Humans and Machines: Collaborators or Competitors?

Last week, Hal Daume wrote a nice post entitled “Supplanting vs Augmenting Human Language Capabilities“. Drawing an analogy between natural language processing (NLP) and robotics, he says:

I would say that most NLP research aims to supplant humans. Machine translation puts translators out of work. Summarization puts summarizers out of work (though there aren’t as many of these). Information extraction puts (one form of) information analysts out of work. Parsing puts, well… hrm…

There seems actually to be quite little in the way of trying to augment human capabilities.

He then offers possible ways that NLP might be used to augment, rather than supplant human capabilities:

  • Tools for language learning.
  • Interactive information retrieval.
  • Adaptive tutorials.

The main tenet of HCIR is that information retrieval systems should be working with users, rather than trying to do all of the work on their own. It’s great to see a kindred spirit thinking about machine learning and NLP in the same light.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

3 replies on “Humans and Machines: Collaborators or Competitors?”

I totally agree as well. I severly dislike being coddled by a search algorithm that thinks it knows better than me what I want, or how I want it. I would much rather have an algorithm that augmented my ability to express my information need, and then not only gave me results, but gave me explanatory feedback on why those results were retrieved, so as to allow me to understand just how well the machine understood and handled what I had expressed.


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