TED invited Shyam Sankar, Director of Forward Deployed Engineering, to speak at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Shyam used the opportunity to discuss Human-Computer Symbiosis: the idea that technology should be designed in a way that amplifies human intelligence instead of attempting to replace it. He explained the concept, which is core to the development of Palantir’s software, by using the canonical example of chess. He told the stories behind two classic encounters between man and machine: the 1997 match in which IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, and a 2005 freestyle tournament in which two amateur players using three weak laptops defeated all comers, including grandmasters armed with supercomputers. (For more on these examples, see earlier posts here, and here.)
Shyam went on to expand on the relevance and impact of Human-Computer Symbiosis today with the emergence of Big Data and related technologies. Responding quickly to victims of the Haiti earthquake, making sense of complex documents found in an Al-Qaeda house, designing the 9/11 Memorial—these are all tasks that are best tackled by a nimble mind and powerful technology working in concert.
Shyam’s visual presentation was praised as one of the best at the conference. So much so that it gained its own spot on the TED blog. Designed in-house by Collin Roe-Raymond and the Design team, the keynote was an example in its own right of human expertise and technology coming together in a beautifully stunning way.
Check out the TED blog for a full recounting of Shyam’s talk.