmentation-research laboratory are the most natural people in the world to be the very first users of the augmentation means they develop, and we think that they represent an extremely important group of people to make more effective at their work.



Basic Regenerative Feature

The feature brought forth in Reason 9 above is something that offers tremendous value to the research objectives--i.e., the feeding back of positive research results to improve the means by which the researchers themselves can pursue their work The plan we are describing here is designed to capitalize upon this feature as much as possible, as will be evident to the reader as he progresses through this section. This positive-feedback (or regenerative) possibility derives from the facts that: (1) our researchers are developing means to increase the effectiveness of humans dealing with complex intellectual problems, and (2) our researchers are dealing with complex intellectual problems. In other words, they are developing better tools for a class to which they themselves belong. If their initial work needs the unifying focus of concentrating upon a specific tool, let that tool be one important to them and whose improvement will really help their own work.



Tools Developed and Tools Used

This close similarity between tools being developed and the tools being used to do the developing, calls for some care in our terminology if we want to avoid confusion in our reasoning about their relationship. ãAugmentation meansÒ will be used to name the tools being developed by the augmentation research. ãSubject lnformationÒ will be used to refer to description and reasoning concerned with the subject of these tools (as opposed to the method of research), and ãsubject matterÒ will refer to both subject information and physical devices being incorporated as artifacts in the augmentation means being developed. ãTools and techniquesÒ will be used to name the tools being used to do that research, and are likely here to include special additions to language, artifact, and methodology that particularly improve the special capabilities exercised in doing the research.

An integrated set of tools and techniques will represent an art of doing augmentation research. Although no such art exists ready-made for our use, there are many applicable or adaptable tools and techniques to be borrowed from other disciplines. Psychology, computer programming and physical technology, display technology, artificial intelligence, industrial engineering (e.g., motion and time study), management science, systems analysis, and information retrieval are some of the more likely sources. These disciplines also offer initial subject matter for the research. Because this kind of diagramming can help more later on, we represent in Fig. 3 the situation of the beginning research drawing upon existing disciplines for subject matter and tools and techniques.

The program begins with general dependence upon other, existing dis ciplines for its subject matter (solid arrow) and its tools and tech niques (dashed arrow). Goal 1 has been stated as that of verifying the basic hypothesis that concerted augmentation research can increase the intellectual effectiveness of human problem solvers.

Fig. 3 Initial Augmentatiuon-Research Program




Research Plan for Activity A l

The dominant goal of Activity A 1 (Goal 1, as in Fig 3) is to test our hypothesis. Its general pursuit of augmenting a programmer is designed to serve this goal, but also to be setting the stage for later direct pursuit of Goals 2 and 3 (i.e., developing tools and techniques for augmentation research and producing real-world augmentation systems).

Before we discuss the possible subject matter through which this research might work, let us treat the matter of its tools and techniques. Not too long ago we would have recommended (and did), in the spirit of taking the long-range and global approach, that right from the beginning of a serious program of this sort there should be established a careful and scientific methodology. Controlled experiments, with special re search subjects trained and tested in the use of experimental new aug mentation means, careful monitoring, record-keeping, and evaluative procedures, etc. This was to be accompanied by a thorough search through disciplines and careful incorporation of useful findings.

Still in the spirit of the long-range and global sort of planning, but with a different outlook (based, among other things, upon an increased appreciation for the possibilities of capitalizing upon regeneration), we would now recommend that the approach be quite different. We basically recommend A 1 research adhering to whatever formal methodology is required for (a) knowing when an improvement in effectiveness has been achieved, and (b) knowing how to assign relative value to the changes derived from two competing innovations.

Beyond this, and assuming dedication to the goal, reasonable maturity, and plenty of energy, intelligence, and imagination, we would recommend turning loose a group of four to six people (or a number of such groups) to develop means that augment their own programming capability We would recommend that their work begin by developing the capability for composing and modifying simple symbol structures, in the manner pictured in Section III-B-2, and work up through a hierarchy of intermediate capabilities toward the single high-level capability that would encompass computer programming. This would allow their embryonic and free wheeling "art of doing augmentation researchÒ to grow and work out its kinks through a succession of increasingly complex system problems--and also, redesigning a hierarchy from the bottom up somehow seems the best approach

As for the type of programming to tell them to become good at--tell them, Ñthe kind that you find you have to do in your research." In other words, their job assignment is to develop means that will make them more effective at doing their job. Figure 4 depicts this schematically, with the addition to what was shown in Fig. 3 of a connection that feeds the subject-matter output of their research (augmentation means for their type of programming problems) right back into their activity as improved tools and techniques to use in their research.

Fig. 4 Regeneration

If they are making head way, it won't take any carefully worded criterion of effectiveness nor any great sophistication in measurement technique to tell that they are more effective with the augmentation means than without--being quicker to "design and build" a running program to meet given processing specifications or being quicker to pick up a complex existing program, gain comprehension as necessary, and find its flaws or rebuild it. On the other hand, if no gains are really obvious after a year or so, then it is time to begin incorporating more science in their approach. By then there will be a good deal of basic orientation as to the nature of the problem to which "science" is to be applied.

What we are recommending in a way is that the augmented capability hierarchy built by this group represent more a quick and rough scaffolding than a carefully engineered structure. There is orientation to be derived from climbing up quickly for a look that will be of great value. For instance, key concepts held initially, that would have been laboriously riveted into the well-engineered structure, could well be rendered obsolete by the Ñview" obtained from higher in the hierarchy. And besides, it seems best to get the quick and rough improvements built and working first, so that the research will benefit not only from the orientation obtained, but from the help that these improvements will provide when used as tools and techniques to tackle the tougher or slower possibilities. As progress begins to be made toward Goal l,the diagram of Fig. 3 will become modified by feeding the subject-matter output (augmentation means for computer programmers) back into the input as new tools and techniques to be used by the researchers.

We would suggest establishing a sub-activity within A 1, whose purpose and responsibility is to keep an eye on the total activity, assess and evaluate its progress and try to provide orientation as to where things stand and where attention might be beneficial.

A few words about the subject matter through which Activity A 1 may progress. The researchers will think of simple innovations and try them in short order--and perhaps be stimulated in the process by realizing how handy some new feature would be that would help them whlp up trlal processes in a hurry. They will know of basic capabllitles they want to work toward for structuring their argumentsJ their planning, their factual data, etc., 50 that they can more easily get computer help in developing themJ in analyzing and pursuing comprehension within themJ and in modifying or extending them. They wlll try different types of structuringJ and see how easy it ls to design computer processes to manipulate them or composite processes to do total useful work with them.

They can work up programs that can search through other programs for answers to questions about them--questions whose answers serve the processes of debugging, extending, or modifying. Perhaps there will be ways they adopt in the initial structuring of a program--e.g., appending stylized descriptive cues here and there--that have no function in the execution of that program, but which allow more sophisticated fact retrieval therein by the computer. Perhaps such cue tagging would allow development of programs which could automatically make fairly sophisticated modifications to a tagged program. Maybe there would evolve semi-automatic "super-compilers," with which the programmer and the computer leap-frog over the obstacles to formulating exact specifications for a computer (or perhaps composlte) process and getting it into whatever programming language they use.



A Second Phase in the Research Program

The research of A 1 could probably spiral upwards indefinitely, but once the hypothesis (see Section IV-A) has been reasonably verified and the first of our stated objectives satisfied, it would be best to re-organize the program. To describe our recommendation here, let us say that two research activies, A 2 and A 3, are set up in place of A 1. Whether A 1 is split, or turned into A 2 and a new group formed for A 3, does not really matter here--we are speaking of separate activities, corresponding to the responsible pursuit of separate goals, that will benefit from close cooperation.

To Activity A 2 assign the job of developing augmentation means to be used specifically as tools and techniques by the researchers of both A 2 and A 3. This establishes a continuing pursuit for Objective 2 of Section IY-A. A 2 will now set up a sub-activity that studies the problems of all the workers in A 2 and A 3 and isolates a succession of capabilities for which the research of A 2 will develop means to augment. Activity A 2 should be equipped with the best artifacts available to an experimental laboratory.

To Activity A 3 assign the job of developing augmentation systems that can be practically adopted into real-world problem situations. This provides a direct and continuing pursuit of Goal 3 of Section IV-A. It is to be assumed that the first real-world system that A 3 will design will be for computer programmers. For this it might well be able to clean up the Ñlaboratory model" developed in A 1, modify it to fit the practical limitations represented by real-world economics, working environments, etc., and offer it as a prototype for practical adoption. Or Activity A 3 might do a redesign, benefitting from the experience with the first model.

Activity A 3 will need a subactivity to study its potential users and guide the succession of developments that it pursues. Activity A 2 in its continued pursuit of increased effectiveness among workers in idealized environment, will be the source for basic subject matter in the developments of A 3, as well as for its tools and techniques. From the continously expanding knowledge and developments of A 2, A 3 can organize successive practical systems suitable for ever more general utilization.

We have assumed that what was developed in A 1 was primarily language and methodology, with the artifacts not being subject to appreciable modification during the research. By this second phase, enough has been learned about the trends and possibilities for this type of on-line man-computer cooperation that some well-based guidance can be derived for the types of modifications and extensions to artifact capability that would be most valuable. Activity A 2 could continue to derive long-range guidance for equipment development, perhaps developing laboratory innovations in computers, display systems, storage systems, or communication systems, but at least experimenting with the incorporation of the new artifact innovations of others.

An example of the type of guidance derived from this research might be extracted from the concepts discussed in Section-C-5 (Structure Types). We point out there that within the computer there might be built and manipulated symbol structures that represent better images of the concept structures of interest to the human than would any symbol structure with which the human could work directly. To the human, the computer represents a special instrument which can display to him a comprehensible image of any characteristic of this structure that may be of interest. From our conceptual viewpoint, this would be a source of tremendous power for the human to harness, but it depends upon the computer being able to ãreadÒ all of the stored information (which would be in a form essentially incomprehensible to a human). Now, if this conjecture is borne out there would be considerably less value in micro-image information-storage systems than is now generally presumed. In other words, we now conjecture that future reference information will be much more valuable if stored in computer-sensible form. The validity of this and other conjectures stemming from our conceptual framework could represent critical questions to manufacturers of information systems.

It is obvious that this report stems from generalized ãlarge-viewÒ thinking. To carry this to something of a final view, relative to the research recommendations, we present Fig. 5, which should be largely self-explanatory by this time. Activity A 2 is lifting itself by the bootstraps up the scale of intellectual capability, and its products are siphoned to the world via A 3. Getting acceptance and application of the new techniques to the most critical problems of our society might in fact be the most critical problem of all by then, and Activity A 4 would be one which should be given special help from A 3.

There is another general and long-range picture to present. This is in regard to a goal for a practically usable system that A 3 would want to develop as soon as possible. You might call this the first general Computer Augmentation System--CAUG-I (pronounced "cog-one").

Fig. 5: A Total Program
Suggested relationship among the major activities in achieving the stated objective (essentially, of significantly boosting human power in A 4 and U 1). Solid lines represent subject information or artifacts used or generated within an activity, and dashed lines represent special tools and techniques for doing the activity in the box to which they connect. Subject product of an activity (output solid) can be used as working material (input solid) or as tools and techniques (input dashed). Tools and techniques as used or needed in an activity (output dashed) can be used either to work on (input solid) or as tools and techniques to work with (input dashed).

It would be derived from what was assessed to be the basic set of capabilities needed by both a general-problem-solvlng human and an augmentation researcher. Give CAUG-I to a real-world problem solver in almost any discipline, and he has the basic capabilities for structuring his arguments and plans, organizing special files, etc., that almost anyone could expect to need. In addition to these direct-application on capabilities, however, are provided those capabilities necessary for analyzing problem tasks, developing and evaluating new process capabilities, etc., as would be required for him to extend the CAUG-I system to match to the special features of his problem area and the way he likes to work.

In other words, CAUG-I represents a basic problem-solving tool kit, plus an auxiliary tool-makers tool kit with which to extend the basic tool kit to match the particular job and particular worker. In subsequent phases, Activity A 3 could be turning out successive generations (CAUG-II, CAUG-III, etc.) each incorporating features that match an ever-more-powerful capability hierarchy in an ever-more-efficient manner to the basic capabilities of the human.