What have you done for a cyborg lately?

I’m not the least surprised by this article noting how vital human judgment is to the smooth working of so many of the processes we assume have been fully automated by now:

“People evaluate, edit or correct an algorithm’s work. Or they assemble online databases of knowledge and check and verify them — creating, essentially, a crib sheet the computer can call on for a quick answer. Humans can interpret and tweak information in ways that are understandable to both computers and other humans.

Question-answering technologies like Apple’s Siri and I.B.M.’s Watson rely particularly on the emerging machine-man collaboration. Algorithms alone are not enough.

Twitter uses a far-flung army of contract workers, whom it calls judges, to interpret the meaning and context of search terms that suddenly spike in frequency on the service.”

The increasing dependence upon machine intelligence to run our world isn’t really “dependence” in the classical sense at all:  human intelligence is becoming increasingly vital in making the thing work. 

This makes Jaron Lanier’s argument that we need to adjust our economy to compensate humans for the enormous amount of information they provide “the cloud” quite well.  “Big data” only works because people fill out forms, tag photos, and share their preferences:  Why should only the makers of the algorithm or the owners of the network profit off a the intellectual property they provide that makes the whole thing work?

Put another way:  why wouldn’t a new kind of “intelligence” (I use the term loosely – though others wouldn’t) require a new kind of economic incentive?