Posts Tagged ‘LIcklider’

Could Sputnik be Responsible for the Internet?

January 14, 2019

This is the second post in a series of posts on a book by P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking titled “Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media.” Probably most readers are wondering what is or was Sputnik? Sputnik was the first space satellite to orbit the earth. It was launched by the Soviet Union. The United States was desperately trying to launch such a satellite, but was yet to do so. A young HM appeared as part of a team of elementary school presenters on educational TV that made a presentation on Sputnik and on the plans of the United States to launch such a satellite. The young version of HM explained the plans for the rocket to launch a satellite. Unfortunately, the model briefed by HM failed repeatedly, and a different rocket was needed for the successful launch.

The successful launch of Sputnik created panic in the United States about how far we were behind the Russians. Money was poured into scientific and engineering research and into the education of young scientists and engineers. HM personally benefited from this generosity as it furthered his undergraduate and graduate education.

Licklider and Taylor the authors of the seminal paper, “The Computer as a Communication Device” were employees of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). An internetted communications system was important for the U.S. military was that it would banish its greatest nightmare: the prospect of the Soviet Union being able to decapitate U.S. command and control with a single nuclear strike. But the selling point for the scientists working for DARPA was that linking up computers would be a useful way to share what was at the time incredibly rare and costly computer time. A network could spread the load and make it easier on everyone. So a project was funded to transform the Intergalactic Computer Network into reality. It was called ARPANET.

It is interesting to speculate what would have been developed in the absence of the Soviet threat. It is difficult to think that this would have been done by private industry.
Perhaps it is a poor commentary on homo sapiens, but it seems that many, if not most, technological advances have been developed primarily for warfare and defense.

It is also ironic to think that technology developed to thwart the Soviet Union would be used by Russia to interfere in American elections to insure that their chosen candidate for President was elected.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Cyber Effect

September 7, 2016

“The Cyber Effect” is the title of an important book by Mary Aiken, Ph.D., a cyberpsychologist.  The subtitle of the book is “A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online.”  She is the director the CyberPsychology Research Network and an advisor to Europol, and has conducted research and training workshops with multiple global agencies from INTERPOL to the FBI and the White House.  She is based in Ireland.

This book should be read by anyone who spends nontrivial amounts of time in cyberspace.  It should be compulsory reading for anyone with children who uses mobile devices.

The internet has had an enormous impact on our lives.  Perhaps some are not aware of this impact as it gradually increased its affects on the way we live.  Dr. Aiken defines cyberpsychology as “the study of the impact of emerging technology on human behavior.”  She continues, “It’s not just a case of being online or offline; “cyber” refers to anything digital , anything tech—from Bluetooth to driverless cars.  That means I study human interactions with technology and digital media, mobile and networked devices, framing, virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligence amplification (IA)—anything from cellphones to cyborgs.  But mostly I concentrate on Internet psychology.  If something qualifies as “technology” and has the potential to impact or change behavior, I want to look at how—and consider why.”

Dr. Aiken is not one of those who decry how technology is some evil entity that has upended our lives, nor as something that inevitably leads to utopia.  She writes, “Technology is not good or bad in its own right.  It is neutral and simply mediates behavior—which means it can be used well or poorly by humankind.”  “Any technology can be misused.”

One of her earliest influences was J.C.R. Licklider, a psychologist who wrote a seminal paper in 1960, “Man Computer Symbiosis,” which predated the Internet and foretold the potential  for a symbiotic relationship between man and machine.  Licklider  has been one of HM’s idols since HM was an undergraduate, and it has been a lifelong frustration that a true symbiosis is yet to be realized.

As “The Cyber Effect” is such an important book, I plan to devote a post to each of the chapters excluding the first chapter.  The first chapter is titled “The Normalization of a Fetish” and discusses how cyberspace technology has change sexual behavior.  In addition to fostering new perversions, or at least ones unknown to HM, it explains how cyberspace has expanded contact with others in cyberspace, contacts that would have remained unknown without cyberspace.  Moreover, it has increased the acceptance of formerly proscribed behaviors.  Nothing more will be written in this blog on this topic.  To learn more, read the book, which you should be doing in any case.

Here are the chapters that will have a post devoted to them.  These are the individual topics, which are more informative than the chapter titles:  internet addiction; the effects of cybertechnology on babies; the effects of cybertechnology on children;  the effects of cybertechnology on adolescents; romance in cyberspace;  cyberchondria, which is hypochondria  fostered in cyberspace;  the deep web, where illegal activity occurs; and the final chapter the discusses important topics that need to be considered for the future.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Neo-Symbiosis and Transactive Memory

November 8, 2009

Prior to the development of the personal computer, the psychologist J. C. R. Licklider introduced the vision of Man-Computer Symbiosis. He said “That men and computers so supplement each other…and that jointly they possess the capabilities to think and comprehend, to decide upon effective action…in a way totally beyond present realization…are the primary means on which we base our hope.”1 In Man Computer Symbiosis2, Licklider chose the fig tree and the insect Blastophaga grossorun as his example of symbiosis. The larva of the insect lives inside the ovary of the fig tree where it gets its food. The tree cannot reproduce without the insect; the insect cannot eat without the tree. Together they constitute not only a viable, but also a productive and thriving partnership. The cooperative living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms is called symbiosis.

When I was a graduate student I was deeply impressed by Licklider’s vision. Unfortunately, I believe that this vision has been lost. All too often the goal is to replace humans with technology rather than to view technology as a tool for leveraging human potential. I tried to resurrect Licklider’s vision and to make it more politically correct in my paper “Beyond Usability: The New Symbiosis.3 So I termed it human-computer symbiosis. I also placed the human in the superordinate position in the relationship.

This blog has three themes. One is on human memory itself. Although human memory is quite remarkable, it is fallible and error prone. With perhaps the exception of some idiot savants, this is true of all humans. Moreover, as we age, there can be a deterioration of memory and in pathological cases this deterioration can be quite severe. The second theme focuses on memory techniques that not only offer improvements, but also provide mental exercise that can foster brain health. The third theme, transactive memory, concerns with the potential of technology not only for ameliorating memory decline, but also for providing for memory growth.

So think of computer technology as a means of leveraging your human potential. Think of it as a tool with the potential of not just maintaining and supplementing your memory, but of also enhancing and growing your memory. Think of the computer as a partner. You cannot remember everything, but if you know where to access information, you are leveraging your memory. If you cannot access information, but knows that it exists, then you can search for it. The information available on the internet is enormous, much more than one could learn in multiple lifetimes. It is like being at an all-you-can-eat gourmet banquet. Although there is much too much to sample, you can still avail yourself of a reasonable amount you can accommodate.

1Brate, A. (2002).  Technomanifestos:  visions from the information revolutionaries.  New York:  Thomson Texere.


3Griffith, D. (2005). Ergonomics in Design, 13, 30-31.



© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.