Humans teaching computers how to categorize

July 24, 2007

It’s not a million miles from the taxonomies that arise from Del.icio.os and the like, but BoingBoing points us to a nifty article in Wired about humans teaching computers about things for their own selfish reasons – largely in this case, entertainment.

“People are good at figuring out what’s attractive, and computers are good at quickly searching and finding,” von Ahn says. “You put them together, and bang!”

This is “human computation,” the art of using massive groups of networked human minds to solve problems that computers cannot. Ask a machine to point to a picture of a bird or pick out a particular voice in a crowd, and it usually fails. But even the most dim-witted human can do this easily. Von Ahn has realized that our normal view of the human-computer relationship can be inverted. Most of us assume computers make people smarter. He sees people as a way to make computers smarter.

…Nifty, eh?