Interfaces that Give and Take Advice

Henry Lieberman

MIT Media Lab

I believe that an important direction for the future is to explore how we could build human-computer interaction around the notion of advice as the primary means of communication. The computer can both give advice to the user and take advice from the user.

The idea of the computer relating to people as both advisor and advisee is becoming increasingly important as applications get more and more advanced. Sophisticated media interfaces are accruing more and more functionality, and soon the bottleneck will not be how to get our computers to do more for us, but how to let them know what we would like them to do, and how we would like them to do it. Intelligent software will have the capability to do more and more problem solving for us, but there is also the danger that the machine may take unwanted actions or we may distance ourselves too far from the problem solving process. The best solution may sometimes be to set up the computer in an advisory capacity, leaving critical decisions and top-level control to the human.

Too much of today's human-computer interaction is couched in terms of commands. This is evidenced by the fact that the word "command" has almost come to mean any input whatsoever to a computer. The human "commands" the computer through icons and menu operations. Traditional computer interfaces tend to leave users feeling "commanded" by their rigid and inflexible nature, which accounts for much of the hostility the general public feels towards computers. In contrast,

I'll illustrate the notion of advice with some examples from my own work, one in which the computer gives advice, another where it takes advice from the user, and conclude with some thoughts about how advice-based interfaces will impact future research areas.

Henry Lieberman
Interfaces that Give and Take Advice
Human-Computer Interaction for the New Millenium , John Carroll, ed., ACM Press/Addison-Wesley, pp. 475-485, 2001.

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