Simple tasks must be simple, and complex ones must be possible.
--Alan Kay

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Frontier | Revolution | Power | Symbiosis

The revolution gains momentum in the 1960s and 1970s, when the established institutions of the Industrial Revolution begin to be dismantled by the seminal technologies of the Information Revolution. J. C. R. Licklider and his "intergalactic network" of researchers conceive, build, and propagate ARPAnet, the forerunner to the Internet. Licklider writes about a "man-computer symbiosis" that fosters the strengths of both, implemented in this system of distributed computer networks. Artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky and mathematician/psychologist Seymour Papert learn how the mind works by studying how children learn—and using computers to test their ideas. They construct a theory that the human mind works by dint of a complex society of mindless agents—that intelligence, like civilization, is a phenomenon of interaction. Minsky attempts to model computer intelligence accordingly, constructing electronic societies of mind. Papert designs ways computers can help children learn, not by training them but by giving them a world to manipulate and explore.

At the same time, engineer Doug Engelbart builds the Augmentation Research Center—a bootstrap project designed to augment the human capacity for collective problem solving through computer technology. Engelbart and his group devise the tools that make computers adaptable for human beings: interface features such as the mouse, windowed displays, and a working hypertext system that can link information associatively. Computer scientist Alan C. Kay and his team at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center build on the work of earlier revolutionaries to devise the "personal computer," on the principle that simple things should be easy enough for children, and everything, no matter how complex, should be possible.

Fueling these architects of Engelbart’s "unfinished revolution" is the conviction that computers are tools for communication, creativity, and community, not just computation and capitalism.

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