Engelbart has, unlike most engineers, a profound respect for the nature of the person. He has invariably stressed the need to adapt the machine to the person rather than the person to the machine. However, like most of us, (I come after all from the behaviorist tradition in psychology), he tends to view the organism as a complex mechanism. Emphasis is placed more on the "mechanization of reason" (Page 44) than on the humanization of the machine. Descartes put the cart (mechanism) before the horse (organism) when he separate mind from body (probably as a ruse to get the church off his back). We've all been pushing this cart ever since.|
There is no necessary conflict between realism and idealism. We must use realistic means to idealistic ends. Missionaries like Valaskakis, who want to have an impact on the real world, and visionaries like Engelbart, who have the tools to create such an impact, can only get together and accomplish their goals by understanding human nature. The person is not a mechanism conditioned from the outside in but an organism growing from the inside out. The role of our communication tools in that growth is as extensions of our nervous systems, as described in the Big Story of historical time mentioned above.
Engelbart's project has been frustrated not by the machine but by the person. One feature of human nature is that we favor the contentment of the familiar over the excitement of the unfamiliar. That is, we are habit-forming animals. This explains the qwerty phenomenon - the fact that we are stuck with the traditional qwerty keyboard even though Engelbart demonstrated empirically that his chord keyset was much more efficient.
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