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).
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.
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. Foster states Licklider sought to promote computer use in order to:
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 current mode of computer use during his time, namely batch processing. Russell thinks Licklider was stimulated by an encounter with the newly developed PDP-1.
Contents of the article
The work shows the following contents:
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. 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'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 2 is titled Aims of Man-Computer Symbiosis.
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
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 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 5.4. 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.
references of Man-Computer Symbiosis
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 chess.
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.
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.
- Douglas Engelbart
- GOAL agent programming language
- Human factors integration
- Intelligence amplification
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