Man Computer Symbiosis

Man Computer Symbiosis


J.C.R Licklider


Man Computer Symbiosis

J.C.R Licklider. 1960 (View MIT →)

Not long after the first computers were invented - we got incredibly excited about the arrival of Artificial Intelligence. It wasn’t clear how long it would take to develop AI general enough to do our thinking and doing. Even bullish estimates at the time proposed that it would take 20 years.

Licklider therefore articulated the need for a phase of computing between ‘Mechanically extended man’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

  • Mechanically Extended Man: Computers are capable of automatic some basic tasks but the humans doing the programming had to think through the problem in great detail in advance. They were doing the hard part.
  • The age of Artificial Intelligence: where a mechanical or organic brain would be produced that could operate far beyond the level of human intelligence - and be capable of doing everything

He saw the opportunity in Man-Computer Symbiosis. Where humans and computers could work together and solve intellectual operations more effectively than humans alone.

In this paper he defined what that could look like and what problems we’d have to solve before we could get there.