I couldn’t help but wonder as I was reading “A Research Center for Augmenting” if Engelbart is truly satisfied with the evolution of his work. In the introduction, the author writes that “computer interfaces should be optimized for expert use.” That is what Engelbart had in mind at least. After watching parts of the Bootstrap Seminar in 1992 and hearing him discuss the futility of training wheels in teaching a child how to ride a bike, I am curious as to how he feels about the highly “user-friendly” Internet we use today. It seems that Engelbart envisioned a system of “creators” rather than “users” which may be evident in the highly complex description of the project. If his goal was to truly to “allow people to work together to solve difficult problems more easily” then he may be slightly disappointed if you ask me. Frankly speaking, a lot of the “problems” discussed online through Yahoo! answers and various search engines are reflections of laziness and a mere continuation of the learning style that we have been proactively criticizing in class and through our blog posts – someone seeking an answer simply types in the question and there is the answer. Next step, skim over the description of how the said answer was reached (if a description is even provided) and just cut to the chase! Then you can prove to your teacher in this graded homework assignment how well you know the material and of course, you will be rewarded with an A, right?
Maybe the Internet, this vastly helpful tool, was only meant for the experts. If you think about it, the Internet is a public good, meaning we can’t eliminate those who will undoubtedly abuse it. As with any public good, overconsumption is likely and then we have a “tragedy of the commons” on our hands.
Although we have “maximized the coverage of our documentation” as discussed in the essay, it seems we have done so to a point of overconsumption, is this whole thing just a means to an end – an end of complex, innovative thought? An end to thinking for ourselves. Not to tie in another economic term, but maybe this user-friendly interface has enabled the “free-rider problem.” Now anyone can reap the benefits of a “free software movement,” not just the experts. It all depends on the probability of abuse.