"Today, humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs – something children can do even before they learn to speak. However, when we think of interfaces between human beings and computers, we usually assume that the human being is the one requesting that a task be completed, and the computer is completing the task and providing the results. What if this process were reversed and a computer program could ask a human being to perform a task and return the results? What if it could coordinate many human beings to perform a task?
Amazon Mechanical Turk does this, providing a web services API for computers to integrate Artificial Artificial Intelligence directly into their processing."
This is so clever. I think we'll see a brand new industry / ecosystem emerge from this. My hat off to the Amazon crew - this is genius.
Update (Nov 6 2005): Richard has some ideas about what the Turk could do for him....