Post-Brexit Britain should be considering the intersection of 1) ARPA/PARC-style science research and ‘systems management’ for managing complex projects with 2) the reform of government institutions so that high performance teams — with different education/training (‘Tetlock processes’) and tools (including data science and visualisations of interactive models of complex systems) — can make ‘better decisions in a complex world’.
This paper examines the ARPA/PARC vision for computing and the nature of the two organisations. In the 1960s visionaries such as Joseph Licklider, Robert Taylor and Doug Engelbart developed a vision of networked interactive computing that provided the foundation not just for new technologies but for whole new industries. Licklider, Sutherland, Taylor et al provided a model (ARPA) for how science funding can work. Taylor provided a model (PARC) of how to manage a team of extremely talented people who turned a profound vision into reality. The original motivation for the vision of networked interactive computing was to help humans make good decisions in a complex world.
This story suggests ideas about how to make big improvements in the world with very few resources if they are structured right. From a British perspective it also suggests ideas about what post-Brexit Britain should do to help itself and the world and how it might be possible to force some sort of ‘phase transition’ on the rotten Westminster/Whitehall system.
For the PDF of the paper click HERE. Please correct errors with page numbers below. I will update it after feedback.
The Dream Machine.
Dealers of Lightning.
- Man-Computer Symbiosis, Licklider (1960)
- The computer as a communications device, Licklider & Taylor (1968)
HERE for Kay quotes from emails with Bret Victor.
HERE for Kay’s paper on PARC, The Power of the Context.
Kay’s Early History of Smalltalk.
HERE for a conversation between Kay and Engelbart.
Alan Kay’s tribute to Ted Nelson at “Intertwingled” Fest (an Alto using Smalltalk).
AI nationalism, essay by Ian Hogarth. This concerns implications of AI for geopolitics.
Drones go to work, Chris Anderson (one of the pioneers of commercial drones). This explains the economics of the drone industry.
Meditations on Moloch, Scott Alexander. This is an extremely good essay in general about deep problems with our institutions.
For the issue of IQ, genetics and the distribution of talent (and much much more), cf. Steve Hsu’s brilliant blog.
For some pre-history on computers, cf. The birth of computational thinking (some of the history of computing devices before the Turing/von Neumann revolution) and The crisis of mathematical paradoxes, Gödel, Turing and the basis of computing (some of the history of ideas about mathematical foundations and logic such as the famous papers by Gödel and Turing in the 1930s)
Part II on the emergence of ‘systems management’, how George Mueller used it to put man on the moon, and a checklist of how successful management of complex projects is systematically different to how Whitehall works is HERE.