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From Here To Singularity

"The time from here to Singularity depends sensitively on the particulars of what we humans do during the next decade (and even the next few years)."

Recycling intelligence. Well, pilfering it from humans, really.

Still, despite the improvement of pattern matching I refer to in that last post, there are some things that humans will be doing better than machines for a while yet.

We use this to determine whether a web visitor is a human, or a machine. .

And systems have been built to farm out tasks that are beyond the ken of machines, in an automated manner, such as amazon’s mechanical turk.

Mechanical Turk gets it’s name from an 18h century mechanical chess playing machine, that turned out to be a guy hiding under the table, pretending to be a machine. At amazon’s mechanical turk service, you can sign up to be paid for doing simple tasks that a machine can’t do. Or to have others do those simple tasks for you, via a web interface. (I won’t go into the failure of mturk as a business model, or the abysmal pay rates, the proliferation of sketchy, spammy tasks to do, etc. Perhaps that needs to be discussed on it’s own. The technology is there, and works quite well.) mturk

So what would happen if you added a little ‘mechanical turk’ action to a
Captcha function? Exploring: reCAPTCHA: A new way to fight spam“>reCAPTCHA is just that: along with a regular captcha word, you are asked to recognize a second word, one which the server doesn’t actually have preknowledge of. This second word is taken from an old book that needs digitizing.

Exploring: reCAPTCHA: A new way to fight spam“>reCAPTCHA is more than a CAPTCHA, it also helps to digitize old books. One of the words in reCAPTCHA is a word that the computer knows what it is, much like a normal CAPTCHA. However, the other word is a word that the computer can’t read. When you solve a reCAPTCHA, we not only check that you are a human, but use the result on the other word to help read the book!

Now, strictly speaking, this isn’t recycling intelligence, as much as pillfering it. However, it does point to the convergence of these two interesting concepts – automation of minor ‘human-superior’ tasks, and the use of one process to complete another.

Previous attempts to use CAPTCHAS have been defeated in the past in similar ways, by the nefarious among us. When a robot trying to create a new account somewhere online meets a CAPTCHA test, it recruits a human to do the test. Now, what could they use to entice the human to do the test for them? Hmm, how about that most inate of human creations – free pornography?

….at least one potential spammer managed to crack the CAPTCHA test. Someone designed a software robot that would fill out a registration form and, when confronted with a CAPTCHA test, would post it on a free porn site. Visitors to the porn site would be asked to complete the test before they could view more pornography, and the software robot would use their answer to complete the e-mail registration.

So, we haven’t really seen intelligence being recycled as much as pilfered. Or borrowed. Or traded for. But, what we are seeing is definitely the commodification of the processes that we find inate, that are hard to replicate in a machine, so far.

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