Humans and Computers Team Up Against World Issues

Thuman computationhe journal Science just released an article written by researchers who envision a world in which combined human and computer intelligence could yield unprecedented solutions to historic problems.

The researchers hailed from Cornell University and the Human Computation Institute. They called for increased efforts in the acceleration of computational research being done to help investigate and counter issues related to cancer, HIV, climate change and drought.

It’s not uncommon to crowdsource the analysis of research materials. In fact, crowdsourcing research has even taken the form of creating games for people to play which are both entertaining and complete important analysis-related tasks for researchers.

These games, for which the purpose its actually to forward the advancement of science, fall under the category of “citizen science,” explained the director of the Human Computation Institute Pietro Michelucci. According to Michelucci, the surfacing of new forms of infrastructure and new development tools have allowed scientists to combine “carious methods of crowdsourcing and create more complex and sophisticated systems… So this means, instead of creating just one-off human computation systems from scratch each time, we now have the ability to connect different methods of engagement and have real-time access to crowds.”

Websites like Kickstarter and groups like Anonymous have demonstrated the huge amounts of power that internet communities can possess if accessed and mobilized in the right way. Citizen Science is no exception; once HIV-related research was released in the form of a protein golding game called Foldit, citizen scientists reached a finding that had previously eluded researchers for decades.

“If you could create an expert by combining people in the crowd, then you have access to a lot more crowd experts,” explained Michelucci. “So we use the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ method to combine contributions from the general public.”

minions“Combined experts” were used to diagnose malaria in a smartphone app called “Malaria Spot.” Researchers found that every 23 diagnoses made from citizen scientists were as accurate as one diagnosis from a certified pathologist. The same method is set to be used for Alzheimers, though the numbers themselves may be different.

“We have too figure out how many members of the public it takes to analyze a certain mount of data before that analysis is as accurate as the one from the trained scientist working in the lab,” asserted Michelucci. “When we can make that work, we have this force multiplier. If we have 30,000 people in the general public and it takes 30 people, then we have 1,000 crowd experts.”

Crowd experts could impact more than the field of science. Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group pointed out that human computation would also come in handy with “litigation, both case law and discovery, primary research on trends and causes… Politics would be timely, for instance.”

Timely political responses could lead to huge changes for human society; imagine how quickly gun control laws would change if people could simply put laws into action after 2015’s tragic onslaught of deadly shootings. It could also help to solve lobbyist issues, though they would perhaps just take a different form.

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