Monday, March 26, 2007

Artificial Intelligence, With Help From the Humans - New York Times

I just read an article that pretty much describes two of my three classes this semester: Artificial Intelligence, With Help From the Humans - New York Times. The article is about a micro-payments market for human intelligence.'s founder Jeff Bezos (pictured, left) thought up one exemplar, Mechanical Turk, and in response to criticisms that it seemed like exploitation, he responded something to the effect of, "hey, it's a market... if people are willing to work for 1/2 cent, what's the problem?" Now, as to how that relates to grad school classes, ironically, I'm paying *them* to make me do exactly the kinds of inane things described in the article. I'm in the midst of two projects that are so tedious as to be insanely boring. And I'm doing this instead of writing papers. Somehow I had different expectations about the nature of research. Counting words, coding xml, calculating average word lengths, validating xml, debugging xml, it's all about as interesting as banging your head against a brick wall.

So if this is what research in the field of information studies is all about, I'm pretty sure I've made one very big mistake. Legal research, which I enjoy tremendously, gave me no insight into this aspect of the genre. Thinking of how I might like to spend my time over the next 3 to 5 years, counting black spaces in crossword puzzles, or anything remotely like counting black spaces in crossword puzzles, isn't on the list. There sure better be some other kind of research or this is not going to work.

Ok, enough complaining. I am sure I'm not the only person who feels this way. I think part of my problem is that I feel such tremendous pressure not to waste time. My mom. Alzheimer's. I'm scared to death of that slipping into incapacity. That's what it comes down to. So I know that there's something valuable to learn from coding xml for an image archive. I know that there's no better way to learn what's involved in constructing automatic classification systems than to try to construct one yourself. But damnit! I'd rather be writing papers and exploring the world of ideas that are more interesting to me in the time I have left on the earth. I just am not interested in automatic classification systems or encoding xml for archival projects. Thank God someone is, but it's not me. I have to find a way to balance this fear of wasting time (in other words, insistent impatience) with the realities that I have a lot to learn and I'm not in a field where I know what's best for me ("Toto, I don't think we're in the law library anymore.") Ok, so I need some patience. It's not like this is the first time I've recognized that. Somehow I have to pull a rabbit out of the hat...

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