Draft: Extended Abstract for paper: Conference on Cognitive Technology, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, August 24-27, 1995.

CTTT: Cognitive Tools, Techniques, Training, & Technology

Dr. Laurence J. Victor
Pima College, Downtown Campus
1255 North Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85709-3030 USA
(602) 883-4407 (voice, msg)

Crews of highly developed cognitive beings, augmented in their collaboration by well designed technological systems are, by far, the most powerful force for change in the known universe. The future survival/thrival of humanity depends on our ability to create such crews, far more functional than our contemporary best. We have the necessary potential; but there are many barriers to be overcome and new perspectives and paradigms to be acquired, before this can be achieved.

Two decades ago, after reading Donald Michael's On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn, and after years of experience with various social change movements, I came to the disturbing conclusion that the reform of large, complex, dysfunctional social systems is impossible. The counter-synergistic effect of the problem/solution paradigm for very large and complex systems, as outlined in the Club of Rome's concept of a Global Problemateque, argues further against the possibility of fundamental reform. Since that time I have been designing models whereby collaborating humans augmented by technological systems could facilitate the emergence of a new global, nested hierarchical, social system, without requiring transformation of existing social systems. The models are quite complex and difficult to summarize in terms of contemporary paradigms (as they require an interactive system of paradigm shifts). The model suggests that once a threshold of new organization is achieved [analogous to the formation of a newly fertilized egg, capable of self-organization and subsequent embryonic development - roughly a community of 100-300 individuals augmented (a la Doug Englebart) in their collaboration (a la Michael Schrage) by contemporary technology] the organistic bootstrapping emergence of a sustainable global organization for humanity would take only a few decades. The model avoids confrontation with established orders, and can be immediately enjoyable and rewarding for those who participate. The seeming impossibility of this claim is countered by the awesome potential of Cognitive Technology. Raw technology, single-minded tool creation for transformation, lacks this potential.

I find useful the analysis of "technology" into four interactive categories: tools, techniques, training and technology. Tools are structures, capable of being used, transported, and duplicated; tools include both hardware and software. "Text" (symbolic structures) can be tools. Techniques include the tacit knowhow of cognitive beings in the use and design of tools and interactions with each other facilitated by the tools. Some tools (instructions) can be used to guide the use of other tools. Techniques are gained through training, which can also be guided by educational tools and techniques. Technology is the complex socio-psychological process whereby tools, techniques and training evolve and emerge. Contemporary technology, at its best, is heavily weighted to the design and manufacture of tools, with much less emphasis on the systematic development of advanced techniques and training. In addition, the technological imperative is limited to the transformation of systems, with little to no attention given to augmenting the creative emergence of new systems. The developing human mind/brain must become the primary subsystem in CT, augmented in collaboration by computer technology.

Contemporary technology produces new tools faster than we can learn to use them wisely, and many of them are not tailored for the applications we need, in augmenting collaboration. I have experimented with various forms of computer technology in an attempt to organize a community (of crews) capable of bootstrapping the emergence of new tools, techniques and training. Unfortunately, funds for state-of-the-art tools are only available if one proposes to transform systems; contemporary institutions won't fund work to replace them. This lack of adequate tools has, fortunately, led me to concentrate on the human side of technology, training for techniques. Procedures and protocols for tool use and training are critical structures to create. In particular, we must go beyond communication in attempting to share large, complex missions that require new perspectives and paradigms. I am designing a number of linked R&D projects for developing tools and techniques to augment collaboration, including some parameters of the tools needed. I will briefly outline some of these projects.



Transformation implies gradual, incremental, operations performed on an initial form, leading to a new, transformed final form. Contemporary science is the study of transformations. Healing, fixing, maintaining, reforming are examples of transformation. I propose that the contemporary form of human organization is incapable of fundamental self-transformation to a more viable and sustainable holarchy of systems. But, transformation doesn't exhaust the modes of change. Creative emergence occurs when a new form comes into being from self-organization in a pre-existing substrate, but which is not the transformation of a prior form. We have yet to create a science of emergence, of origins. Instead, we attempt to reduce all creative emergence to transformation, and ignore, to our peril, the "miracle" of creative emergence.

Things are "new", when they are different from what has preceded them. The "new" is usually described in reference to past forms, transformed. I propose a new term, "nu" when the novel form in the present is described primarily in terms of its potential, what it may yet become.

I believe that the perspectives of "new" and "nu" form an essential cognitive complementarity. That when we are naturally drawn to fix and heal that which is familiar, we are excluded from consideration of creating anu. If, we are to create a nu social organization (personal to planetary) we must create working environments that augment collaborative emergent creation. These nu environments, created with cognitive technology, must shield us (temporarily, for extended periods of time) from the ever-present, very human, attraction to heal, fix, or reform. LORD-ET (Learning, Organizing, Researching, Developing "Expeditions-in-Time") will provide a useful metaphor for creating nu-enhancing environments.


The potentials of CT is determined by the distribution of biological potentials and limitations re cognition in the human population. Individual human differences must be seriously incorporated in an design of CT. Cognitive styles (such as field dependence/independence), imagery styles (the author lacks mental imagery in all sensory modes), primary language, etc. are all very important. Biological factors such as biorhythms (diurnal, annual, lifespan) are important; and attention limitations such as Miller's 7+/-2 law. Limitations of expression relative to the faster and more complex processes of thought must be taken into account. However, potentials and limitations are quite sensitive to developmental history; and we should not be too quick to exclude potentials because of contemporary apparant limitations.

In a culture of rapid technological change, what is the minimum autonomous CT unit? I propose it to be a community of crews. The futuristic model of isolated individuals networked by powerful computer systems is insufficient. Time needed to keep up with the technology, for user influence on technology, time required for learning to use new tools and to upgrade skills, time to maintain equipment, etc. are beyond the developable potentials of individual humans, and possibly even small crews. A centralized CT support system may be adequate for social transformations but are not sufficient for self-organizing emergence.


It is proposed that "text" be considered as a fundamental reality. Text, is partly defined, as material structure, capable of cognitive interpretation into meaning. The material domain (of organized matter and energy) is the substrate for text, as well as the substrate (in neuro-molecular patterns) for mind and meanings. Yet, all that we know is embedded in text, which must be elevated in fundamental reality considerations on par with the material and mental, not merely derivative of them. The mind/body issue must be expanded to consider a third contestant: text. All records are text. The empirical base of science is text (patterns in data), and not the external observed world. In addition to having deep epistemological and ontological implications, the "reality of text" has immediate practical application. Human actions are strongly influenced by text: holy books, constitutions and records, histories and news reports, designs, instructions, project management software. Our textual environments are the most significant. Social-political actions can be viewed as efforts of text creation and transformation. Democracy may be viewed as open collaborative text creation and editing. Worldmaking can be viewed as a cyclical scripting/performing process. Creating better tools for augmenting collaborative text manipulation is necessary for human survival. These are the missions for the LORD-ETs.


All relevant social action in NU will be in terms of creative performance to scripts. Scripts are symbolic structures (text) collaboratively designed to guide performance (which includes learning, organizing, researching, and developing). New scripts can be composed according to script composing scripts. Modifications of scripts and ideas for additional scripts are part of the performance. An accessible database of evolving scripts become an analog chromosome system for human social evolution. The distinctions between creating "real" things and designing with simulations will blur. Scripts both facilitate and constrain.


Scripts will be embedded in a larger context, comprised of what I call cywebs. Cywebs are nested hierarchical networks of text (hypertext is the primitive forerunner), that are both interactive and participatory. Interactive implies user choice in navigation of the cyweb. Participatory implies that users contribute to the creation and modification of cywebs. We need CT that augments both, in both synchronous and asynchronous modes. Extensive protocols will be required to make this system REEEE (relevant, effective, efficient, enjoyable, elegant), which implies extensive R&D of training systems. We cannot build REEEE CT and limit the tools to those requiring only quick training for use. We must distinguish between "novice friendly" and "nested levels of user competency". We must bite the education bullet. My experimentation with participatory cywebs has been through using Neil Larson's (MaxThink) software that facilitates the creative side of composition and not the polishing side for commercial production. Primary human activity will shift to composing cywebs (including scripts) and navigating cywebs (including performance to scripts) - the production of material goods and the organization of human activity will follow in course.


A REEEE augmenting system will employ RT/DT (Real-Time / Delayed-Time) Synergy. We must research the balance between working synchronously (RT) and asynchronously (DT) and how the two modes can be best coupled. RT processes must be unobtrusively recorded and processed into the DT system, which should be accessible during RT sessions. Short term DT technology, such as "instant replay" so as to "hypertext" discussions, will augment what occurs RT. Scripts for semi-structured activities will guide RT sessions. Human emotional needs must be seriously considered for both DT and RT systems. "Rituals" must be integrated into human interactivity. A major emphasis for CT R&D must be the creation of better RT/DT synergy augmenting systems.


The growth, development, and evolution of new human systems must be organistic and self-organizing, where mechanistic systems can be components or tools. We must guard against overly restrictive top-down, engineering style design. On the other hand, engineering style design can be employed to create scaffolding for the organistic emergence of new self-organizing human systems. Other metaphors for scaffolding are looms and farms. Scaffolding augments bootstrap emergence, where we can think of the cywebs we create through scripting/performing as the new scaffolding to augment the next cycle of emergence,


Traditional expeditions are self-organizing human systems in space and time, interacting with but not becoming part of their environments. Expeditions-in-Time have a similar relationship with the social and physical environments. Both the organization of the human systems and what they create are important. LORD Expeditions-in-Time attempt to integrate the four factors: Learning (of both individuals and organizations), Organization, Research and Development. LORD-ET enables growing populations of humans to self-organize a better global system without requiring support from or transformation of existing social systems. LORD-ETs may become the nu "institutions" that will integrate the functions of R&D, education, and industry.


The paper will expand upon these, and other supporting, ideas. I will discuss the nature of the first expedition-in-time, whose objective is to create a system to facilitate learning about this complex model/mission. Conventional communication and educational processes are inadequate.

* -- a paper to be presented at the International Society for the Systems Sciences, at Monterery CA, June 14-19, 1994.