Nugget – Augmenting Human Intellect

Although the size of the step a human being can take in comprehension, innovation, or execution is small in comparison to the over-all size of the step needed to solve a complex problem, human beings nevertheless do solve complex problems. (2a7)

I chose this nugget because it made me think of all the “complex problems” we have solved as a species that got us where we are today. We evolved from single-celled bacteria into bipedal mammals and we dominate the world today with our big brains and unparalleled intelligence. We solved the problem of surviving, reproducing and protecting our offspring to ensure they could survive too. Then later, much later, we solved the problem of feeding larger, newly sedentary groups of people by learning how to cultivate plants and domesticate animals.

We solved a whole lot of complex problems after that, too. We invented the wheel, the printing press, the light bulb, the steam engine, and cars. Each of these was responsible for major changes in the way people lived, propelling even more inventions and making our lives more comfortable. We invented vaccines, modern medicine, refrigeration and airplanes. Notice I say “we” because most revolutionary inventions were not the idea of a single genius but rather the collection of several bright minds’ inventions. And of course, we can never forget the computer and the Internet, which, by the way, Engelbart contributed a lot to in order to make them a reality. Nowadays the “final frontier” seems to be creating a machine that is at least as smart as ourselves, and maybe even smarter. Our shared history as humans illustrates Engelbart’s idea in the nugget above: as individuals, we cannot progress much unless we collaborate with one another.

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