Category Archives: Intellect

Nugget Assignment #3: 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. It is the augmentation means that serve to break down a large problem in such a way that the human being can walk through it with his little steps, and it is the structure or organization of these little steps or actions that we discuss as process hierarchies.

Every process of thought or action is made up of sub-processes. Let us consider such examples as making a pencil stroke, writing a letter of the alphabet, or making a plan. Quite a few discrete muscle movements are organized into the making of a pencil stroke; similarly, making particular pencil strokes and making a plan for a letter are complex processes in themselves that become sub-processes to the over-all writing of an alphabetic character.

Although every sub-process is a process in its own right, in that it consists of further sub-processes, there seems to be no point here in looking for the ultimate bottom of the process-hierarchical structure. There seems to be no way of telling whether or not the apparent bottoms (processes that cannot be further subdivided) exist in the physical world or in the limitations of human understanding.

When I was reading this article it made me go back to the other articles we read and helped to connect all of them together. This article in particular made references to both other articles by Licklider and Bush with an extensive review of Bush’s article. This passage from Engelbart seems to me to make humans try to think more like a computer. The breaking down of problems into smaller more manageable problems is exactly how computers nowadays work. This article is different than Licklider’s proposals by saying that instead of changing the computers to think like man, we should instead change the way man thinks and make man think more like computers. Engelbart puts a lot of emphasis on the breakdown of problems and takes a mechanical and methodological approach to solving problems and that by doing this augmentation that humans will be the ones to benefit. This approach to problem solving is the way that I, as an engineering student, am being taught and can say that this is the way I tend to think myself.  That being said I don’t think that this way of thinking is always ideal, I find myself being unable to be as creative in my solutions when I think this way. There needs to be a balance of thought, being able to think like how Engelbart proposes while still being able to attack a problem without having to break it down like a computer.