Hi, please

Can Technology replace Human Intelligence?

Initial Assumption : many new media tools such as Pandora or Feast (Alexandra’s travelogue) are based on algorithms that determine what corresponds you the most. Meaning that people rely on Artificial Intelligence to think for themselves and choose for them.

Even if Aardvark (the new social networks which helps you answering any question) is not based on any algorithm it requires you to have confidence in Technology to find for you the best answer. Are computers going to be as trustworthy as human beings Are machines going to replace human intelligence?


This is by focusing on Aardvark that I came to this question.

I signed in and started to ask questions right away but I soon found out that there were norms and that you had to work on your question for it to be, not only, answered but also asked!

I am still trying to find out how to make the most of it. Obviously, there is rules both to ask and to answer questions :

  1. small questions but with meaningful keywords
  2. the more specific your question the more accurate the person will be
  3. most of all : interact! People that are on Aarkvard are willing to share. Speak and start a conversation with people that gave you the more interesting answers proved to be worth of interest.
  4. answering questions shows your interest in sharing. However I must admit that I did not answer to question yet…

So far I have asked to random but very different questions :

  1. Where can I get a good and cheap hair cut in the Manhattan?
  2. What is Kandinsky’s theory of the triangle?

Unexpectedly, the most interesting to ask was the second! Indeed people who replied were obviously into Kandinky and were happy to share on this subject (while cheap hair salons in NYC are obviously not very exciting!). One of them even recommended specific books and send me a direct link so that I could find them on Amazon!

As much as I can be suspicious regarding that kind of tool, I have to admit that so far it’s surprisingly interesting. The more specific and unusual your question is the more interesting and useful it gets.

Are we going through a new level in the Internet’s evolution? Considering the outragous amount of geographic and social data that is now gathered and can be quickly organized in a useful way on the web we might be entering a new Internet “era”.

Actually, some specialists consider that it’s happening NOW and they call it the Synaptic Web.

According to Khris Loux, president of Echo “The Synaptic Web is a set of observations about how the Web is forming. As the speed, flexibility and complexity of connections on the Web increase exponentially, the Internet is increasingly beginning to resemble a biological analog; the human brain.”

This on-going debate seems to be pretty huge and I would be really interested in having your insight on that!

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5 Comments

  1. Ryan 14:14, Mar 1st, 10

    I think this goes back to Lanier’s sentence that, “The aggregator is richer than the aggregated.” In context he says, “In the new environment, Google News is for the moment better funded and enjoys a more secure future than most of the rather small number of fine reporters around the world who ultimately create most of its content.”

    I also find it very interesting this neurological parallel of the ‘synaptic web’ and the brain to insinuate that our connections are developing much more than ever today on the internet. True, our connectivity and collectivism has increased tremendously, but the fear that you raise with the algorithms taking over the human intelligence part of it is a genuine concern as we are experiencing this more and more. Here is a link that discusses this anxiety of algorithms replacing human editors with regards to journalism.>>>

    Taken from the article: http://publishing2.com/2008/10/09/will-algorithms-make-human-editors-obsolete-not-if-journalists-collaborate/

    “But while algorithms may excel at processing vast amounts of data by brute force, they are only as smart as the rules we give them. Algorithms can simulate human intelligence — but algorithms have no judgment — and certainly no news judgment. Algorithms can’t do link journalism.

    That’s the brilliance of Google — it’s actually driven by human judgment, by the judgment that someone producing a website makes every time they link to something. Rather than replacing human judgment, Google is actually co-opting it.

    But Google isn’t co-opting the judgment of most journalists and news orgs — because so many of them still don’t link to anything. (Notable exceptions notwithstanding.)

    Still, the obvious question is how can human editors compete with the brute force of an algorithm, which never tires, never has a busy day, never gets distracted? (Cue Terminator music.)”

    LOL. Terminator-like indeed. A scary foreshadowing of machines replacing humans like in the sci-fi movies The Matrix and Terminator. I am a firm believer that there is no better machine the human brain no matter how efficient a machine (AI, or Computer is). With regards to your aardvark investigation – how valuable are the opinions or answers that are produced? How can I trust some random person giving me an answer to a question whether its a mere opinion based (hair salons in NYC) vs. some mathematical theory? But then again, the more answers that I get, this helps facilitate (to some degree) the objectivity of an answer. Then, it comes down to my ability to discern what several people are telling me about one thing.

  2. ElzbthMllr 14:29, Mar 1st, 10

    I’d echo what Ryan says when he talks about trust. He says why would he trust some random person giving opinions or answers that are produced vs some mathematical theory. That’s why things like FriendFeed and Twitter lists are so important, because you having this concept of vertical integrations from the social networks that already exist. I’m going to trust my friends/family for stuff that isn’t as objective as say what is Kandinsky’s theory of the triangle. In that way, the dangers of the answers are the same that we will talk about this week in class with repsect to wikipedia and peer production, collective intelligence etc.

    I have some questions that are basic. Who is answering these questions? I think that will influence pretty dramatically the answers that you get. Have you answered any? Is it a mobile application also?

  3. Alexandra 14:33, Mar 1st, 10

    I have checked Aardvark out since I was so intrigued by your topic! My understanding is that Aardvark connects to your Facebook and then uses the interests that you have listed as topics that you are “an expert” in. So when you ask a question (or at least one that passes all the requirements to get asked) it reaches out to your network and asks someone with a related interest to answer via gchat or another IM client. I actually did get an answer to my question (are there any tour guide books on just taipei, not taiwan?) but it took about 24 hours. Then Aardvark kept IMing me asking me if i wanted to answer a question about “cooking” – and this morning it asked me if i wanted to answer a question about “neurology” and I have no idea why…. I know nothing about neurology and don’t have it listed as an interest… And then I got annoyed with the whole thing and deactivated my account. I wonder how successful this whole thing will be?

    Anyway, I guess my bigger point is that I don’t think it’s a computer answering your question, it’s an individual. It’s just that the individual is contacted via the computer.

  4. mushon 18:52, Mar 1st, 10

    Is that a rhetorical question?
    As interesting (some might say “sensational”) your question is I don’t think it is very helpful to your research. Technology does replace some of human intelligence (for example, a pocket calculator replaces the need of figuring out how much 2344*2475+1236/928362-1235 is) (5,800,165) (point made). Moreover, I don’t think the question is about technology replacing human intelligence as much as it is about the much contested idea of the wisdom of the crowds.

    I think there are a lot of interesting questions that are raised by Aardvark, about knowledge management, trust, governance, communication… I think you might want to better calibrate your focus and also try to ask a question you can become more informed about solving through the process of inquiry.

    *Funny, both Aardvark and your professor are picky about how should you formulate your questions…

  5. DanJee 14:16, Mar 2nd, 10

    I would argue that Aardvark is fundamentally different from algorithm-based AI. Aardvark is a social search engine. I would argue that its assumption is not based on trusting technology but the direct opposite–It is about trusting the people and hoping that through this technology channel that I can find PEOPLE who can answer my question.

    I would reiterate Mushon’s point that Aardvark is not about human against technology (I think you could make an argument that Pandora is) but wisidom of the crowd.

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