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Distributed computing projects such as seti@home and folding@home have provided a quite staggering amount of processing power to projects that require it, replacing the supercomputers that were used before. Moreover, most of this power is provided by millions of fairly humble PC's. It strikes me that
a similar approach could be taken with human beings, using the spare thinking power of millions of ordinary brains to analyse a problem where there are currently only a few specialist brains working on it. The problem would have to be carefully chosen; just as distributed computing projects are suited only to solving problems that require vast amounts of calculation of a fairly repetitive nature, distributed human analysis would only lend itself to problems that require plenty of creative thought and can be explained easily.
Here's an example. The US has recently announced that it's going off to Mars (not all of it, just a few representatives) and there is neither the budget nor the technology to do this yet. It is definitely possible but we still have to work out how to do it safely and cheaply. On Think Day, the whole of the US will be given the day off to apply themselves to this problem. Leaflets and websites will explain the various difficulties the mission will face and people can then suggest solutions. Educated people in each town (maybe a panel with hard-science degrees?) could skim through over the next few days and weed out the obvious rubbish (probably most of it) and pass the rest on to NASA for analysis.
Mr. Average may not be the smartest guy, but there's 200,000,000 of him in the US.
Inspired by [Inyuki]'s anno to Robot Day.
The Rise of Crowdsourcing
Remember outsourcing? Sending jobs to India and China is so 2003. The new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D. [xaviergisz, May 25 2006]
365.25 Think Days per year
(at least for those who like playing games) [Inyuki, Sep 27 2012]
||Sounds like a job for the HB.
<aside: How about a think day to think about how to set up distributed human analysis?>
Do you really think a special day would be necessary?
||Yeah, I really think it would be. Unless everyone did it on the same day it would be hard to check that people weren't bunking off on their thinking time. The method would also benefit from the spontaneous brainstorming sessions around the dinner table as everyone has been thinking about the same thing all day.
||I would like to see this idea in a different format than "Think Day". It would be nice to see some kind of internet forum or other structure where people can select a problem to work on in their spare time and join in on the solving.
||Mind you, I'm talking about real solutions as opposed to debate, e.g. working on General Relativity as opposed to which political candidate in an election race is better.
||You know, how much marketing power this will require, when the modern day humans don't tend to watch TV anymore? Something what was possible 50 years ago via a TV or radio announcement becomes impossible today just because the technology had advanced.