Day 049 - Artificial intelligence and reverse cyborgs

Submitted by Sam on 8 July, 2011 - 20:52

A cyborg is a fully integrated man-machine system, where a human's natural tolerances or capabilities are extended beyond their normal capacity through machine augmentation. Various existing neural and physical prosthetics have given glimpses of the potentialities for such biological -machine syntheses, but we are objectively a very long way away from creating a perfect man-machine hybrid. The recent phenomenon of internet crowdsourcing, however, has already created hybrid intelligences which outperform our current artificial intelligent agents in a number of ways. Indeed, it has been speculated that perhaps the most intelligent machines in the near future may be “reverse cyborgs”, or artificial intelligences augmented by us 1.

Crowdsourcing allows companies or individuals to outsource work to an open, undefined community, rather than tasking specific employees or contractors with it. Web-based crowdsourcing has lead to the phenomenon of ubiquitous human computing, which is where a task is broken down into smaller, much more basic sub-tasks, which are then parcelled out around the world for completion by anyone with an internet connection. In theory, this allows computers to turn to the human crowd to assist when a problem is encountered that cannot be solved.

In 2005, Amazon launched Mechanical Turk, an online service which has made possible such reverse-cyborg-like systems. Mechanical Turk co-ordinates human intelligence from a crowd of “Workers” with HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) posed by “Requesters”, who are typically corporations or researchers. Tasks like transcription can now be crowdsourced extremely cheaply, and with great rapidity – the crowd of workers is often thousands-strong, and so jobs can get completed in seconds.

One example of a human-computer hybrid built on Amazon's crowdsourcing platform is IQ Engine's oMoby smartphone app, which joins the company's “visual intelligence” image recognition software with human intelligence. Users take a picture with their mobile phone using the app, which then tries to identify the image with conventional image recognition algorithms. If it's attempts at categorization are unssucessful, the software will upload the image to the crowd on Mechanical Turk, or the company's own pool of workers. Their Director of research, Pierre Garrigues, claims around half of all queries are able to be answered by this hybridised method in under 25 seconds.

  • 1. Giles, Jim. "Brain Donors." New Scientist 2818 (2011). Print.
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