Nugget #2: Man-Computer Symbiosis (EDITED with links)

“It is often said that programming for a computing machine forces one to think clearly, that it disciplines the thought process. If the user can think his problem through in advance, symbiotic association with a computing machine is not necessary” (Licklider).

This snippet stood out to me while reading because it brought to mind how nowadays it seems using a computing devices decreases the amount of thinking we do today. Licklider is talking about programming computers, which I understand how it would force you to think ahead (and granted, this was written in 1960, I’m almost certain using computing machines back then was a bit more hands on then they are now), but I’m going to briefly explore Licklider’s concept of man-computer symbiosis in relation to the amount of thinking using a computer back then vs. now.
I’m sure Licklider was assuming that the more thinking our computers could do, the more thinking we would do alongside it. That’s a more balanced symbiosis. Today our computers know more than we do, and by that I mean that we don’t understand what the information we give our computers does or how computers come up with answers. Which may not be a real problem, but a lack of understanding on our side I think takes away from Licklider’s idea of the symbiosis. Should the computers know more than we do; but isn’t that giving them more power? Can a symbiosis between us and computers really work?Office Space



Danielle Gailey has pointed out in her nugget that no matter how much computers can do more than us, we are still required to put in effort and research to feed the computers in order for them to give feedback; which shines a hopeful light on my negative view of computers knowing too much more than we do. She also argues that there isn’t such a thing as a symbiotic relationship between people and computers due to machines not being organic (going by the strict definition of symbiotic relationships). I took the term more as a loose definition of people and computers working together rather than living off of each other. We give computers input, the computers process the information and gives us what we need to know; which is one point this author makes in their nugget.
The author talks about most science fictions and their use of robots and computers being smarter than humans and giving the example of I, Robot and the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In both the movie and novel, robots and androids are supposed to be assistance to humans, but they become smart and aware enough to turn against them. Humans and robots/androids tried working together, but in the end there is a lack of trust and real understanding for a “symbiotic” relationship to really work. In the end, they try to outsmart each other.
In Mahsa Taleb’s nugget, she coincides with Licklider’s approach to researching man-computer symbiosis of spending more time preparing and researching than making actual conclusions. While she didn’t flesh out the topic to the fullest she could, her point of being prepared and thinking through the project goes along with my earlier point of thinking through. The two Licklider quotes we’ve chosen almost prove to himself that a man-computer symbiosis isn’t necessary if he can think his problem through, even if it takes more time.

3 thoughts on “Nugget #2: Man-Computer Symbiosis (EDITED with links)”

  1. You ask some valid questions at the end. This made me think of an image with a quote my friend posted on Facebook the other day actually.

    “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” -Albert Einstein

    Now, of course it’s posted with a picture with a bunch of people on the cell phones. But what I think Einstein is referring to is the day that humans rely completely on computers for problem solving rather than keeping some of the human element involved. Slightly off topic, but your nugget made me think of this.

  2. I agree with the fact that computers today know more and retain more information than the human mind does there fore we rely on them heavily, therefore reducing the amount of thinking we do. But I believe that man-computer symbiosis was to be achieved, then it will cause us to think more in order to use the man-computer product. So I believe that man-computer symbiosis will be more beneficial to the human mind than just the computer alone.

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