Category Archives: Nugget

Nugget 4: Computer Lib/ Dream Machine

“Compulsory interaction, whether with a talking machine or a
stereotyped human, is itself a put-down or condescension.
(Note that on superhighways there is often a line of cars
behind the automatic toll booths, even when the manned
ones are open.) Moreover, faked interaction can be an
annoyance. (Consider the green light at the automatic toll
booth that lights up with a “thank you.”) Moreover, dialogue
by simple systems tends to have a fake quality. It is by no
means obvious that phony dialogue with a machine will
please the student.”

Feel like an American?
As someone who has not always been computer literate, this spoke to me directly. Being forced to engage with a machine that one does not understand, and being told by one’s teachers that “it’s very simple” becomes grating after a while. Nelson talks about designing media and computers for the future, and I think that is the right attitude. Bespoke technology is the ideal for which we reach, making a machine that works with as little training as possible for any person. However, it is important to remember that condescension is ingrained in our education system, as Nelson points out multiple times. I would submit that condescension has no place in the classroom of tomorrow, therefore in agreement with Nelson.

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It is time for a classroom that doesn’t pander to children or make them feel inferior because they aren’t proficient in some subjects. It is time for computers and media to find a new place in the education system! Let us foster creativity and imagination, not stifle it as we are currently.

lab6photo Students_in_a_computer_lab

Nugget Assignment #4: Computer Lib/Dream Machine

“But today, at this moment, we can and must design the media, design the molecules of our new water, and I believe the details of this design matter very deeply. They will be with us for a very long time, perhaps as long as man has left; perhaps if they are as good as they can be, man may even buy more time—or the open-ended future most suppose remains.
So in these pages I hope to orient you somewhat to various of the proposed dreams. This is meant also to record the efforts of a few Brewster McClouds, each tinkering toward some new flight of fancy in his own sensoarium.
But bear in mind that hard-edged fantasy is the corner of tomorrow. The great American dream often becomes the great American novelty. After which it’s a choice of style, size and financing plan.
The most exciting things here are those that involve
computers: notably, because computers will be embraced in
every presentational medium and thoughtful medium very
soon.”

This passage shows the reasons why Nelson believes that everyone should try to understand computers. In this part the Dream Machine he takes a different approach in his writing. The passages had more pictures in them and to me made it more confusing to read. With all the pictures which seemed to be scattered throughout this part I lost found myself losing track of what he was saying. Within this passage he talks about how we are must design the media for tomorrow. Considering that this was written in 1974 I doubt he expected media to grow to this size and the use of computers. The media of today was shaped through the use of computers and grown and used in almost everything we do. He also uses Engelbart’s article to discuss ways we can change our thinking to better use and understand computers.

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.