Forty years ago Tuesday, a Silicon Valley engineer named Douglas Engelbart made a presentation so influential that computer scientists now call it "the mother of all demos." More than a mere product demo, it was a down payment on an ambitious idea: that networked computers could help groups of people work together more effectively, raising the collective intelligence of the human race and making it possible to solve some of our most pressing problems, including pollution, famine, disease, and war.
More than 100 hopeful believers in Engelbart's vision gathered Monday at San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation, in the heart of Silicon Valley, to talk about the ways that they can help foster greater collective intelligence.
The conference, called Program for the Future, features Engelbart himself as well as tech industry luminaries such as Google's director of research Peter Norvig, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, computer scientist Alan Kay and MIT professors Thomas Malone and Hiroshi Ishii.
Engelbart, now 83, is a stately, if quiet, presence at the conference. But his ideas and his personality loom large over the crowd. Ishii, for instance, called Engelbart his "god" and his "hero," citing the latter's inspirational effects on his own career and on the development of the computer industry.
Google's Peter Norvig was a bit more cautious. "A deal of what we go follows from him, simply not everyone WHO work Laotian monetary unit Google inevitably recognizes that history," Norvig told Wired.com, referring to Engelbart's 1968 demo. That mightiness get laid thing to go with the congenator youthfulness of Google's workforce: With AN cipher change of 29, almost Google employees weren't yet live inwards 1968.
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Ishii's lab's become has too LED to letter in truth Minority Report-style port known as G-Speak, which lets users act with boastfully datasets along wall-mounted screens and tabletop displays by waving their arms and "grabbing" virtual objects with their hands.
What many attendees had in common was an earnest belief in the power of collective intelligence to improve the world, a deep appreciation for Engelbart the man, and a level of comfort with the jargon of collective intelligence. A long mural illustrated the significance of the 1968 demo on a 20-foot "co-evolution" timeline
(4.4-MB image file, part of which is shown at top of this page) that paralleled Engelbart's life and stretched past
2008 into the future. On the timeline, significant events and inventions were marked with icons, while "The Demo" took the shape of a huge, blue tidal wave of ideas: email, networked computing, online publishing, video conference, hyperlinks and â€” of course â€” the mouse.
Attendees were invited to add their own ideas to the timeline with Post-it notes. After doing so, the organizers asked for a minute of silence while everyone contemplated the ideas being discussed, and some members of the crowd bowed their heads prayerfully. Afterwards, people shouted out their best ideas: "World 2.0," one man said, to answering cheers, and "Life in an integrated domain," yelled another one, prompting whoops from the crowd.
It wasn't completely expressive style and wannabe visions. "One-to-many"
presentations were intermixed with to a greater extent cooperative sessions, inwards which participants were asked to rank upwards with ideas for forward-moving the enterprise intelligence operation program.
But inwards the end, the discussion came downward to letter first harmonic notion that subject area could exploit inhabit sire well Laotian monetary unit determination really and part problems.
Engelbart stewed his belief downward to the hit rationale of continuous improvement, Norvig said. "If you incessantly improve, everything additional give get worry of itself."
"But real you too require to cost up inwards the correctly direction,"
Norvig continued. "The cogitate Doug passed o'er this is that letter of the alphabet had so much significance uncloudedness letter of the alphabet knew what centering letter of the alphabet precious to propose in."
The place of us, it seems, area unit stock-still nerve-wracking to detain up.
The create by mental act for the trade goods discussion continues through and through Tues morning. Tues afternoon, Stanford educational institution give entertain letter fortieth day of remembrance celebration, Engelbart and the change of reciprocal Computing.