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Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.

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August 11, 2005

Never send a computer to do a human's job, especially if the human works for free

Although this blog is about computer automation, humans still outshine computers in the ability to make aesthetic judgments. Despite advances in automated image processing, for example, computers still have a long way to go in recognizing the contents of a photograph or judging whether a new clothing design would be visually appealing to customers.

Interactive evolutionary computation attempts to provide the best of both worlds by combining the ability of computers to generate new designs with the ability of humans to evaluate their aesthetics. Techdirt writes about a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who has created two online games (here and here) that are fun to play in their own right, and which use the input of the games' users to improve the ability of computers to search for and recognize digital images.

The human players of these games provide descriptive labels of images they are shown and point out key portions of such images, two tasks that computers perform poorly. The human input, however, can then be used by computers to better search for and recognize subsequent images. For example, if many human players of the first game have labeled images of elephants with the word "elephant," when someone then performs a search for "elephant" images, computer software can easily pull up the right pictures just by searching through the human-provided labels, rather than by attempting to recognize the images themselves.

Although I don't believe that either of these games uses interactive evolutionary computation, the philosophy behind both is the same: to form a partnership between computers and humans, using each for what it does best. And when the humans provide input for free, deciding whether to incorporate their superior aesthetic judgments into computer software is a no-brainer.

Posted by Robert at August 11, 2005 7:32 AM
category: Artificial Invention | Design & Engineering

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