Home > Uncategorized > Licklider, in “Man-Computer Symbiosis”

Licklider, in “Man-Computer Symbiosis”

Licklider, in “Man-Computer Symbiosis”


Man-computer symbiosis is an expected development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership. The main aims are, 1) to let computers facilitate formulative thinking as they now facilitate the solution of formulated problems, and 2) to enable men and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations without inflexible dependence on predetermined programs. 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. Preliminary analyses indicate that the symbiotic partnership will perform intellectual operations much more effectively than man alone can perform them.”[i]

We have seen this kind of partnership explored to a great degree in the human use of differing computational systems. These systems can be designed to augment high level decision processes. Thus, the production of new machinic tools might extend the role of the computer in terms of knowledge production beyond Lickliders discussion above, into a more autonomous role, where a computer might “suggest” an area of conceptual importance and/or enable the intelligent bridging of research domains given the appropriate data related to the development of ‘boundry objects’ and ‘bridging languages’ and shared core concepts, described above. Turing’s approach outlined the potential of imbuing a machine with intelligent behavior by creating machines that function through the “sensing” of user input, which would then “respond” with appropriate output. One can begin to speculate on the potentials of multimodal sensing and search mechanisms as potentially providing a thought augmentation realm.

[i] Licklider, JRC, “Man-Computer Symbiosis” In: IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, Volume HFE-1, pages 4–11, March 1960

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