Below is an Overview of “Inventing the Future: The Quest to Raise Collective IQ” by Doug Engelbart, Valerie Landau & Eileen Clegg.

“Inventing the Future: The Quest for Collective IQ” by Doug Engelbart in Conversation with Valerie Landau & Eileen Clegg

Engelbart is often called the father of personal computing. In 1968, he produced an event so groundbreaking it earned the name “the mother of all demos.” Sitting at a workstation armed with a mouse, computer monitor, keyboard and chorded key set, Engelbart and his team demonstrated a powerful integrated personal computing system complete with robust collaborative features: video conferencing, document sharing, multiple windows, email, online publishing, trackback links, hypertext, spreadsheets, version control and graphics. These innovations have become the foundations of personal computing and the World Wide Web. He has received the highest honors for his contributions, including the 2000 National Medal of Technology from President Clinton.

Engelbart is most famous for inventing the mouse, but his legacy lies with his conceptual framework that foreshadowed the shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. He is considered by many to be one of the 20th century’s greatest visionaries. He was the first to demonstrate that computers could be used for collaborative work by knowledge workers (a term he used in the 1960s that was popularized by Peter Drucker in the 1980s). Engelbart’s model was developed in response to Einstein’s admonition, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” He designed it for scientists, engineers, historians and others to solve complex problems through new ways of integrating and portraying vast knowledge.

Over the past 50 years, he has maintained that the mindset of the linear book, the alphabet, and even Web page no longer suffice for serious intellectual pursuits in a global context. He calls for new ways of communicating: new symbols, new ways of structuring arguments, facts, and evidence toward an evolutionary step in tapping into our perceptual capabilities to raise the Collective IQ (another term of Engelbart’s from the 1960′s that caught on decades later). He defines a descriptive rather than prescriptive model to move beyond Web 2.0 so we can more effectively find the information we need to deal with globalization, from curing disease to creating sustainable large-scale development models.

Engelbart has always been far ahead of his time. Imagine reading his works in 1962 (when room-sized computers, with disks the size of tractor tires, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars), the year he described portable electronic devices connected together, enabling people to look up information on any subject: from identifying the botanical names of garden plants to renewable energy sources. Even the most elementary artifact, the mouse, that even a preschooler can maneuver, took more than 20 years between invention and mass dissemination.

During the boom at the dawn of the 21st century, bits and pieces of his framework emerged in interesting and unintended ways. Blogs, wikis, hypermedia, and networked communities of practice using dynamic knowledge repositories, such as the Center for Disease Control website and search engines (Google), proliferated. But the haphazard, market-driven paradigm lacks a few key ingredients. As we approach the 40-year anniversary of Engelbart’s 1968 demo, we still have not reached what fellow computer visionary Alan Kay described as Engelbart’s “promised land.”

“Inventing the Future” explains the part of Engelbart’s vision that has not yet reached the mainstream: His Augmentation System Model and how to effectively lead teams to create and use new tools and recursive methodologies to intentionally evolve our Collective IQ. His vision moves us to a new paradigm of thinking that requires questioning all of our assumptions and developing new language and symbols to explore beyond those assumptions.

This book is the summary of years of recorded dialogues between Engelbart, his co-authors and leading Engelbart scholars. It has two parts:

1. “The Vision for Raising Collective IQ” is an exploration of the key aspects of Engelbart’s Augmentation System Model for co-evolution of humans and computers toward global problem solving.
2. “A Brief History of the Future” is an overview of Engelbart’s life, inventions, philosophical epiphanies, and interactions with other technology leaders, with these events placed in historical context.

Readers of this book will come to understand a remarkable man, the way his ideas changed the world, and his model of how all of us can play a role in inventing the future.


Valerie Landau & Eileen Clegg