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Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 09:53:59 -0500

From:   Henry van Eyken



Subject:   OHS Overview

Allow me struggle through this a little with Eric's questions [in his letter on November 21, 2000, commenting on the OHS Overview submitted by Frode Hegland in a letter on November 21, 2000...] ] before me having to move on to other things.

About human systems "naturally" evolving and "pushed to evolve," some notions:

Evolutionary psychology holds that underneath new culture lies old psychology. Humankind has adapted to changes in culture (see first word of this sentence) and artifacts. I don't think there is much quarrel about this part.

Next part, "pushed to evolve" or stimulating evolution. When we send out children off to school, aren't we stimulating them to evolve? Isn't it the school experience in addition to natural maturation giving them a different outlook on life, behave differently, more quickly and more self-assuredly adapting themselves to societal life, and in some way gaining some control over their relationship between self and family and friends and larger social circles?

Aren't school and work, visits to new places, and meeting new people experiences that add value to the human system in the sense that it can perform better? ren't education and experience giving us better tools in hand and in head? In a way, aren't human systems to a large extend tool systems as well? (Maybe we are contemplating a bit too sharp a dichotomy between human system and tool system. When we "get hold of ourself," we have a human system acting on the very self as a tool system. Company's employees are largely paid for because of their "tool status." When I took my dose of Economics 101, I resented labor being treated as part of a demand-and-supply system.)

Creating a "working dichotomy" between human system and tool system seems to me very useful when looking at human beings enhancing their talents with computers. At this point, I feel compelled to first think of the human psyche as part emotional, part rational. I further understand that incoming signals to the brain may follow two rather distinct kinds of pathways: one via our emotional center, another bypassing it.

Cognition has an emotional component. Fine-grained cognition will have grains in them with different blends of the rational and the emotional. That's the nature of the beast. Hence, when we seek to augment with computers, this realization calls for extra care because the human organism may revolt at facing the truth. Truth, logic can be devastating.

There is little doubt in my mind that we can augment the rational aspect of humans so as to stimulate it to perform at higher levels of the cognitive domain. Or maybe I should say that it will "waste" less time on the lower levels (doing longhand division, for example) and thereby become more productive. Doug's Air Force" proposal of 1962 has computers stimulating the mind in faster, more productive action by replacing a slow proces of people internally creating a picture by having computers concretize it for them - showing them the effects on a display terminal. The evolution is not so much in the human system as it is in how the human system performs.

That is an evolution that, methinks, can be stimulated by purposeful design. (If you have the patience and time, may I refer you to...

...where, without knowing even the name Engelbart, I essayed on just a little part of all the things Doug has been saying. And this sort of thinking is why I feel at ease with him.)

One more word here. Doug's purposeful design is not one that takes big risks by making big leaps. No Big-Brother Masterplan putting everyone at risk. His notion is to tread carefully, but decisively with as continuous a feedback as possible so as to avoid breaking the dishes.

Back to Eric's questions:

  1. Q. Will the human system go on as before unchanged?

  1. Quick answer: that old psychology remains unchanged, but as a working
agent adapts to forever changing LAM/H for survival. (LAM/H is Doug's synopsis for language, artifacts, methods in the human system.)

2. Q. Will the human system evolve naturally in the new environment?

  1. That old psychology will only over those long periods that are part
and parcel of natural evolution. Don't expect any change here over the next century or so. But the way the psychology lets us behave will, and fast (think of "crazes," for example, or oppressive regimes for another; the effect of masses' conduct on individual behavior and convictions).

Q. Eric continues the question with "If so, the evolution that will take place is worth mentioning in a companion piece, but it is not an integral part of the system that is being proposed."

  1. Going back to my point that the human system is partly also within
his tool system, that makes it an integral part.

3. Q. Is the proposal seriously attempting to change human systems simultaneously with a change in technology?

  1. I believe the question is less of "attempting to" than "expecting
of." Then the answer would be "yes."

Sorry, Eric, my philosophy is darn uncultured, but, I like to believe, still a cut above clax bovis.



Henry van Eyken