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One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Douglas Engelbart shares his thoughts on the networked future

This page contains one of a set of 24 transcripts including remarks made by interview participants at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit at Stanford Research Institute in May 2006. Each person was asked a series of five questions regarding the future; only the most “telling” responses were transferred from the recordings into these transcripts, thus, some of these interviews will include five question-answer sets, some will have four or fewer.

To jump to another interviewee’s set of answers, click on the person’s name below.

Bridget Agabra Randy Farmer Jerry Paffendorf
Betsy Book Guy Garnett Marty Poulin
Corey Bridges Will Harvey Robert Scoble
Iveta Brigis Daniel James John Smart
Jamais Cascio Raph Koster David Smith
Helen Cheng Mike Liebhold Sibley Verbeck
Esther Dyson Julian Lombardi Malcolm Williamson
Doug Engelbart Bob Moore Ethan Zuckerman


  >> Return to Metaverse interviews lead page for links to recordings of these comments

Engelbart Headshot Douglas Engelbart is a winner of the National Medal of Technology and an inspiration for most if not all of today’s technology innovators. Among many achievements, he demonstrated the first computer mouse and the first use of a cathode-ray tube to display computer text and graphics, but his biggest contributions, through his Bootstrap Institute and associated efforts, come in his effort to inspire society to use innovation to tackle complex problems in ethical ways.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? I have a concept I call the dynamic knowledge repository that’s both a technology thing – how you hold it and all the tools it has to work on it. But it is also all of the conventions and processes and skills it takes to gather all the information that’s available on a given complex-knowledge problem, and then integrate it such that if there are any inconsistencies, they’re very clear to people, if there are issues that are unresolved, that’s clear to people, if an issue has been resolved, it’s clear where it is and what new knowledge is there, and there’d be something too that has a lot of facilitation for people to learn from it. It’s not assuming that you can sit there and get taught. It’s assuming that there are new skills that you can develop for going after your own understanding better. There’s a lot of technology and new skills and processes and conventions involved, but going after that, which I call the dynamic knowledge repository, is a very very key focus and very important.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? Well, look out! How would you tell a non-technical person 100 years ago about what automobiles were going to do? …You’d describe the vehicle, “It’s just like this…” but for almost anybody, whether they were technical or not, by the time you got to telling them about how everybody has a car, the garages they have, the way driveway and home are, oh, the streets, the parking regulations, the control, stoplights, all of the conventions, you come to a four-way street and four people are there like this and there’s a procedure you follow about who gets to take the next turn, and you watch everybody automatically doing it. They’d look at you and couldn’t imagine a world like that. All those things are going to go up in the way in which we deal with these new technologies, too.

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