Phase One: Man-Computer Symbiosis

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (11:23 PM)

I am exploring  J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this theory.  Licklider’s theory states that “man-computer symbiosis is a development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership.”

The research questions I started with were; what is the historical significance of Licklider’s theory?  What technological advances are fulfilling this theory? How close is this to happening as Licklider imagined it? Is Man-Computer symbiosis a good thing for humans?

The natural roadblock to this is the fact that my project is capable of going in a lot of different directions.  So it was a little difficult to narrow down what I wanted to focus on.  When I was exploring another theory over the course of the semester, whose name escapes me, I was looking around on youtube for applicable videos. I found what I need but as I read through the comments I came across a recommendation for the book Feed.  It was described as an example of where our digital age is taking us. Because I had an oceans worth of information I could explore I started with Feed, I knew it would apply in some way and might help me to narrow down my topic.(The following video discusses Feed briefly but portrays the essence of the book nicely.)

I was also told of a TED talk by my suite mates that described a new way of using computers.  Seeing potential for this to apply to my project I investigated.

With Mistry’s Sixth Sense Technology, Feed, and Licklider’s theory I figured out how to narrow my project. I initially planned on researching Sixth Sense Technology but decided I wanted to expand that and explore prosthetics as well.  This is where my classmates come in.  I picked four pieces of technology; the google goggles, sixth sense technology, i-Limb, and Proto 2 by DARPA. I asked them for an explanation of what the technology is and does? How does it embody Licklider’s theory? What kind of innovation can you see happening that would  further exemplify Man-Computer Symbiosis? I also found a senior thesis from MIT titled Pilot: A Step Towards Man-Computer Symbiosis that I asked for feedback on as well.

For the second half of the project I intend to learn more about the technology I have chosen and to finish Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky so that I can hypothesize the effects of Man-Computer Symbiosis on our society. Having read Feed it will be hard to keep that from giving me a bias however, Shirky should help counter that.  In general, the project hasn’t changed much in theory, it was just difficult to put into reality.


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