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.”

This passage from “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” by Douglas C. Engelbart sparked my interest in the way it references the human problem solving process. It begins speaking of how small the individual mental steps a human being can make are but continues to say that human beings do solve complex problems. Problems are solved through augmentation means which create process hierarchies. Humans have, through such processes, created technologies that cut out a number of the steps required to solve any problem. The greatest of these technologies being computers and the ability to access the internet. However, the power of the internet is limited, as it can only be as powerful as the user’s  ability to navigate it. The level of productivity a human can achieve is limited by his ability to fully utilize the power of his brain. Eventually, through the same process hierarchies, humans will solve this problem too by creating the technology to give the mind instant access to all available information and bypassing a large portion of the necessary steps to make any solutions to problems.


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