Artificial artificial intelligence (The Economist)

Last November Amazon unveiled a prototype of the system, which it calls “artificial artificial intelligence”. The premise is that humans are vastly superior to computers at tasks such as pattern recognition, says Peter Cohen, director of the project at Amazon, so why not let software take advantage of human strengths?

Mr Cohen credits Amazon's boss, Jeff Bezos, with the concept for the Turk. Other people have had similar ideas. Eric Bonabeau of Icosystem, an American firm that builds software tools modelled on natural systems, has built what he calls the “Hunch Engine” to combine human intelligence with computer analysis. The French postal service, for example, has used it to help its workers choose the best delivery routes, and pharmaceutical researchers are using it to determine molecular structures by combining their gut instincts with known results stored in a database. And a firm called Seriosity hopes to tap the collective brainpower of the legions of obsessive players of multiplayer online games such as “World of Warcraft”, by getting them to perform small real-world tasks (such as sorting/labelling photographs) while playing, and paying them in the game's own currency.

But even complicated tasks rate only a few dollars. iConclude, a software start-up aiming to automate corporate technical support, is using the Turk to evaluate developers who can help write its repair tools. It used the Turk to source a list of recommended fixes for common problems in IIS, Microsoft's widely used web-server software. One respondent submitted a superbly thought-out 20-step process made up in Visio, a software tool for making schematics. For this, iConclude paid $5. “If we'd hired a consultant, we would have paid $1,000-2,000,” says Helen Tang of iConclude. “I was flabbergasted.”

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1 Comment »

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