Man-Computer symbiosis nugget

In a paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, author Licklider wrote:

“The basic dissimilarity between human languages and computer languages may be the most serious obstacle to true symbiosis. It is reassuring, however, to note what great strides have already been made, through interpretive programs and particularly through assembly or compiling programs such as FORTRAN, to adapt computers to human language forms. The “Information Processing Language” of Shaw, Newell, Simon, and Ellis [24] represents another line of rapprochement. And, in ALGOL and related systems, men are proving their flexibility by adopting standard formulas of representation and expression that are readily translatable into machine language.”


At the beginning, I thought this concept of man-computer symbiosis is very cool but futuristic concept. And once again, I am amazed at human intellectual and capability. Such advance idea has already taking shape in our contemporary society. “Real time” interaction between flexible mind of man and speed of machine are significantly increasing productivity. Google, Internet, data analysis software are perfect evident for that. This nugget specifically stands out for me because I think comprehensible communication is a very first, essential element to build an effective symbiosis. So I chose the potentially matchmaker Google’s voice input future in Google transla
te (also available in messaging and “OK Google”) to discuss here. This app allow people to interact with the device by speaking to it instead of typing from the keyboard, though its utility is still very limited. As mention in the paper, contributing factors like accents, vocabulary size or variations from standard would easily throw this single minded automatic voice recognition off track. In fact, to a foreigner like me, incorrect voice detection is greatly outnumber success times. That’s why I like to mess around with it. It is fun and somewhat useful to see how terrible my English accent is, or how “good” I am at Vietnamese (my first language), or how much out of context Google can get when having to translate a long sentence (which is actually lots funnier than it sounds). Current automatic voice recognition technology is only a baby step toward better human and computer symbiosis. But further refine in speed and accuracy would yield the boring and time consuming clerical task of recording and inputting data to almost immediately answer that provides from the computer.


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1 Comment

  1. You write with enthusiasm here.
    I would really LOVE for the voice translation software to get better — this way I can “speak” my comments to student papers and blogs, and not type them out!! I like that you enjoy playing with the voice translation : )

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