The Center for

Augmented Cognition


Augmented cognition is about making tools for thinking. It is not about designing tools that humans can use, but about extending humanity's abilities through software, hardware or conceptual tools. We focus mainly on software here, curating a collection of links and resources. Email Sam Gerstenzang with any suggestions.

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders...And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

Steve Jobs

The canon

  • As We May Think by Vannevar Bush. “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, 'memex' will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”
  • Man-Computer Symbiosis by J.C.R Licklider. “In the anticipated symbiotic partnership, men will set the goals, formulate the hypotheses, determine the criteria, and perform the evaluations. Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking.”
  • Augmenting Human Intellect: A conceptual framework by Douglas Engelbart. “By 'augmenting human intellect' we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble.”

More reading

  • Douglas Engelbart’s Unfinished Revolution by Howard Rheingold.
  • Tools for Thought [book] by Howard Rheingold.
  • Where Good Ideas Come From [book] by Steven Johnson.
  • What Technology Wants [book] by Kevin Kelly.
  • The infrastructure of civilization, or the software layer of our humanity by Sam Gerstenzang.
  • As We May Type by Paul Ford.
  • Alan Kay's wikipedia page, by Wikipedia editors.
  • Transhumanism, by Wikipedia editors.
  • A few words on Doug Engelbart, The Future of Programming and A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design by Bret Victor.
  • The Timeless Way of Building [book] by Christopher Alexander
  • Colophon

    Many thanks to Abi Raja, Claire Sabel and others who have contributed links to this project. Email Sam Gerstenzang to submit other links.

    Ongoing interesting projects

    • MIT Center for Collective Intelligence “How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?”
    • Quantified Self. ”Self knowledge through numbers.”
    • Michael Bernstein's work at Stanford, designing crowd-powered systems and social computing enviroments.
    • Anki. Intelligent flash cards.
    • Wikipedia. “Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopedia”
    • Spreeder. Speed reading technique, although you lose important formatting context.
    • ZigZagTed Nelson's information instructure
    • The Commonplace Book. Attempts by John Locke and others to organize knowledge.
    • Contemplative Computing. "Learning to use information technologies in ways that help you be more focused and mindful, and protect you from being perpetually distracted."