Nugget #2 Man-Computer Symbiosis Revision

“The fig tree is pollinated only by the insect Blastophaga grossorun. The larva of the insect lives in the ovary of the fig tree, and there it gets its food. The tree and the insect are thus heavily interdependent: the tree cannot reproduce wit bout the insect; the insect cannot eat wit bout the tree; together, they constitute not only a viable but a productive and thriving partnership. This cooperative “living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms” is called symbiosis [27].

“Man-computer symbiosis is a subclass of man-machine systems. There are many man-machine systems. At present, however, there are no man-computer symbioses. The purposes of this paper are to present the concept and, hopefully, to foster the development of man-computer symbiosis by analyzing some problems of interaction between men and computing machines, calling attention to applicable principles of man-machine engineering, and pointing out a few questions to which research answers are needed. The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.”

Truthfully, the mechanics of this article often lost me or made me get lost in an imaginary world where people can actually function megazords from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. However, I think the implications of the first two paragraphs are bigger than most people who read them will consider.

Symbiosis is a fact of life. There are many documented cases of it through the animal kingdom. There is the Egyptian Plover, a bird who’s symbiotic partner in crime is the crocodile. Crocodiles, by the nature of ripping animals to shreds and swallowing  them in huge chunks if not whole, leave a lot of food in their teeth. I imagine it’s quite similar to trying to eat a chicken breast, because I often need to floss pieces of chicken out my mouth afterwards. The Plover is the floss, or toothpick for a crocodile. By picking out the chunks of meat between the crocodiles teeth, it completes it’s diet. The crocodile benefits from the house call dentist, because it keeps the croc’s teeth health and infection free.

Hmm…i think you might have some cavities bud.

Another case is the Pistol Shrimp and the Goby Fish. Pistol Shrimp are pretty much blind, and live in burrows in rocks and sand underwater. Inevitably it has to come out to push the sand, but because it is blind, it is defenseless. That’s where the Goby Fish comes into play. The Goby Fish will block off the burrow and protect the Pistol Shrimp, essentially working as the shrimps eyes. In exchange the Pistol shrimp lets the Goby Fish eat the food it finds while burrowing, allows the fish to store it’s eggs in the burrow, and picks parasites off the fish.

The Pistol Shrimp is holding on to his buddy the Goby Fish, while the fish protects it.

I am even willing to argue that human and pet relationships are symbiotic in nature. A dog gets fed, cleaned, walked, shelter, and a playmate in exchange for being a companion for the human. Most dog owners think of their pets like members of their families, or even their non human babies/kids. In all the above cases, the relationship is mutually beneficial. There is also one big difference when comparing it to Licklider’s article.


They are all living creatures! I do not believe there can be symbiosis between man and computer simply because a computer is a machine. There can be little benefit to a machine because a machine  is an inanimate object. Sure keeping your computer free of viruses is taking care of it, but we are more affected by the computer having malware, adware, spyware, or viruses. We suffer because the computer can’t perform the operations we want it to, or we lose valuable information because the spyware records our keystrokes. For man-computer symbiosis to even be a thing, we would need artificial intelligence that simulates human feeling as well, and if we reach that point, well…

We are the superior beings!

Don’t turn around…

Save us Will Smith!! We need you!

On berniers blog ( ) she speaks of her concern of the advancement of technology to the point that they realize they are better than us. This fear is plausible, and I think we are right to wonder. This belief goes back as far as Isaac Asimov’s The Reason from 1941, which is probably better known from it’s inclusion in a collection of short stories aptly named I, Robot.

Vast and Brilliant blog ( ) highlights how oblivious the world is to how much we use technology. I often say the millennial suffer from a lack of critical thinking skills and common sense caused by letting computers do everything from them.

Khoorivcu ( ) makes the point that we need technology in today’s society. I wouldn’t say we need technology as much as it’s cheaper and quicker. The implications however are that we humans are losing jobs to technology and it is making us less patient. Older people love to refer to younger generations as the instant gratification age and it’s true. Technology could kill us through laziness before anything else.

eshunk ( ) and I essentially agree that the idea of symbiosis with technology could lead to a very negative area but his immediate thought of cyborg was a great example of man-computer symbiosis done in a good way.

Morgan Thinking Things ( and I agree on one major point. We are NOT ready to be assimilated.

6 thoughts on “Nugget #2 Man-Computer Symbiosis Revision”

  1. Your presentation of material and linking to other classmates’ blog truly pushes the idea that the our relationship with computer cannot be symbiotic. However, can they be commensalist?
    Truly, computers are not sentient beings, and as you mentioned, artificial intelligence may be the closest to a symbiotic relationship we get to computers.

  2. “Technology could kill us through laziness before anything else.” Such a scary yet true thought. We would we be creating incredible technology while allowing for ourselves to do less. Super-computers becoming sentient beings, highly emotive cyborgs.. scary. Imagine a love obsessed cyborg stalker leaving perfectly paper mache flowers for you on your pillow. After then scaling the closest tree to your bedroom window with ease to watch you sleep, he decided to come a little closer. He walked up to your backdoor and electronically hacks your alarm system and lets himself right in. Creepy.
    Through your comments of other’s blogs, I see that some of us are coming to the similar conclusions: potential danger and a need to properly develop our relationship between the human brain and computer prior to any assimilation.

  3. Its so funny that almahmouda pointed out that we could be possibly having a commensalist relationship with computers. When I was writing my first nugget for this assignment, I had decided to take this approach but then I had changed my mind. However there’s some agreement to that approach, are computers really harming us or are they benefiting us?

  4. I was very interested in the first half of your blog, comparing technology and human symbiosis with nature symbiosis is very clarify and eye opening. I think the term symbiosis has no become synonymous with technology that we don’t ever realize it exists in nature anymore. You post brings us back to nature and allows us to appreciate that connection and become more attuned with the nature connections.

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