Christina Englebart: So just for clar­i­fi­ca­tion I’m kind of—I guess I’m rep­re­sent­ing Doug Englebart Institute here, because I’m shar­ing some of what he did and then I have my own ideas, too. 

So in terms of his lead­er­ship, it was sort of two-fold. One of them was that in the ear­ly days as a pio­neer, he was fund­ed by Bob Taylor at ARPA, one of the Hall of Famers, to do research on sort of tools for col­lec­tive thought and col­lec­tive knowl­edge, advanc­ing our col­lec­tive knowl­edge and how peo­ple can work togeth­er on problem-solving. And this was at a time when com­put­ers were thought to be for num­ber crunch­ing and punch­cards, so it was a very advance kind of thing. It was sort of the first sys­tem to real­ly put togeth­er how you’d use it for knowl­edge as opposed to…you know, math or sci­ence or whatever. 

So in that project he was pio­neer­ing hyper­me­dia, col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nolo­gies, video tele­con­fer­enc­ing. He invent­ed the com­put­er mouse and oth­er kinds of user inter­face stuff. So it sort of laid the foun­da­tion for dig­i­tal libraries, online com­mu­ni­ty. So, lay­ing the foun­da­tion for what became per­son­al com­put­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nolo­gies, you know, hyper­me­dia and knowl­edge man­age­ment; all that kind of thing. He real­ly laid the ground­work for that. So the short answer for that part is that he was sort of pio­neer­ing the stuff that added val­ue to the even­tu­al Internet. 

The sec­ond part, though, that he had a direct role in the very—you know, the ground floor of the ARPANET, which was the pre­cur­sor to the Internet. And because he was fund­ed by ARPA under Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor was the one who put togeth­er the plan for doing an ARPANET and con­nect­ing all the com­put­er labs that he was fund­ing. And so he pulled togeth­er his prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tors to tell them Here’s what we’re plan­ning to do, con­nect all your com­put­ers,” and Doug Englebart, my dad, was the first one to sort of step for­ward and step in line and say Sign me up because that’s right in line with my research” and allowed him to extend the col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nol­o­gy aspect of it and have a greater reach for the users of this new technology. 

He was also giv­en the task of, because of his ori­en­ta­tion for knowl­edge man­age­ment and online com­mu­ni­ty and online a dig­i­tal library-type of stuff to set up and run and a net­work infor­ma­tion cen­ter that would help con­nect the ARPANET com­mu­ni­ty. And so because of that, he was then going to be the sec­ond host up on the net­work. And so UCLA was the first one up. They got that work­ing. And then they con­nect­ed my dad’s lab at SRI in Menlo Park, and they made the first trans­mis­sion over the ARPANET. So that’s kind of a key role. And then you know ran the net­work infor­ma­tion cen­ter, and that even­tu­al­ly took on a life of its own with Jake Feinler and all of them. 

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant?

Englebart: So this again is my father and his work because I did­n’t enter the pic­ture until 1978. So, I guess the first key moment was all the col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nol­o­gy, hyper­me­dia, the com­put­er mouse. All that kind of stuff that was by 1967 pret­ty much in full oper­a­tion in his lab. In 1968, his lab staged a demon­stra­tion at a con­fer­ence of the tech­nol­o­gy and what you could do with it. And that became known as the Mother of All Demos. So that was 1968. The Mother All Demos was sort of a key moment in history. 

Then anoth­er one would be that he was the sec­ond host; his lab was the sec­ond host hooked into the ARPANET. So that was pret­ty momen­tous. As he used to say, it’s not a net­work until you add the sec­ond host. Because the first host is just…[laughs] all by itself. So putting his lab on, actu­al­ly then it became the ARPANET

I think there’s a third thing that isn’t high­light­ed very much but it meant a lot in his work and what the future of online com­mu­ni­ties and that kind of thing, is that once the ARPANET was up and run­ning, then he was able to offer his tools on the ARPANET to oth­er orga­ni­za­tions that might want to start tak­ing advan­tage of that kind of thing. And so he got togeth­er a sort of ear­ly user com­mu­ni­ty and they all con­nect­ed online. And that was probably…that was the ear­ly 1970s. So it was prob­a­bly the very first online user com­mu­ni­ty and sort of customer-driven design and innovation. 

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Englebart: I think he’d say part­ly cloudy. And I share that opin­ion. I think that there’s so much poten­tial for the Internet, and already so much that has hap­pened that has you know con­nect­ed us world­wide and advanced our sort of col­lec­tive knowl­edge on so many dif­fer­ent top­ics and areas and you know, the poten­tial for hav­ing an informed pub­lic and you know, that’s all so valu­able. And where it real­ly works is how it was intend­ed to work as an open plat­form. It’s an open Internet and that’s to promote…you know, for uni­ver­sal access. And so that is what makes it so pow­er­ful. If peo­ple are exclud­ed or it’s not open or too much con­trol is put on it then it’s not. When cit­i­zens’ rights are pro­tect­ed on the Internet, then it’s a pow­er­ful tool. 

On the oth­er hand, there is so much poten­tial for…disaster I guess, because when you have instances of not hav­ing an open Internet, there’s not acces­si­bil­i­ty and so there’s too much con­trol, the val­ue of the Internet is way dimin­ished. And you don’t have an informed pub­lic and you don’t have an abil­i­ty to real­ly con­nect around the ideas that are impor­tant to society. 

When you have an informed pub­lic then you can real­ly advance soci­ety. And when you have a misinformed pub­lic, it could be a recipe for dis­as­ter. And that one of the cloudy parts of the Internet is how much misinfor­ma­tion is pro­lif­er­at­ing out there and tak­ing on a life of its own. Some of it is just you know, sort of unin­ten­tion­al. People just blah blah blah on the Internet. But some of it is inten­tion­al. And that can become very insid­i­ous and under­mine society. 

So, I think those are the key things. 

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

Englebart: I think my biggest con­cern is that it sort of bogs down into…you know, a consumer…just a sort of con­sumer deliv­ery mech­a­nism. And there’s so much sort of pas­sive use of the Internet of going and find­ing things that’re pub­lished and buy­ing it, which is…you know, it’s great to have that as a resource. But I think the real hope is that we can— And I think Tim Berners-Lee said this as well, that instead of using it for TV, we should be—you know, just TV—we should also be using it for knowl­edge. That’s where the great­est poten­tial for mankind, I believe, is in using the tools and fash­ion­ing the kinds of tools that we real­ly need for advanc­ing our knowl­edge and our abil­i­ty to solve prob­lems togeth­er, and make a bet­ter world. And so we’ve real­ly only scratched the sur­face of that. And so you know, after all these years, how many years have we had, net­work­ing and the Internet, that we still have only just scratched the sur­face of the great­est poten­tial on the plan­et, which is our col­lec­tive intel­li­gence, our col­lec­tive minds. 

One of the rea­sons that’s hap­pened is because it’s not a mon­ey­mak­er. You know, what’s on there now for the most part is market-driven tools that oh, here’s a nifty idea that we can make mon­ey on, and peo­ple are buy­ing it and all that kind of thing. But I think this is where gov­ern­ments real­ly need to step in and put resources on the order of a grand chal­lenge, real­ly. And that’s where the real poten­tial of the Internet will ben­e­fit human­i­ty in the most pro­found ways. 

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Englebart: I think to start with, my father actu­al­ly iden­ti­fied over the years based on his pro­lif­ic work and expe­ri­ence, and you know we worked on refin­ing this togeth­er, a buck­et list of…sort of key par­a­digm issues in how the tools are designed that we have now, and how that needs to change in order to real­ly sup­port the kind of col­lec­tive knowl­edge work that will ben­e­fit mankind so much. 

So some of the key things if we just picked a few action items, I think one of the most pow­er­ful things is to stop think­ing of the tools you know in terms of the tools that we use for knowl­edge cre­ation and sort infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. We have all these doc­u­ments online and they’re not that much fur­ther advanced than stone tablets in some ways. I mean, you can jump there, you know, it’s up on your screen and you can scroll. But just like a stone tablet you can’t col­lapse it and look at just the head­ings. Well you know, we’re online. We are in a whole new medi­um. It’s not a stone tablet, it’s not a scroll any­more. The tools need to be able to do a lot more. And so I think we need to get away from that par­a­digm of sort of the paper par­a­digm, the book par­a­digm, the pub­lish­ing par­a­digm, and say well there’s knowl­edge in there, and it’s trapped in there until you can access it from any van­tage point and any lev­el of detail that you need to. 

So the poten­tial there that’s been miss­ing is to think of it more as knowl­edge on a page, knowl­edge on a book, instead of what is the knowl­edge in your mind and how are you try­ing to share that and devel­op that. And so you know, for thou­sands of years it was trapped in dif­fer­ent media and now we’re online. And so when… If you think of it this way: When you’re think­ing, your mind works at light­ning speed. I mean lit­er­al­ly. You can just bomb around in your mind and just think all kinds of— It’s just so fast. Any time you need to try to com­mu­ni­cate it, whether it’s speak­ing or writ­ing or any­thing like that, you have to slow way down. There’s no way you can write or speak as fast as you’re think­ing. And so you know, why are we lim­it­ing our­selves still to just lan­guage. We could have you know—let’s look at some whole new ways of cap­tur­ing what’s in our mind and sup­port­ing how we think. Instead of hav­ing us have to slow down to put it into lan­guage or put it on a page and, and then we want to look at some­thing else and go find anoth­er page and sort of scroll through it or search through it. Why can’t I just— I want to see what the head­ings are, I want to— 

So that’s one of the first things to do, is to think— You know, in terms of design to think of these knowl­edge media as more like the mind, that you can bomb around and col­lapse and all that kind of stuff. And so one of the very sim­ple things—should be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly very sim­ple, is to you know, every­where you go to look at knowl­edge, is to be able to just col­lapse your view and just look at the head­ings. I mean, that would be so pow­er­ful. And if you could do that any­where, that would just be so pow­er­ful. It would just— I think it would just ele­vate, instant­ly ele­vate, our effi­cien­cy and effec­tive­ness and the speed at which we can think and find things and make asso­ci­a­tions and all the things that our minds want to do. 

So that’s one thing. And then anoth­er thing is you know, every­thing is… You know, the address­abil­i­ty of things, or the Internet of Things. Everything has an address on the Internet. So you can specif­i­cal­ly link to anything on the Internet. Well, in the doc­u­ment world that can take you to a doc­u­ment, but it can’t take you inside the doc­u­ment unless the author put a pro­vi­sion in there called an anchor. And so you’re kind of stuck with just going to the top of it and then look­ing for the infor­ma­tion that you want. This actu­al­ly is not true, though, in spread­sheets. From the begin­ning spread­sheets offered every piece of infor­ma­tion inside a spread­sheet is unique­ly iden­ti­fi­able and address­able. So you say you know, It’s in cell num­ber A5,” you go right to it. So you can link right into any spe­cif­ic part of a file. We need to be able to do that in all of our knowl­edge. We need to be able to link direct­ly into any spe­cif­ic place that we want to. If I’m brows­ing some­thing, read­ing some­thing, and go oh wow, I need my col­league to see this. I should be able to just click right, there cre­ate a link, and send it to em. And that takes them right there. So, that would be so pow­er­ful and we can’t do it. 

Finally, though, we can do it in— YouTube is offer­ing it actu­al­ly on videos, that you can cre­ate a link to a spe­cif­ic frame. And that’s real­ly pow­er­ful, you know. Oh wow, I need some­body to see this sec­tion of this video. Just boom, they can go right there. And that is so impor­tant. And it’s tak­en so long to have—you know, the pro­vi­sions are already in there, the hooks are already in there. So tech­no­log­i­cal­ly it’s very sim­ple. And it’s more of a political—I don’t know what it is, it’s a human thing of why we haven’t done it and what would be hard about actu­al­ly imple­ment­ing it. 

But I think those are the sort of key things that I would say would give us huge pow­er and get us start­ed in the right direction. 

One oth­er thing is take anoth­er look at this whole thing about apps. Because when you’re look­ing at knowl­edge and work­ing on knowl­edge, it’s not about Am I using Microsoft Word, am I using PowerPoint, am I using you Google Docs or what­ev­er,” it’s about here’s my infor­ma­tion and I’m workin’ on. I’m just workin’ on this and I need cer­tain tools. So, do I have it Evernote, do I have it in—you know, where is it and— You know, this doc­u­men­t’s in here and this doc­u­men­t’s— And it’s just crazy. I’m using this doc­u­ment and I need tools to work on it. And so I could should be able to pick what­ev­er tools I want to work on it in the giv­en moment, and not have it attached to one appli­ca­tion. That’s crazy. That is such…it’s a pro­duc­tiv­i­ty drain in our sys­tem. And espe­cial­ly now that there’s so much vari­ety that’s offered. You’re using this sys­tem, I’m using that sys­tem. We get on and it’s like okay well, this is here and this is—you know. It’s crazy. It’s like, this is the infor­ma­tion. It’s all about— It’s knowledge-centric. It’s not application-centric. And that’s what we real­ly need to be think­ing in that direction.