On a Licklider anniversary, can we guess at tech's likely future?

J.C.R. Licklider wrote a seminal paper on the history of technology 48 years ago this month. What might a current-day Licklider say about tech's future 48 years hence?

Every March, my PIM alerts me to call up a decades-old research paper by a computer scientist named J.C.R. Licklider. In a piece I wrote last year, I called Licklider perhaps the most important computer theorist you've never heard about.

So while this effort on my part remains woefully inadequate, it's more important than ever to spotlight the man and his work. This month marks the March 1960 anniversary of the publication of "Man-Computer Symbiosis" and I recommend it to anyone not familiar with the paper. This was one of those "present at the creation" moments where a thoughtful technologist dared to imagine how the future might come together.

Even in our overly hyped times, his thinking stands out as a tour de force. While Licklider didn't nail it exactly, his scenario predicting the interplay between humans and information technology turned out to be awfully close to the mark.

Give the paper a read--it's only 12 pages--and leave your feedback in the Talkback section at the end of this post. Licklider was writing 48 years ago, so what do you think will define the relationship between man and machine 48 years from today? Who knows? Maybe there's a Licklider in waiting out there.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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