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What does it mean to be smart?


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You probably know that Bruce Wayne is actually Batman. That’s a secret identity that most of us are aware of.

And if you’re up on pop culture, you know that the best Batman was played by the late actor Adam West.

Visit the visual search engine Lexica, though, and you’ll see that it knows that Adam West was Batman. A search for “Adam West” (with no mention of roles, DC comics or secret identities), shows us this:

It’s important to note that none of these are pictures of Adam West, in or out of costume. It simply “knows” that Adam West is Bruce Wayne is Batman, and shows us some reconstructed images of Batman from the 1960s. It also knows that we might be looking for Batman, even though it’s a secret. The new algorithm it’s using is more than twice as good at figuring out what a picture is a picture of.

When a human does something mysterious like this sort of leap, we simply call them smart. It’s a simple way to describe something we don’t understand. Complexity and breadth mixing in mysterious ways.

And now computers are doing it all the time. (Except when they don’t–lots of the searches are not quite ready for the public.)

PS check out this story about West and the phone book.

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