Mind Amplifier

Howard Rheingold Thin Book ASIN:B009GQXRQ8

Reminds me of Tools For Thought

A good Thin Book if you haven't already read Douglas Engelbart and Ivan Illich.


Instead of asking whether the Web and the various devices connected to it are making us stupid, what if we could mindfully design and use digital media to make us smarter? What if humans could build electronic tools that leverage our ability to think, communicate, and cooperate?

We should be systematically directing the evolution of intellectual augmentation. (Augmenting Human Intellect)

What if using information media knowledgeably could make us smarter as individuals, as societies, as a species? This question was first posed decades ago by Vannevar Bush, JCR Licklider, and Douglas Engelbart,

Biology provided the workable parts for thinking tools, but early humans learned to innovate by repurposing their brains and thought patterns in ways that neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene calls “neuronal recycling.”

Culture assembled the brain’s cognitive building blocks, such as abstraction, prediction, and sequencing, into new intellectual capabilities,

Language encourages Generative thinking.

The way living organisms can adopt biological organs for new purposes forms the basis for what Calvin and others claim to be our species’ talent for “exaptation.” This gradual repurposing of previously evolved organs to create new organs,

We are the only primates with large white areas in our eyes, enabling other humans to discern the attentional focus of others.

Robert Logan reasserted the claims in his books that stone tool-making interacted with control of fire, coordinated hunting, and mimetic communication using gestures and primitive vocalizations, to create the conditions for the emergence of language

“Do you still argue that the alphabet created the unique conditions for the flowering of science, logic, and mathematics in ancient Greece?” I asked Logan, when we had dinner in September 2010. “Absolutely,” he replied with enthusiasm.

“By forcing us to both analyze and unpack abstractions when we decode letters and phonemes, by training our thinking in sequential ordering, by providing a classification schema through alphabetization, the alphabet makes it far easier to think in certain ways.”

As explicated by Elizabeth Eisenstein in The PrintingPress as an Agent of Change, the vast expansion of reading-powered thinkers from a tiny elite, handpicked and supported by the Church, into entire populations during the Protestant Reformation, made new collective cultural forms possible.32 Instead

Inside a thatched hut in the Philippines in August 1945, a young U.S. Navy radar operator named Douglas Engelbart picked up The Atlantic Monthly and read with interest an article written by Vannevar Bush.

JCR Licklider had been a psycho-acoustician before World War II. Returned to his scientific investigations after the war, Licklider grew frustrated with the long hours that he, as a scientist, spent “getting into position to think.”

Engelbart sketched out a system of “humans, using language, artifacts, methodology, and training” to invent even more capable augmentation tools (Augmenting Human Intellect), a process he called “BootStrapping.”

How could extended-mind theory be useful as a framework for designing the future of augmentation?

What if automated tutoring and testing systems, such as those being deployed for Massive Open Online Courses7 (MOOC-s), could be used for self-reflection on the learning process — a metacognition amplifier?48

An abstraction folds up multiple dimensions of meaning into a single token — a sound or mark or signal.

outliner, a way to expand and collapse nested headings, (OutLining)

*defines augmented social cognition as using media to “enhance a group’s ability to remember, think, and reason."57 *

Collective Intelligence” refers to the myriad emerging ways that populations are putting together their individual brainpower and computing power via online networks to uncover and aggregate knowledge; Crowd Sourcing is a technique that is used for many other purposes as well, using computers and networks to divide tasks into small pieces and portioning out the work to large numbers of people.

*The study of collective intelligence proceeds on multiple fronts. Henry Jenkins has studied and written about collective intelligence in popular culture fan communities.67 Tom Malone recently put together within MIT’s Sloan School of Business the Center for Collective Intelligence, asking, “How can people and computers be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?”68 *

Where does the intelligence of the Ant Colony reside?

There's a word for this type of self-organizing behavior: stigmergy (Stigmergic)

Philosophers and extended-mind theorists DavidChalmers and Andy Clark describe human-thinking-tool systems as closely integrated systems that resemble online stigmergy:

Simply being able to reason more effectively is not only unlikely to improve the human condition in the absence of other, more humane capacities, Weizenbaum warned: it can do harm.

Convivial tools, as Ivan Illich described them, require widespread knowledge of what the convivial tool does, how it works, and how to best use it for one’s own purposes. In other words, a literacy.

Engineers and technocrats have failed to solve critical global issues, such as hunger and lack of sanitation, because the gnarliest of these problems are psychological and political as well as technical and logistical.

Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist, won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2010 for her work on “institutions for Collective Action,” the bundles of norms, laws, incentives, punishments, and communication rituals that enable people to do things together. Her book Governing The Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action is an important text for anyone who wants to apply the mechanisms and methods of “augmenting human intellect” to social problem-solving.76

She challenged the dogma that the absence of top-down authoritarian control or private ownership always leads to the despoiling, overconsumption, or underprovisioning of common-pool resources — the well-known “TragedyOfTheCommons.” Ostrom offered a wealth of data from different nations and eras with numerous examples of people co-creating cultural institutions that enabled them to cooperate.

Most important, Ostrom discovered eight design principles most often present when people succeed in Collective Action. These aren’t meant to be turned into rigid prescripts for inducing cooperation, but they could be useful thinking tools for social-augmentation designers:

  • Group boundaries are clearly defined.
  • Rules governing the use of collective goods are well matched to local needs and conditions.
  • Most individuals affected by these rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  • The rights of community members to devise their own rules is respected byexternal authorities.
  • A system for monitoring members’ behavior exists; the community members themselves undertake this monitoring.
  • *A graduated system of sanctions is used. *
  • *Community members have access to low-cost conflict resolution mechanisms. *
  • For common-pool resources that are parts of larger systems: appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises.

Edited: |

blog comments powered by Disqus