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Learn to Dance

Learn to Dance (end of year status)

This week I watched my son Edgar wave about his magic Harry Potter wand and dance to the music of Jungle and thought:

“If you are young,
learn to dance.

Interactions in XR
will use much more
of our bodies than
fingers on keyboard
and trackpad.”

That is to say, if we do our job right…

I’m writing this at the end of 2023 when the world is in turmoil with major wars, a climate emergency, and so much more of what Doug Englebart would most likely describe as urgent complex problems. He introduced this notion–and what we should do about it–in his seminal 1962 paper:

“By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers- -whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids. Man’s population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity. Augmenting man’s intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach and some plausible benefits.” (Engelbart, 1962)

As I have written in The Future of Text 4, we must nurture our imagination (2023). Doug invented much of what we consider personal computing and then the world felt it knew what’s what and innovation with how we interact with text slowed to a crawl… We now have a once-in-a-species opportunity to dream anew, upon entering XR. We must not squander this.

As we stand on the threshold of 2024 we have a focused mission in the Lab: To develop powerfully useful systems to interact with and view textual knowledge in XR, powered by robust, accessible, low-cost metadata and informed by wide and deep dialog and much testing of prototypes.

We had a meeting this week, during the holidays, where we got much further with how to upload documents and metadata to XR, as outlined at and next week we will kick off working out exactly how to make it all connect. Then it is up to developing interactions and more interactions and invite a wider range of people to contribute to The Future of Text 5.

That’s all really, all there is to update at this point. Let’s see how it goes.

Happy New Year!

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