Nugget Assignment #3 “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

After many hours of reading and comprehending “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” by Douglas C. Engelbart, I did some research to better my thinking. Overall, the reading explains Engelbart’s conceptual framework in increasing the capability of man to approach a complex situation. Succeeding my additional research I made an educated decision in choosing the following nugget.

Before I reflect on the nugget below, I would like to address the reading as a whole. After completing this reading I connected it to  two other readings we had done before this one. The readings were “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush and “Man-Computer Symbiosis” by J.C.R. Licklider. In fact it turns out that Engelbart had derived some of his thinking based off of Bush’s writing in regards to knowledge being widely available. In relation to Licklider’s writing, one specific line in Engelbart’s reading reminded me of Licklider’s writing. Here is the line from his reading, “To give the reader an initial orientation about what sort of thing this computer-aided working system might be.” When I initially read this it reminded me of some sort of intro into Licklider’s writing about artificial intelligence. I could be over thinking the situation but those were the connections I made while reading.

Lets take a dive into the nugget I chose!

“Man’s population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity. Augmenting man’s intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach and some plausible benefits.” (Engelbart 1)

After reading this confusing nugget I was asking myself a lot of outrageous questions. Since man’s population and gross product are increasing at considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, are we getting dumber or smarter?

That question is very hard to answer because of the numerous factors humans live under, but here are three different views on this topic.

In this article by Gerald Crabtree, he is states that evolution is making us dumber and that we have already peaked before hunter-gatherer predecessors left Africa. Crabtree bases this off of the fact that, “Life on the veldt was tough, and prehistoric humans’ genes were constantly subjected to selective pressure in an environment where the species’ survival depended on it. For humans, that meant getting smarter.” If we were to base smartness off of evolutionary advances in mutation like Crabstree does, he would be right, we are in fact just getting dumber as the years go by. There have not been as many evolutionary changes in humans today than there have been in the past so Crabtree’s opinion stands valid. It interested me to view it this way and not base smartness off of advancements in technology per say.

On the other hand another semi-supporting article that states humans are getting both smarter and dumber is written by Stephanie Pappas. Although she states that humans could be both getting smarter and dumber I feel she is more inclined to the fact that humans are getting smarter. I came to this conclusion because of the countless times she mentions the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world. She elaborates that standardized test scores are getting higher over the years and that constant changes keep having to be applied to these exams to keep them challenging. Obviously she views the situation different from Crabtree. Pappas looks at the test taking side of this topic, which only applies to humans within a millennium of today.

(After reading both articles I found out that Stephanie Pappas had quoted Gerald Crabtree in her article!)

Lastly, I found an article that asked the question, “Our Phones Are Getting Smarter, But Are We Getting Dumber?” In this article Nancy Colier is basically stating that our phones are smarter than we are and we are too reliant on them. This article is a bit off topic but I wanted to share it because humans can build technology that is so advanced such as a cell phone but lose grip on the simple knowledge. Many humans use their phones as a crutch for information they should already know. I hope this does not get out of hand because we were warned. Colier quotes a line Albert Einstein wrote about 100 years ago, “I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. We will have a generation of idiots.”

We viewed this topic three different ways but there are many more ways to observe it. Looks like we will never really know if the world is getting dumber or smarter.

2 thoughts on “Nugget Assignment #3 “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  1. The excerpt you chose about “augmenting man’s intellect…would warrant full pursuit” reminds me of this article by Jamais Cascio:
    If the link doesn’t work, Google Jamais Cascio Get Smarter.
    In this article Cascio argues in pretty compelling ways for pursuing cognitive augmentation. You should read it! It can be one of your sources for your paper, perhaps.
    It’s always great when a writer quotes a writer you’ve already read, isn’t it! (Pappas quotes Crabtree). Crabtree on the evolutionary idea is interesting. But don’t you think we are continuing to “evolve,” and our brains will change as the world changes — and we have to “get smarter” in new ways now than primitive cultures did?
    Read Casio! Tell me what you think!

  2. The article by Jamais Cascio really interested me! You mentioned including it in my paper, but my topic was about Internet privacy. Are we supposed to be relating most of our posts, like this one, to our Inquiry Project topic?

    Anyways the article “Get Smarter” was really compelling. It made me just want to redo my whole blog post, but I am sure you want all my original work there, or do you?

    I found it intriguing that Cascio touches on so many points through out history. One point that interested me was when he mentioned modafinil and other brain enhancing drugs. He talks about how he takes them and how it helps other people including college students. It was really interesting to me because he talks about these drugs and how they are augmenting our intelligence. Here is a quote by Cascio, “Little by little, people who don’t know about drugs like modafinil or don’t want to use them will face stiffer competition from the people who do.” He is basically stating that use them or you will be at a disadvantage to the people that do. The way he views these drugs is so much more different than other doctors, professors, and other well educated people. I would love to read more readings by him or integrate this into my paper some how.

    Lastly although we are still evolving, I focused on the fact that it seems like we are evolving slower than our predecessors and that is why we are dumber than they are. It was a weird of me to look at it that way but that is what I got out of Crabtree’s article.

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