J.C.R. Licklider: Man-Computer Symbiosis
J. C. R. Licklider in this article presents the concept of man-computer symbiosis, as well as problems of interaction between men and computing machines which he feels should be addressed for the symbiosis to be accomplishable.
Symbiosis is defined as the “living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms”. Based on that definition we can see man-computer symbiosis as a subclass of man-machine systems, where the mechanical parts are not just extensions of man but cooperators. Licklider argues that when viewed as extensions, the machines are there to help the human body perform an action, but this has given way to automation, and in this case the men are there more to help than to be helped.
The main aims of man-computer symbiosis are described as letting computers facilitate formulative thinking as they now facilitate the solution of formulated problems, and also enabling men and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations in “real time”. In the anticipated symbiotic partnership, men will set the goals, formulate the hypotheses, determine the criteria, and perform the evaluations. The information-processing equipment, for its part, will carry out the clerical operations in order to convert hypotheses into testable models and then test these models. In addition, the computer will make elementary evaluations of suggested courses of action, and also as much diagnosis, pattern-matching, and relevance-recognizing as it profitably can.
Finally, Licklider discusses some pre-requirements for the effective cooperative association between men and machines to be achieved. These include developments in computer time sharing, in memory components, in memory organization, in programming languages, and in input and output equipment.
Taking into consideration that this article was writen in the sixties, how do we see man-computer symbiosis now? Has it been achieved in the sense Licklider envisioned it or have we found a different way to interact with technology?Additionally, how can we relate the ideas about the body we discussed in a previous class to how he sees humans in relation to machines?