Keynote presentation

Human Factors, Ergonomics and Human Systems Integration for biological and artificial intelligence and cognition

Prof Frank Flemisch, 

RWTH Aachen, Germany

Both Human Factors & Ergonomics as the meanwhile classical discipline to address human issues with technology, and it’s younger sister discipline human systems integration, addressing the systemic integration of human, technology, organization and the environment, started in the last millennium where the human was thought to be the only source of intelligence in a system.

At the end of the last millennium, with the conception of cybernetics and AI in the 1950ties, more and more researcher started to dream that machines might become intelligent as well. Now, still at the beginning of a new millennium, humans develop machines with cognitive capabilities, which surpasses human capabilities in more and more domains. While one part of the scientific community and of the public still thinks that machines will never outsmart the human, another part of the community is already developing autonomous systems which replace humans, and intelligent chat programs, which becomes virtually undistinguishable from humans.

I will at first try to shake up the sleeping part of the community with a couple of striking recent examples. Bypassing the discussion on whether machines can really have human intelligence, it will base the discussion on the scientifically more grounded concept of cognition and its role in cybernetic feedback loops. Inspired by Wieners book on cybernetics as the control in animals and machines, a model is introduced, which originally started in the military domain and its discussion about the control of AI, and generalize this into a holistic model of biological and artificial cognition.

Instead of talking about an unavoidable fate of technology, e.g. in form of a singularity (Kurzweil) or Superintelligence (Transhumanism/Nick Bostrom), I will develop a perspective of critical optimism that we humans still have an influence on how non-biological cognition is used. A couple of key challenges and potential solutions like joint and cooperative cognition and its technical and ergonomics counterparts cooperative automation, cooperative AI and reversible symbiotic systems are sketched. Not surprisingly, Human Factors & Ergonomics and Human Systems Integration can contribute significantly to balance human, technical, organizational and environmental cognition in a way that we can assert our role as homo sapiens but only if we wake up. It is not too late, but time is up.