The Galaxy Zoo uses humans as “computers”. We’re very good at grouping things by resemblance, so hobbyists are used to group images of galaxies into “types”
... With your help, we've been able to collect millions of classifications, with which to do science faster than we ever thought possible...
…If you're already familiar with basic Galaxy Zoo analysis, click here to read the instructions and click here to take part. Galaxy Zoo 2 will go live in the near future featuring a much more detailed classification system, while further off we plan GalaxyZoo 3 with lots of exciting new data...
Some persons on the autism spectrum with a personal interest in astronomy might be interested in the Galaxy Zoo today, but from a special needs perspective I’m mostly interested in where things might go in the future.
There will likely be tasks that humans do much better than computers for at least a few years. A few decades, I hope.
Some of these tasks will be open to people with focal cognitive disability. These disabilities are often offset by domains of relative, and even, absolute, strength, such as rapid pattern recognition in the card game “Set”, or rapid discrimination of large amounts of visual data. Tasks similar to the Galaxy Zoo classification, but with payment attached, might become an option – in time.
Incidentally, the first “computers” were humans. Even into WW II men and women did computational tasks by hand and were known as “computers”. (Engineers, of course, used slide rules until the late 1970s, but they weren’t called “computers”.) So this is a “back to the future” story.