The title of this post is correct, I did not duplicate the word "artificial" by mistake. Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the process of using computers to simulate a human being. Computers can now do a lot of things better than human beings thanks to the AI research in the last 20 years or so. AAI is the reverse of AI, it leverages human being’s intelligence to improve a computer’s performance. For example, if asked "is there a letter A in this picture", human beings can do much better than machines.
This inability of computers recognizing patterns in a figure has been used by websites (including mine) to distinguish human beings from computer web robots. The idea is to display some distorted graphical text for human beings to recognize. In order to get a computer recognizing the letters, a lot of AI work has to be done. This is called "Captcha".
Talking about ideas of using human beings to empower computers, I always wanted to establish a website to systematically display those questions hard for computers to do but easy for human beings to do. Any human being can browse the questions and answer some of them and get paid, computers then can take the result and do what they do better (storage, processing, retrieval, etc…)
I’m glad that Amazon has started to do this in what they call "Amazon Mechanical Turk". Basically, they pay from $0.03 to $0.65 for people to do simple tasks as identifying objects in a picture or to write a product description. They are all practical problems they have in the Amazon search engine, A9 or Amazon the website itself. This is an exciting first step toward what I imagined. There are a lot more to be done, though.
For example, this website only allows people to work on Amazon problems, it would be nice to see more websites to offer similar tasks to people (I call this "mini-outsourcing"). Even better, it would be nice to see some central clearing house to offer such a service so that companies can automatically post questions and payment information, and individuals can go to a single place to earn some easy extra money. If I were Amazon, I would also establish a reputation system to control the quality of the mini-tasks. In the back end, I would also run all kinds of data analysis to use the human input to improve the machine learning results so that after some training, the computer algorithm can do a better job in identifying the objects.
How about more complicated tasks? Like assessing the quality of a novel, a research paper… I believe the key lies in the right incentives for people to participate. In the Amazon case, it has to set the payments correctly so that some people could come and do the job and still feel happy to be paid; in the more complicated tasks, maybe non-monetary incentives works better, let me think about it…