title logo
to Next Pageto Home
Engelbart and Bootstrapping: -ABC/NIC/Collective IQ --- English
English page to Japanese page
N. Luhmann,
D. Engelbart
C community and
AB activities for
better social behavior.
Augmenting Human's Capabilities

Doug Engelbart had the view that the information technology needs to be developed to augment, not to replace, human Intellect. It was the reason that he had to invent the mouse for example. Web based system made his concept a reality. This will in turn makes Information system a part of capability along with Human system. This will then enable us to go into the paradigm of Augmenting Human's Capability by Capability Infrastructure to solve our complex issues we face in today's world as Doug Engelbart envisioned from the outset of his business carrier.

A quote from 'Bootstrapping' by Thierry Bardini Stanford University Press;

The Whorfian hypothesis states that "the world view of a culture is limited by the structure of the language which this culture uses." But there seems to be another factor to consider in the evolution of language and human reasoning ability. We offer the following hypothesis, which is related to the Whorfaian hypothesis: Both the language used by a culture, and the capability for effective intellectual activity, are directly affected during the evolution by the means by which individuals control the external manipulation of symbols.(Engelbart 1962,24)

In his extension of the Whorf Hypothesis, Engelbart postulates a dialectical relationship between the two sub levels of natural language, a relationship in which the symbolic representation of concepts can affect the way these concepts structure the world. It is not simply the case that language structures our world in a given way, without our having any influence on the matter. The computerized display of new symbols should therefore allow us to affect the way we conceptualize our world.
The computer thus could become an open medium that could be used to "make sense of the world," to map the structure of the world as information flows in order to manage their increasing complexity.

In order to use his model for a particular segment, we feel that the interpreting D Engelbart's model to fit into the local situation.

First, we need to interpret what he meant by IT to augmenting human Intellect. Fig1 is our model for this purpose. I hope it to be self explanatory.


Douglas Engelbart's ABC model, NIC and Bootstrapping

D Engelbart names what we do everyday as A activity. We also do activities to improve A activity. He calls it B activity. TQC is an example of B activity. Then he claims that there should be a category of activities that improves the B activity. He calls it C activity. He claims that since the C activity is a pure brain activity, we should be able to do it effectively in a networked communication among people who share the same interest. He also claims that this networked community results in a collective IQ which enhances the individual IQ of each members.

The concept of the C level activity has been difficult for us. Even now we do not clearly understand what exactly D Engelbart has in mind, but after being introduced to his idea, it gradually grew in our minds and now we come to interpret his ABC model to the context of Japanese business and community culture context. Let me explain;

C level activities usually are embedded in the AB-activities and often indistinguishable from the systems of production themselves. The importance of Engelbart's model is that it separates this C level activity as an independent activity in order to give an organization a constant attention on the ability to improve its ability to improve. Thus the D Engelbart's model structures organizationfs activities in three categories: A, B, and C;

C : Systems of Improving 'Systems of Improving Production Systems'
B : Systems of Improving Production Systems
A : Systems of Production

We feel that defining the self-improvement capability of ABC model as coming from human system as N Ragouzis has interpreted in his thesis , not from the mechanical system, will make the model directly applicable to CoDIAK (Concurrently Developing, Integrating, and Applying Knowledge) practicing of an organization. So let us redefine the C level as;

C :  Systems of improving human systems encompassing AB

C-activity at its core constructs a framework for the AB-activities. Let's call this 'Framework for Production'. C-activities are activities of thought process constructed in one's mind. This Framework for Production is propagated to AB-activities. The more distinct this trait, the more successful the system is in gaining and cultivating the ability to improve.

In the daily work whether we realize it or not, we have a framework of thought that explains why we do the work we are doing. If you are a conscientious worker, you do your work because it will add value to the society along with contribution to the company's bottom line. You produce cars because you believe car is good for the society. This belief or framework of thought is nothing more than an assumption we make, but in the past, we have used it without deep consideration and treated it as if it is a given truth. In the mean time, the world is becoming much more complex that the assumption we believed right in the past may not be right in our future; Keep making cars as we did in the past could lead to a serious environmental problems. Let's call this framework of thought that explains why we are doing what we are doing as Super Framework. Then the framework of thought for our production is supported by Super Framework which is a result of our observation of the environment surrounding the Framework of Production. We agree with D Engelbart that we now live in an era where we need to be checking this Super Framework through the conscientious and intellectual observation of the environment as a separate process from the production. This task is the core of C level activity and it can be done effectively by a Networked Improvement Community (NIC).

Fig2 is our attempt to visualize the structure of this process as a human system model. We believe that the same system model is recursively applied at all levels of organization's human activities as will be explained later.


The ABC activities propagate and evolves. Today's B-Activity becomes, tomorrow, integrated into A-Activities. The current C-Activities will migrate into the AB-activities and become indistinguishable from the systems of production themselves, but C activities remains as distinguished activity keeping an organization CoDIAK practicing and self-improving.

Recursive nature of the human system:

The ABC-Activities are self-similar and recursive at all scales, and self-propagating. Each A-, B-, and C-Activity has itfs own ABCs. All the C activities at all the scales have to be synchronized in real time. This work is the Human System we defined earlier making an organization CoDIAK practicing and self-improving. In other aspect, activities in an organization take place in a Super Functional group » your Functional group » Sub Functional group structure. So any functional group in an organization has an ABC activities in theory defining Super Framework, Framework for Production and AB activities as a subset of the organization's total ABC- activity.

Fig3 is borrowed from N Ragouzis's thesis of 'Positioning the Bootstrap Alliance' and some elements added. Also this is an interpretation of D Engelbart's model.

Self-Improvement Cycle and Educational Process:

Once the human system is installed in an organization, the followings are expected to happen;

(1) Constantly monitoring the environment and adopting the change into the Super Framework
(2) Propagate the change in the Super Framework into Framework for Production
(3) Propagate the change in the Framework for Production into AB-activities
(4) Feed back from AB to C

The (1)-(4)-(1) cycle forms a self-improvement cycle. We also feel appropriate to regard (2) and (3) process as as an educational process and believe that IT tools like OHS works effectively.

Engelbart's ABC model to augment N Luhmann's Social SystemG

N Luhmann defines a system as a systematic existence making internal decisions independently from its environment. In our Engelbart's ABC model (Fig2), the triangle that surrounds AB-activities is a system in Luhmann's sense. It makes its own decisions for its production (AB). The 'Independent decision' does not mean to ignore system's environment. On the contrary, the system can not exist without bringing in the environmental changes into the decisions. The 'Independent decision' means 'Decisions that the system takes at its own risks'. The C process of Engelbart's model enables the production system AB to take in the changes in the environment for its own decisions. Thus Engelbart's model can be interpreted as augment the Luhmann's Social System Model.

Bootstrap ;

A corporation exists in the market because it has social value. Thus this framework for production in business must be supported by a super framework that has social values. This will results as the interests conscientious people will share beyond the interests in the framework of an organization he or she is in. If those people form a NIC and discuss how we can improve our social value, that will develop into collective IQ and enable us to drive our world in a better place to live. This is D Engelbart's bootstrapping concept.


The thesis, Positioning the Bootstrap Alliance;
of N Ragouzis had a great influence on our model in interpreting D Engelbart's model. Not only the idea of human system came from his paper, but also I have borrowed many wordings he used in the paper.