Man-Computer Symbiosis

"Man-Computer Symbiosis" is the title of a work by J.C.R. Licklider, which was published during the year 1960.[1][2][3]



Man-computer symbiosis is a fundamental or key text of the modern computing revolution.[4]

The work describes something of Lickliders' vision for a complementary (symbiotic) relationship between humans and computers at a potential time of the future. According to Bardini, Licklider envisioned a future time when machine cognition (cerebration) would surpass and become independent of human direction, as a basic stage of development within human evolution. Jacucci gives the description of Lickliders' vision as being the very tight coupling of human brains and computing machines (c.f. brain, the term cohesion & the general definitions of the term coupling).[3][5]

As a necessary pre-requisite of human-computer symbiosis, Licklider conceived of a thing known as the Thinking centre. Altogether these things were pre-conditions for the development of networks.[6][7]

Streeter identifies as the main empirical element of the work as the time and motion analysis, which is shown under Part 3 of the work. In addition he identified two reasons for Licklider to have considered such a concept as a symbiotic human computer relationship at all as beneficial, to be firstly, for it might bring about an advantage emerging from the use of a computer, such that there are similarities with the necessary methodology of such a use (i.e. trial and error), to the methodology of problem solving through play, and secondarily, because of the advantage which results from using computers in situations of battle.[4] Foster states Licklider sought to promote computer use in order to:[8]

augment human intellect by freeing it from mundane tasks

As his personal motivating force, Streeter considers Licklider to be positing an escape from the limitations of the mode of computer use during his time, which was batch processing. Russell thinks Licklider was stimulated by an encounter with the newly developed PDP-1.[4][9]

Parts of the workEdit

The work shows the following contents:[2]

Part 1Edit

Part 1 is titled Introduction and has 2 sub-headings, Symbiosis (part 1.1) and Between "Mechanically Extended Man" and "Artificial Intelligence" (part 1.2).

Part 1.1 begins by showing shows a definition of the term symbiosis using the illustration of the relationship between two organisms, a fig-tree, and its pollinator, a type of fig-wasp.[10][11] The article continues to sub-classify the concept of a symbiotic relationship between humans and computers within the larger defined thing which is the relationship between men and machines generally (man-machine systems), and outlines the intentions of its author in the possibility within the future of a relationship for the benefit of human thinking.

Part 1.2 references J. D. North[12]'s, "The rational behavior of mechanically extended man" to begin a brief discussion on mechanically extended man and proceeds to include developments and future developments within artificial intelligence.

Part 2Edit

Part 2 is titled Aims of Man-Computer Symbiosis.

Part 3Edit

Part 3 is titled Need for Computer Participation in Formulative and Real-Time Thinking and begins by continuing from a preceding statement on the likelihood of data-processing machines improving human thinking and problem solving. This part proceeds to an outline of an investigation sub-headed A Preliminary and Informal Time-and-Motion Analysis of Technical Thinking, in which Licklider investigated his own activities during the spring and summer of 1957. This discussion includes a statement on the currently understood definition of the term computer, as a wide class of calculating, data-processing, and information-storage-and-retrieval machines (c.f. Information storage and retrieval).Licklider begins a comparison between the so-called genotypic similarities between humans and computers, in the seventh passage of this part, with a definition of men as:

noisy, narrow-band devices, but their nervous systems have very many parallel and simultaneously active channels

and ends with the acknowledgement of differences between inherent processing speed and use of language.

Part 4Edit

Part 4 is titled Separable Functions of Men and Computers in the Anticipated Symbiotic Association. Licklider in the first passage of this part makes reference to the SAGE System. The text continues to identify ways in which theoretically active computers would function in ways including; to interpolate, extrapolate, convert static equations or logical statements into dynamic models (see also conceptual models).The part concludes with a statement of the functioning of a potential computer as performing diagnosis, pattern-matching, and relevance-recognizing.

Part 5Edit

Part 5 is the final part of the article and is titled Prerequisites for Realization of Man-Computer Symbiosis. It has five sub-headings, Speed Mismatch Between Men and Computers, Memory Hardware Requirements, Memory Organization Requirements, The Language Problem, and Input and Output Equipment.

Part 5.3. mentions the concept of trie memory (E. Fredkin, "Trie memory," Communications of the ACM, Sept. 1960).

Part 5.4. begins initially by demonstrating the differences between human language and computer language, the latter in regards especially to FORTRAN, an Information Processing Language identified by J. C. Shaw, A. Newell, H. A. Simon, and T. O. Ellis (in A command structure for complex information processing, Proc. WJCC, pp. 119-128; May, 1958), ALGOL (and related systems), and continues from the second passage from the statement:

instructions directed to computers specify courses; instructions-directed to human beings specify goals.

particularly recognising the existence of human goals (see also Goal orientation).

References of Man-Computer SymbiosisEdit

The work references 26 studies, of which fourteen are concerning acoustic studies and related areas of investigation, and fifteen on computing and studies related to this, including four related to studies on the subject of chess.

IRE TransactionsEdit

See also: IEEE, Cybernetics & Human–machine system

Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) Transactions ceased publishing during 1962, and is now publishing instead as IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems, IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, and IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.[13][14]

Later developmentsEdit

During August 1962, Licklider and Welden Clark joint published On-Line Man-Computer Communication. [15]

MIT published a paper during 1966, written by W. Teitelman, entitled Pilot: A Step Towards Man-Computer Symbiosis.[16]

At the time of the publication of one paper, during 2004, there were very few computer applications known to the authors, which exhibited the qualities of computers identified by Licklider within his 1960 article, of being human-like with respect to being collaboratory and possessing the ability to communicate in human like ways. As part of their paper, the authors (N Lesh et al) mention a discussion of prototypes under development by the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ T. Messbarger - Short-Biography of J.C.R. Licklider published by Ohio University [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  2. ^ a b J. C. R. Licklider. Man-Computer Symbiosis, IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, volume HFE-1, pages 4-11, March 1960. MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  3. ^ a b G. Jacucci. Symbiotic Interaction: Third International Workshop, Symbiotic 2014, Helsinki, Finland, October 30-31, 2014, Proceedings. Springer 5 Dec 2014, 145 pages, (G. Jacucci, L. Gamberini, J. Freeman, A. Spagnolli), ISBN 3319135007, Volume 8820 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science / Information Systems and Applications, incl. Internet/Web, and HCI. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  4. ^ a b c T. Streeter. The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet (p.32-34). NYU Press 2011, 219 pages, ISBN 0814741169, Critical Cultural Communication. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  5. ^ T. Bardini - Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing Stanford University Press 2000, 284 pages, ISBN 0804738718 [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  6. ^ U.V Riss. Philosophy, Computing and Information Science. Routledge 22 Jul 2015, 304 pages, ISBN 1317317564, HISTORY and PHILOSOPHY of Technoscience. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  7. ^ K. Fuchs-Kittowski - Social Informatics: An Information Society for All? In Remembrance of Rob Kling: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference 'Human Choice and Computers' (HCC7), IFIP TC 9, Maribor, Slovenia, September 21-23, 2006 (p.436) published Springer 15 Jan 2007, 490 pages (editors - J. Berleur, M.I. Nurminen, J. Impagliazzo), ISBN 0387378766, Volume 223 of IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  8. ^ I. Foster - Human-Machine Symbiosis, 50 Years On Computational Institute, Argonne National Laboratory Department of Computer Science, University of Chicago [Retrieved 2015-08-12]
  9. ^ A.L. Russell. Open Standards and the Digital Age. Cambridge University Press 28 Apr 2014, 326 pages, ISBN 1107039193, Cambridge Studies in the Emergence of Global Enterprise. Retrieved 2015-08-15. 
  10. ^ Blastophaga Merriam-Webster [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  11. ^ En-Wei Tian, Hui Yu, Da-Yong Zhang and John D. Nason - Development of microsatellite loci for Blastophaga javana (Agaonidae), the pollinating wasp of Ficus hirta (Moraceae) published by American Journal of Botany (Am. J. Bot. February 2011 vol. 98 no. 2 e41-e43), ajb.1000432v198/2/e41 (AJB Primer Notes & Protocols in the Plant Sciences) [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  12. ^ J. D. North, "The rational behavior of mechanically extended man", Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd., Wolverhampton, Eng.; September, 1954.
  13. ^ T.K. Tomasello. A Content Analysis of Citations to J. C. R. Licklider's "Man-Computer Symbiosis," 1960-2001: Diffusing the Intergalactic Network. published by Florida State University 15th March 2004 Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 1285. Retrieved 2015-08-13. 
  14. ^ Human Factors in Electronics, IRE Transactions on [Retrieved 2015-08-08]
  15. ^ J. C. R. Licklider and Welden Clark (August 1962). "On-Line Man-Computer Communication" (PDF). AIEE-IRE '62 (Spring): 113–128. 
  16. ^ PILOT: A STEP TOWARDS MAN-COMPUTER SYMBIOSIS Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA, USA 1966 [Retrieved 2015-08-13]
  17. ^ N LESH; J MARKS; C RICH; CL SIDNER. "Man-Computer Symbiosis" Revisited: Achieving Natural Communication and Collaboration with Computers (IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Information and Systems Vol.E87-D No.6 pp.1290-1298). published 2004/06/01. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 

External linksEdit