Sometimes we technologists get all caught up in pride over our brilliant technology and I like to remember that the dumbest person we know is smarter than the fastest, coolest computer we have ever seen. All our transistors still can't drive a bicycle over a curb or pick a face from the crowd.
Check out Amazon's fascinating new "Mechanical Turk," a web application that lets developers pass human tasks to humans. People can visit the site and choose tasks, such as picking which photo, taken near Sam's Photo in downtown Portland, is actually a picture of Sam's Photo in downtown Portland. Participants are paid for the tasks they execute.
We're used to having people ask computers to do things (like maybe, "pleeese don't crash"). These are tasks a web application somewhere is asking us to do. By completing these tasks, we are giving the web application the benefit of our human knowledge. Amazon calls it "Artificial Artificial Intelligence."
On the technology side, "developers use the Amazon Mechanical Turk web services API to submit tasks to the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site, approve completed tasks, and incorporate the answers into their software applications. To the application, the transaction looks very much like any remote procedure call - the application sends the request, and the service returns the results. In reality, a network of humans fuels this Artificial Artificial Intelligence by coming to the web site, searching for and completing tasks, and receiving payment for their work."
It's named for a mechanical chess-playing "robot" which amazed Europeans in 1769 by playing chess. The Mechanical Turk, of course, had a very human chess master concealed inside behind panels full of gears.