Nugget #2: Man-Computer Symbiosis

“In the man-machine systems of the past, the human operator supplied the initiative, the direction, the integration, and the criterion. The mechanical parts of the systems were mere extensions, first of the human arm, then of the human eye. These systems certainly did not consist of ‘dissimilar organisms living together…’ There was only one kind of organism-man-and the rest was there only to help him.”

This is intriguing: “Human operator supplied the initiative, the direction, the integration, and the criterion.” What automatically came to mind is my topic for the inquiry project: Pandora. Listeners type in a genre, an artist, an album, and Pandora is only there to help him find the music he wants to listen to. But as I continue to think about “man-computer symbiosis,” Pandora and its listener are certainly not “dissimilar organisms living together.” I hear advertisements on Pandora all the time looking for people who want to work in the music industry; for example, people who’d like to put music together to create Pandora’s many channels. Pandora itself is a “human operator,” a company full of people creating these music channels, which actually makes for a man-man symbiosis through the means of technology.





I mentioned that Pandora is a “human operator,” by which I meant a company of people creating different music channels with numerous, similar songs. But Pandora as technology does have some degree of independence. As I’m listening to my Pandora app, there isn’t a person at the Pandora headquarters who chooses another song every time I hit ‘skip.’ Pandora goes through the list of songs and chooses by itself. Now I’m not sure how organized the decision is, but I can give the technology some credit for “living together” with man.

A fellow classmate had a completely different insight from their nugget. In this student’s blog, he/she worried about job loss as a result of man-computer symbiosis. If man and computer can function equally well, there becomes the possibility that humans will lose their jobs to computers. In the case of Pandora and the advertisements I hear looking for people to come work in the music industry, there is a need for humans now. But it is very likely that Pandora’s technology will get even better and this need for humans will decrease. Pandora could truly assemble music channels entirely on its own and thousands of people working with Pandora would lose their jobs.

I read cabouniv200’s blog about Siri and started imagining what Pandora could turn into if its technology grows. Once Pandora became completely independent of human assistance, Pandora could start to interact with its listeners about what they want to listen to instead of having songs just plugged into the channels. I could ask Pandora, like Siri, to play some older songs or something more upbeat. In return, Pandora could offer me different types of music. This would be a complete form of man-computer symbiosis.

If Pandora became capable of all of these things, we would probably rely on it just a little too much. Sarah brought up a good point in her blog about how we start to think less when computers start to think more. It’s definitely an inverse relationship. We might start to disregard artists’ names because we don’t have to look them up anymore. It might even become normal for DJs to get replaced by these independent music stations, which goes back to the first blog on job loss.



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