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Artificial Intelligence May Help Humans Fight Global Problems with Novel Solutions

First Posted: Jan 05, 2016 09:24 AM EST

The combination of human and computer intelligence may be just what we need to solve most of the world's problems. Scientists have announced that the two working together may be able to tackle problems like climate change and geopolitical conflict.

Humans surpass machines at many things, ranging from simple things such as pattern recognition to creative abstraction. With the help of computers, though, these cognitive abilities can be combined into multidimensional collaborative networks that can achieve what traditional problem-solving cannot.

Most of today's human computation systems rely on sending bite-sized "micro-tasks" to many individuals and then stitching together the results. For example, 165,000 volunteers in EyeWire have analyzed thousands of images online to help build the world's most complete map of human retinal neurons. This microtasking approach, though, can't address the tough challenges we face today.

However, new human computation technologies can help. Recent techniques provide real-time access to crowd-based inputs where individuals contributions can be processes by a computer and sent to the next person for improvement or analysis of a different kind. This enables the construction of more flexible collaborative environments that can better address the most challenging issues.

"By sharing and observing practices in a map-based social network, people can begin to relate their individual efforts to the global conservation potential of living and working landscapes," said Janis Dickinson, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In fact, the researchers found that their idea is already taking shape in several human computation projects, including YardMap, which allows participants to interact and build on each other's work. This is something that crowdsourcing alone could not achieve.

The finding shows that it's important to use all tools available in order to solve tough problems. In particular, using computers to build on research will be key in the future.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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