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Crowdsourcing Revives Use of Human Computers

What's the Latest Development?

A new generation of human computers is doing tasks that computers can't. They are employed in large numbers and organised into streamlined workflows. As was the case in the age before electronic computers, their output is combined to generate results that could not easily be produced in any other way. Mechanical Turk, CrowdForge, CastingWords are riding the resurge.

What's the Big Idea?

Microsoft researcher Eric Horvitz envisages a future in which algorithms co-ordinate an army of human workers, physical sensors and conventional computers. Say a child goes missing, an algorithm might assign some volunteers to search duties and others to examine CCTV footage. The system would also trawl local news reports for similar cases and the element combined to create a cyborg detective.

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