Interaction's role as catalyst in synthesized intelligence
abstract: The psychological role of interactivity was studied as the first computing machines were being built in the 1950's. However, attention was quickly detoured to other aspects of the exciting new technology. A subtle shift occurred from JCR Licklider's psychology-based “Man-Machine Symbiosis” perspective to Doug Engelbart's “wow factor”-based interface design a few years later. In the former paradigm, interactivity is employed, by the programmer(s)/engineer(s), in the service of integrating meaning, by the user, with the necessarily chaotic data of the computer. Meaningful output is therefore a result of the combination of human behavior and that of the computer. In the latter, interactivity is a means by which the computer can be employed intuitively, originally as an alternative to explicit command-line-type instructions, assumes the software will supply the desired meaningfulness. The underlying strategy of this scheme is that the computer be as inconspicuous as say, a hearing aid or contact lenses, and not detract attention from the output (as an object).
The Lickliderian approach takes more of a constructivist view of conceptualization, which we will address further. Constructivism is mainly entertained in educational theory and has never discussed much at all in computer science. However, it is extremely relevant to issues such as artificial intelligence, and certainly the role of interactivity in computation. While these philosophies may be enlightening, we do not favor either abstraction, but do believe that both yield important concrete results, within appropriate tasks, each being useful in very distinct fields. However, in this essay we will focus on the Lickliderian approach. By engaged involvement in exploration of the physical environment, one also undergoes engagement in the neural processes of synaptic construction. Interactivity can and often does play an integral role in 'discovering' meaning. Better understanding of this role is essential to efficient and more effective use of computation.