Software Helps Develop Hunches

Quinn Norton in Wired:

Bonabeau, a former researcher at the Santa Fe Institute, calls his innovation “the hunch engine.” Presented to a general audience for the first time at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference here, the engine is a technological implementation of the “obscenity principle” — a user of the hunch engine may not know what they are looking for, but they will “know it when they see it,” the test Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously offered as a metric to define obscenity.

When the user starts the hunch engine he is presented with a seed — a starting point — and a set of mutations. The user selects mutations that look promising in his eyes, and the application uses that selection to generate another set of mutations, continuing in that fashion until the user is satisfied with what he sees.

Call it guided natural selection, where the selector for fitness is what looks good to the human in front of the monitor.

More here.