Breakthrough: Human-machine superintelligence will tackle “wicked” problems

By combining the powers of human and artificial intelligence, these scientists say no problem is too big to solve.

Researchers from the Human Computation Institute (HCI) and Cornell University have made a fascinating breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence. According to a report from Neuroscience News, a team of scientists has asserted that by combining human and computer intelligence, some of the most complex problems facing the globe, like climate change and international conflicts, could be broken down and solved more easily.

The study, which was published in the journal Science, offered a new paradigm for the way humans can interact with machines. The study focuses on crowd-powered systems, which could be the key to solving complicated global issues.

Humans and computers each have different strengths. People have a much easier time recognizing patterns and coming up with creative, abstract ideas. Computers, on the other hand, are infinitely more efficient at analyzing data. These two strengths could be combined to push the power of multidimensional collaborative networks to new limits.

As it stands today, the best method we have for addressing complex issues like geopolitical conflict or a changing climate depends on sending tiny ‘micro-tasks’ to a large number of individuals and piecing together bits of data to paint a larger picture. It took 165,000 volunteers to piece together images of the retinal neurons in the human eye, for example.

As we attempt to tackle massive, far-reaching problems, however, micro-tasking just takes too long to yield any noticeable results on a global scale. The shift towards a paradigm in which humans interact with supercomputers in real-time allows more collaborative networks to form, which can mean all the difference when addressing a global crisis.

According to Janis Dickinson, a professor and the Director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “By sharing and observing practices in a map-based social network, people can begin to relate their individual efforts to the global conversation potential of living and working landscapes.”

The HCI has recently put this new paradigm to the test as it seeks to improve research on Alzheimer’s disease. They have recently combined two micro-tasking systems to create an interactive environment that makes it easy to build models of the blood flow within the brains of test mice. According to HCI director and the lead author of the study, Dr. Pietro Michelucci, “By enabling members of the general public to play some simple online game, we expect to reduce the time to treatment discovery from decades to just a few years. This gives an opportunity for anyone, including the tech-savvy generation of caregivers and early stage AD patients, to take the matter into their own hands.”

A press release from the HCI outlining the details of the study can be found here.

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