Armstrong Consulting
1200 Dale Avenue #100
Mountain View, CA 94040

Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 16:09:25 -0800

From:   Eric Armstrong


Subject:   OHS Overview

[Responding to Froge Hegland's letter today transmitting an OHS Overview prepared by Doug Engelbart and edited by Froge...]

I hate to express the negative reaction I am experiencing. It is clear that the document is accurate, and a lot of thought went into it. So what I am about to say is bound to be demotivating. For that, I apologize in advance.

But my personal reaction to the picture presented here is that it is about as compelling as a wet blanket.

It has the same difficulty as the colloquium, in my view -- it covers way too much ground to be a practical recommendation for anything.

When it begins talking about the "human system", in particular, it reflects the colloquium. Like, the colloquium, the specific impact on the "human system" is never adduced. Three possibilites spring to mind:

Analogy: What we really need is a transportation system that allows your personal auto to become part of a "train". That allows efficient, hands-off travel while preserving the benefit of autonmous travel at your destination. But that requires everyone to change everything, all at once, and it just ain't gonna happen in this lifetime...

Toffler pointed out that new technologies first replace the preexisting models. Only later are they expanded into new territories. It seems clear to me that a system which provides immediate benefits comes into use. The co-evolution that occurs in system functionality and human use then produces even greater benefits.

But to speak of the "human system" as anything other than a naturally evolving system is to defeat the project before it gets started.

If the evolutionary hypothesis is accepted, then the only significant aspect of the system is how it will make your life better today -- before you change anything at all about the human systems you are used to.

Again, I believe the document you've constructed accurately reflects the issues as they have been formulated to date. I just believe that the particular formulation we've all seen has always been, and will continue to be, an "impossible sell".

Believe it or don't, use it or toss it. Them's my thoughts.


Eric Armstrong