I had no idea ReCPATCHA provided a “service” to…old books?

Did you know "By entering the words in the box, you are also helping to digitize texts that were written before the computer age. The words that you see were taken directly from old texts that are being scanned and stored in digital format in order to preserve them and make them more accessible to the world. Since some of the words in these texts are difficult for computers to process, we are using the results of your efforts to help decipher them."

How is it possible, if they don't already know what it says, for it to be used as verification? I.e. if I'm helping to figure out what it says, how does it know if I'm right?
Aah–they thought of that: "But if a computer can't read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here's how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by [a computer] is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct."

Are you kidding? I am deeply wowed.


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