Combining human and computer intelligence to solve 'wicked' problems
USA: How do you solve large-scale global issues like climate change and geopolitical conflict? The combination of human and computer intelligence might be just what’s needed to find solutions to the ‘wicked’ problems of the world, say researchers from Cornell University and the Human Computation Institute.
In an article published in the journal Science, the authors present a new vision of human computation (the science of crowd-powered systems), which pushes beyond traditional limits, and takes on hard problems that until recently have remained out of reach.
Crowd-powered systems are already being used across a range of emergency and other situations, but could they be used to address even greater global issues? (photo: 123RF / Muhammad Ribkhan)
The techniques provide real-time access to crowd-based inputs, where individual contributions can be processed by a computer and sent to the next person for improvement or analysis of a different kind. This enables the construction of more flexible collaborative environments that can better address the most challenging issues.
This idea is already taking shape in several human computation projects, including YardMap.org, which was launched by Cornell in 2012 to map global conservation efforts one parcel at a time.
“By sharing and observing practices in a map-based social network, people can begin to relate their individual efforts to the global conservation potential of living and working landscapes,” says Janis Dickinson, professor and director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The Human Computation Institute recently set out to use crowd-power to accelerate Cornell-based Alzheimer’s disease research. WeCureAlz.com allows the general public to help analyse Alzheimer’s disease research data by playing an online game, accelerating treatment discovery by a factor of 30. Prototyping has already started and beta testing is expected to begin in February 2016.
“By enabling members of the general public to play some simple online game, we expect to reduce the time to treatment discovery from decades to just a few years”, says HCI director and lead author, Pietro Michelucci. “This gives an opportunity for anyone, including the tech-savvy generation of caregivers and early stage Alzheimer’s patients, to take the matter into their own hands.”