Humans, Computers. What They Are Good At

By January 5, 2018UX

Human computer interaction is a vast field and requires a detailed understanding of what the human mind and computers are capable of. As product designers it is key to know what are the strengths and weaknesses of each. Traditionally humans have always made machines to support and compliment our sharp minds, the following can be referred to as a quick overview of the same.

Strengths of the mind

  • Strong tendancy to recognize patterns
  • Ability to allocate attention to one thing
  • Capacity to learn
  • An infinite long term memory, which is multi layered


  • Low, fast decaying working memory
  • Slow and error prone processing of information
  • Unreliable and subjectively dependant access long term memory

Strengths of the computer

  • High capacity memory
  • Fast and error free processing
  • Reliable memory access


  • Limited pattern recognition
  • Low capacity to learn
  • Low memory

Understanding the above is key for the product designer. Our interfaces involve working of the computer and the human to complete tasks.Processing and access of memory can be left to computers while creative tasks of pattern recognition and decision making based on subjective factors like situation or environment is best left to humans.

These patterns are best seen in dashboards where large amounts of data are processed reliably using algorithms to show results in from of visualisations. The dashboard user must then decide what to make of this data. Today some applications take a step ahead and suggest decisions with an understanding of data history and patterns. These provide the user with food for thought.

While software and AI will only get smarter the product designer must think about context. Does the user and context really need suggestions coming down on her. Maybe in situations where the user doesn’t have the time to think this will help, like in the enterprise world or in emergency scenarios. The bigger question is, doesn’t this increase reliance on the AI and reduce the human capacity to reason and make decisions. In some situations giving our fellow humans enough data to learn and make decisions may be ideal 🙂