27 March 2007

When computers need human help [The International Herald Tribune]

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Mechanical Turk
Computers still do some things very poorly, writes Jason Potin in the International Herald Tribune.

“Even when they pool their memory and processors in powerful networks, they remain unevenly intelligent. Things that humans do with little conscious thought, like recognizing patterns or meanings in images, language or concepts, only baffle the machines.

These lacunae in computers’ abilities would be of interest only to computer scientists, except that many individuals and companies are finding it harder to locate and organize the swelling mass of information that our digital civilization creates.

The problem has prompted a spooky, but elegant, business idea: Why not use the Web to create marketplaces of willing human beings who will perform the tasks that computers cannot?”

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