Doug Engelbart, visionary dreamer of the possibilities of collective intelligence
Doug Engelbart died July 2nd, 2013, at the age of 88.
Who was Doug Engelbart? As Bret Victor explains in his article A few words on Doug Engelbart, it is important to reflect not only about what Engelbart did invent but on what his intent was. Remembering Engelbart as the inventor of the mouse, or the inventor of video conferencing, is like finding the person who invented writing and remembering him for inventing the pencil.
If you truly want to understand NLS1, you have to forget today. Forget everything you think you know about computers. Forget that you think you know what a computer is. Go back to 1962. And then read his intent. The least important question you can ask about Engelbart is, “What did he build?” By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to admire him, to stand in awe of his achievements, to worship him as a hero. But worship isn’t useful to anyone. Not you, not him. The most important question you can ask about Engelbart is, “What world was he trying to create?” By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to create that world yourself.
Tim O’Reilly appropriately calls Engelbart a _visionary dreamer of the possibilities of collective intelligence_2.
(Victor’s article is worth reading in full.)
NLS stands for the ‘oN-Line-System’, the revolutionary computer collaboration system from the 1960’s designed by Douglas Engelbart. It was demonstrated by Engelbart on December 9, 1968, and has been dubbed since then “The Mother of All Demos”. ↩
Link to Tim O’Reilly’s post on Google+. ↩