Semi-automated, not symbiotic (?)

In reflecting on Man-Computer Symbiosis (Licklider, 1960), there is a clear argument that the benefits of computerization of industry, even on a micro-scale, is nothing but logic on steroids. However, that is very powerful and can provide great benefit to man. We have seen this to be so. Automated assembly lines are some of the coolest things I have ever seen. I am desperately drawn to them. Similarly, the computer, built upon logic, allows us to perform a multitude of functions almost magically. I fear that we as a society have become consumers of softwares and reduced our overall ingenuity and creativity. Think about how excited we get when a new iOS is released. Really, these functions,when released, are generally met with “yes, finally, that makes sense.” Well yes, but we have become passive consumers who don’t optimize ourselves because the new releases aren’t out yet. I know I am guilty – I create better graphs as Excel improves (some may argue mine stink anyway). I work within the confines of the programmed logic. That is not for computers or developers to control.


These relationships we have are much more symbiotic now I think than they were ever thought to become. We perform as the computers allow us to and our consumerism dictates new releases. So as Licklider argued that man was a contingent thinker and that computers were more single-minded, I counter that we don’t use computers as tools as much as boundaries or even vectors. We have become equally single minded.


So, what to make of this conjecture? I am in favor of utilizing computers differently, taking more advantage of what they can do and what I need, and I shall operate optimally outside of their constraints. These wonderful devices make things happen. We think, look at shiny objects, react, move around, smell coffee. I would be much more productive in life – both personally and professionally if I could harness the computer to become more symbiotic. I’ll rely upon it, thereby making it a passive consumer my want which I realize is an artificial symbiosis, which will have to suffice, and it will in turn provide me with structure. The structure I need to create through this tool is one which helps me optimize my tasks.


I commit to an experiment. I shall create a punch list of projects and use the computer for scheduling, time lines, record keeping. It won’t think for me but will help semi-automate me. At the end of the day I’ll see how I did. The next day needs to be better. Each day this device provides measurements, calculations, softwares which enable me to more quickly accomplish tasks. I’ll provide the logic. I’ll update you next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *