Humans In The Loop

In Story-Oriented Coding I deal with how from ancient times, complex systems have always required human involvement. We are already in a transition to a time where that will not be the case. Setting aside for the moment the recently mentioned topic of humans who are not “strictly biological”, consider another this discussion of whether people or machines are best suited to come up with a comprehensive information system of life:

I’m really a big fan of everything that sounds “social” for the web. If the web can be seen as a big OS in a near future, I think that we can perhaps see people behind this OS as the algorithm that can organize and integrate the knowledge in an intelligent way. If scientists can have efficient web-tools to easily tag/label a piece of biological information, will it improve the integration we need for bioinformatics ? … So, as a conclusion, I dream about a system where the biological data (weblinks, publications, database entries, pictures, several nucleotides in a genome,…) will be linked together using words/labels/tags under the control of ontologies. … Hey man, you are describing the Semantic Web !! Yeah, that’s right. But how can we construct this Semantic Web : with the millions of human beings behind computers and using their brain or with the millions of processors inside several dedicated computers in the world and using algorithms ? Both perhaps. Humans define semantic and computers construct the web on it. It will perhaps be faster to let people do the intelligent part of the job rather than wait for the killer algorithm that can be as intelligent as us. A team of 10 scientists cannot do that in their “small” lab. But what about a team with all the scientists in their huge “Web-lab” ??

Folksnomy for bioinformatics: people vs algorithms?

Well, if we let machines define life for us, we’re stepping onto a very slippery slope where we may at some point become unable to alter that definition. The systems our lives depend on may become so intertwined with machines we won’t be able to simply reboot them. Nor will be be able to prevent machines from drawing conclusions and taking actions we don’t agree with. This isn’t sci-fi and when you add in technology augmented humans, things could get pretty funky. Whether you’re interested in the tech side of things or not, you have a strong interest in seeing that strictly biological humans remain in the loop. As mentioned here before, it’s happening faster than it appears so we need to get the conversation going now. Hopefully by the time of the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, this will be a publicly discussed topic.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: