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Design for How People Think by John Whalen

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Chapter 19 How to Make a Better Human

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How to Make a Better Human

Growing up, I remember watching reruns of a 1970s TV show about a NASA pilot who had a terrible crash, but according to the plot, scientists said, “We can rebuild him; we have the technology” and the pilot went on to become “the Six Million Dollar Man” (now the equivalent of about $40 million). With one eye with exceptional zoom vision, and one arm and two legs that were bionic, he could run 60 miles per hour and perform great feats. In the show he used his superhuman strength as a spy for good.

It was one of the first mainstream shows that demonstrated what might be accomplished by seamlessly bringing together technology with humans. I’m not sure that it would have been as commercially viable if they had called the show The Six Million Dollar Cyborg, but that’s really what he was—a human–machine combination.

Today we have new possibilities with the resurgence and hype surrounding AI and ML. I’m sure if you are in the product management, product design, or innovation space, you’ve heard all kinds of prognostications about what might be possible. Here, I’d like to suggest what might be the most powerful combination: thinking about human computational styles and supporting them with ML-equipped experiences to create not the physical prowess of the Six Million Dollar Man, but the mental prowess that they never explored in the TV show.

Symbolic AI and the AI Winter

I’m not sure if you are aware, but as I write ...

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