The Economist recently ran an article entitled "The return of human computers." As the Economist points out, human computing has been around well before actual computers. Today, even some of the simplest tasks are still performed better by humans. This will most certainly be the case for the foreseeable future. Even though computers are able to perform increasingly more complicated tasks, categories of work types still remain that require more than CPU power - human judgment. Amazon’s recommender system and Google’s PageRank algorithm are two examples of technology making sense of human insight at scale. Here at Luminate we rely on human judgment to do everything from advanced recognition to understanding the context of an image as well as protecting our advertisers from poor ad placements. Justice Potter Stewart, who described his threshold for obscenity as "I know it when I see it," in Jacobellis v. Ohio, would have made an excellent addition to our team of human moderators. That’s just the type of judgment we rely on here at Luminate from our experts!
The article also mentions many contemporary examples of companies leveraging the human computer today. As technologists we must be careful to view our computer as more than a series of simple switches. The components of our computer are people with feelings, aspirations, goals and desires and we must treat them as such. We should strive to provide them with sufficient surrogates for the same things that satisfy those of us that have traditional work environments including a community, feedback, growth opportunity and visibility into meaningful work results. The real power of human computing is more than just controlling a large crowd of workers. High-value work is accomplished when you align work types with interests and enable large groups of fanatics to do work that feed their passion. At Luminate, we put a lot of effort into creating a great work environment for our crowdsourced experts. We hope our fellow technologists join us in doing the same.