The requirement is for communication, which we now define concisely as “cooperative modeling”–cooperation in the construction, maintenance, and use of a model.
How can we be sure that we are modeling cooperatively, that we are communicating, unless we can compare models?
To understand how and why the computer can have such an effect on communication, we must examine the idea of modeling-in a computer and with the aid of a computer.
For modeling, we believe, is basic and central to communication.
Society demands consensus, agreement, at least majority.
Fundamentally, this amounts to the requirement that individual models be compared and brought into some degree of accord.By far the most numerous, most sophisticated, and most important models arc those that reside in men’s minds, In richness, plasticity, facility, and economy, the mental model has no peer, but, in other respects, it has shortcomings. It can be observed and manipulated only by one person.Society rightly distrusts the modeling done by a single mind.That is a rather startling thing to say, but it is our conclusion.As if in confirmation of it, we participated a few weeks ago in a technical meeting held through a computer.Any communication between people about the same thing is a common revelatory experience about informational models of that thing. It serves its owner’s hopes more faithfully than it serves reason.Each model is a conceptual structure of abstractions formulated initially in the mind of one of the persons who would communicate, and if the concepts in the mind of one would-be communicator are very different from those in the mind of another, there is no common model and no communication. It has access only to the information stored in one man’s head.Such a medium is at hand–the programmed digital computer.Its presence can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.To the people who telephone an airline flight operations information service, the tape recorder that answers seems more than a passive depository.It is an often-updated model of a changing situation-a synthesis of information collected, analyzed, evaluated, and assembled to represent a situation or process in an organized way.