RIP Doug Engelbart

by Dr_Manhattan1 min read3rd Jul 201315 comments


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Found on Hacker News: Some insightful comments from Bret Victor.

A few extracts:

Douglas C. Engelbart, Inventor of the Computer Mouse, Dies at 88

This is as if you found the person who invented writing, and credited them for inventing the pencil. (This analogy may be more apt than any of us are comfortable with.)


Engelbart had an intent, a goal, a mission. He stated it clearly and in depth. He intended to augment human intellect.


The least important question you can ask about Engelbart is, "What did he build?"

Every time I hear "Rest in Peace" my mind corrects with "...except not resting or at peace". Does anyone have a secular, naturalistic world view analogue? Like "whom we should remember with honor", but catchy.

One of Eliezer's stories ( uses the formula "Is dead but not forgotten." It's not bad even if I personally would prefer "gone but not forgotten".

[-][anonymous]8y 5

"gone" euphemizes death.

'Dead' has a less pleasing sound than 'gone', which fits better in the phrase rhythmically: 'gone' flows into 'but not forgotten', while 'dead' requires more of an abrupt full caesura to deal with the 'tuh' sound at the end.

I happen to like the even more euphemistic sentence I've read often in psychology blog: "Mr. X has left the building". However, if we want to have a naturalistic formula, I would use something on the line of "He is dead but will be remembered", or, if we want an acronym, DBR: dead but remembered.

He has entered the Off-State.

Which I prefer over superstitions about ordering dead people to "rest in peace," because brain preservationists want to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state.

Seriously, think about the traditional expression. We use the imperative tense of the verb "to rest," and it sounds like a spell one of our shamanistic ancestors came up with to keep ghosts from bothering the living.

We use the imperative tense of the verb "to rest," and it sounds like a spell one of our shamanistic ancestors came up with to keep ghosts from bothering the living.

Not so. Neither the expression "rest in peace" nor the longer version "may s/he rest in peace" contains any imperative verbs. (Also, the imperative is a mood, not a tense.)

  1. In the full expression, the mood is optative, not imperative. That should be clear from the examples at this link. It does not express a command; it expresses a wish.

  2. English doesn't actually inflect for the optative mood; instead, optative meaning is expressed by verbs that are morphologically indistinguishable from the subjunctive or indicative verbs.

  3. Link: on "mood" actually uses "May he rest in peace" as an example of a sentence using the optative.

  4. As for the shorter "rest in peace," it can be understood either as a truncated version of "may s/he rest in peace," in which case the verb is still optative; or it can be treated as a complete expression. If it's a complete expression then the mood is just subjunctive.

  5. The English expression is a translation of the Latin Requiescat in pace, in which the verb is unambiguously subjunctive.

  6. Link: uses "Rest in peace" as an example of a sentence with a present subjunctive.

His name is misspelled in the title of this post.

thanks, fixed!

For those who, like me, never heard of him before, a Wikipedia summary:

He is best known for his work on the challenges of human–computer interaction, particularly while at his Augmentation Research Center Lab in SRI International, resulting in the invention of the computer mouse, and the development of hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to graphical user interfaces.

This genuinely makes me very, very sad. Especially as I just used my mouse to navigate to this comment box.

My wireless mouse is driving me fucking nuts with it's stuttering randomly across the screen.

You might need a mousepad, your table surface might not be ideal.