In a sense, I spent many years practicing Engelbart without a license. In the 1990s, I began The Harvey Project to create and disseminate effective physiology curriculum and pedagogy among physiology teachers—using online tools and a networked community of practice. Later, I realized these were part of Engelbart’s philosophy.

One Engelbart insight that proved to be a powerful revelation to me: “It’s possible to be effective and reflective at the same time.” As chief cook and bottle-washer for a small web-based collaborative repository and networked community, I saw the need for continual improvement of the process of collaborative work, as well as the improvement of the online tools. Community members began to co-evolve the rules as the technology changed, and the tools had to evolve as community members changed their practices. Eventually, it evolved as a collaborative platform where people could edit their own pages, participate in discussions and work on interactive media applications collaboratively.

Currently, I am curator for The Tech Museum in San José, which is sponsoring the Program for the Future together with the MIT Museum in Cambridge. The Program for the Future is a collaborative challenge inspired by Engelbart’s vision of using technology to improve our collective intelligence for the betterment of humanity. The goals of this conference, design challenge, and exhibition are to:

• identify new tools that can improve collective intelligence, and thereby:

• improve the quality of important decisions,

• solve pressing global problems and

• inspire others to do the same.

People often ask me: What is a collective intelligence tool? Intelligence is defined by the capability to create an accurate picture of a situation or problem in order to find an effective solution. It includes abilities to:

• gather information

• create a mental model

• and draw inferences from the model.


Collective Intelligence: the whole group arrives at a more intelligent outcome than any part could.

Collective Intelligence Tool

A collective intelligence tool (in the broadest sense: hardware, software, process, methods or system) to augment collective intelligence; leading to solving important problems, making better decisions and planning more effectively.


The Program for the Future Design Challenge is a search for the Engelbarts of the 21st century. We are looking to future generations and are especially excited about involving young people whose ideas may go well beyond anything we can imagine now. We invite everyone to join in the grand challenge.12


Robert Stephenson is a neuroscientist, e-learning designer and architect of virtual open source and open content collaborations He is a curator at The Tech Museum in San Jose, California and is a member of Program for the Future core team. He holds an A.B. in physics from Princeton University, M.S. in physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.


12Join the Program for the Future Challenge http://thetechvirtual.org/projects/program-for-the-future/ What sort of projects might result from the design challenge? Existing projects can provide an idea:


An asynchronous environment for civic groups to meet, discuss, and come to decisions. http://www.groupspace.org

MIT Deliberatorium:   A forum for structured argumentation where amateurs and experts can pose questions or contribute and rate ideas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2w2WBCn7ug

Institute for the Future: Superstruct: An interactive, multiplayer, future scenario-building game. http://www.iftf.org/node/2098 http://www.superstructgame.org

Innocentive: A market for solutions that matches problems with problem solvers.   http://www.innocentive.com/

Condorcet Voting Method: a strategy for choosing the most satisfactory candidate in instant-runoff voting (proposed 225 years too soon for tchallenge).  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcetmethod

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