A Mans World?- Nugget #2

J. C. R. Licklider wrote,

“Throughout the period I examined, in short, my “thinking” time was devoted mainly to activities that were essentially clerical or mechanical: searching, calculating, plotting, transforming, determining the logical or dynamic consequences of a set of assumptions or hypotheses, preparing the way for a decision or an insight. Moreover, my choices of what to attempt and what not to attempt were determined to an embarrassingly great extent by considerations of clerical feasibility, not intellectual capability.

The main suggestion conveyed by the findings just described is that the operations that fill most of the time allegedly devoted to technical thinking are operations that can be performed more effectively by machines than by men. Severe problems are posed by the fact that these operations have to be performed upon diverse variables and in unforeseen and continually changing sequences. If those problems can be solved in such a way as to create a symbiotic relation between a man and a fast information-retrieval and data-processing machine, however, it seems evident that the cooperative interaction would greatly improve the thinking process.”

Licklider argued that if man and machine were to form a mutual symbiosis relationship to decision making, by utilizing man’s flexibility and machine’s speed and accuracy, it would limit said “thinking” time and generate great value to the advancement of society. He believed that man and machine should work together versus machine only being used as an extension of man.

In 2012, Shyam Sankar, an data intelligence agent, discussed his thoughts on Licklider’s human-computer cooperation theory on TED. He agreed that human cooperation is only possible if we do not view machines as replacement of man.

data cooperation

Sankar commented that if man and machine wish to maintain a viable relationship, all friction between the two must be eliminated.

My question is, is this possible? Is Licklider theory of man and machine working together, making decisions harmoniously even remotely practical. Like my peer Jeremy, I know we all have been brainwashed by movies such as iRobert and The Terminator. They warn us about giving computers the ability of free will and the ability to make decisions. We can all argue that it is feasible that a super computer could one day rule the world… I know I find it likely.

In this post I am arguing that Man has a hard enough time now cooperating with Man, animals, and even the environment we live in. Should we bring highly logical computers in the mix?

Yes, I see the possibility of us working together, curing cancer, ending world homelessness and hunger, and eliminating the world’s ever increasing debt. All things which are universally wanted. But what about the issues that are controversial?

Can man and machine agree on abortion policies, the politically correct definition of terrorism, or even solve the income tax debacle?

Elisey believes, “computers don’t think, they just do (sorta like instinct), and while that can come in handy, it sometimes it is also a flaw of the computers. So essentially machines will be able to calculate and compute the most logical answer to the questions above, but as emotional humans will we be able to bite our tongue and go along.. I mean their answers are correct, fair, and backed by principle but we as humans are driven by our morals and what we believe to be right.

Katie stated that “by having a computer be able to think through every possible outcome so it can choose the best one defeats the purpose of dealing with your actions”. From the beginning on mankind, we have practice free will and democracy. And I understand that I am getting ahead of myself. Having computers capable of making decision, capable of understanding all situations does not mean that we will lose our ability to chose. But until Man is able to use more than 10% of their brain, computers and machines will be superior (no matter who created them).  

Below is a picture that Justin found which compares the human brain to a super computer created three years ago.

Justin believes, “that allowing computers to aid us in making more calculated and rational decisions could be a very good thing”. And I agree that can be very good thing. But he goes on to say that being less emotional and more logical could be a very good humankind. And I have to disagree. Humans are human because we are emotional creatures. Yes, emotions may prevent communication at times, but it also drives our creativity and passion and allows us to experience joy and happiness.

It will boil down to the rule of balance: the logical mind vs. the emotional heart. Would we accept the rational answer or ignore it? Do we want a better world or our world?

Morgan stated that she “struggle to think of a single example of human/machine symbiosis in fiction that doesn’t end badly”. As a warning, I will add my cliche movie of choice, Eagle Eye.  We all know what happens when the Department of Defense ignored ARIIA’s  advice! I’m just saying, if Licklider saw the movie, he might have hesitated on complaining about an extra hour or two of “thinking” time.