This post is about some of the more interesting and unusual news items that provide continuing evidence of the way that online collaboration is upending old ways of doing things in several domains.
In the past, we’ve depended upon social and behavioral scientists, news media, and other authoritative figures to assess our collective emotional state. Now there’s the WeFeel project of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). As CSIRO describes it:
We Feel is a project that explores whether social media—specifically Twitter—can provide an accurate, real-time signal of the world’s emotional state.
Hundreds of millions of tweets are posted every day. … We Feel is about tapping that signal to better understand the prevalence and drivers of emotions. We hope it can uncover, for example, where people are most at risk of depression and how the mood and emotions of an area/region fluctuate over time. It could also help understand questions such as how strongly our emotions depend on social, economic and environmental factors such as the weather, time of day, day of the week, news of a major disaster or a downturn in the economy.
Another domain which has more obviously been dominated by experts is medicine. While many hospitals and physicians are still working out their systems for electronic health records and billing in a changed insurance environment, patients are not waiting. Nor are various businesses – as we are already seeing an onslaught of wearable devices to help people track health from both large established companies and startups.
Going beyond health tracking to health management and finding a way to bring in medical expertise when it’s really needed is the next step, although not a simple matter. But uMotif is tackling the issue. As they say:
Health systems across the world are under increasing pressure. The demands are rising, but resources often can’t keep pace. One way to help relieve the pressure is for people to engage more in their own health. Taking greater control, ownership and responsibility for keeping well.
[uMotif offers] Software for health self-management and shared decision making, supporting patients and clinicians; strengthening relationships; improving healthcare.
And then there’s the Longitude Prize, which was created in the 18th century by the British government. The winner had to create a workable way to determine a ship’s longitude.
In a sequel to that original prize, there is now in the UK a new Longitude Prize 2014. But instead of an official body determining the topic, this being the 21st century, the Longitude Committee used crowdsourcing and asked the public to submit ideas.
The public’s choice of a new challenge?
“In order to tackle growing levels of antimicrobial resistance, the challenge set for the Longitude Prize is to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.
Reading this, many observers might make the traditional assumption that the challenge aims to encourage heavy thinking by experts in biology, disease, DNA and the like. But the Longitude Committee states right up front on their website:
Now that the antibiotics challenge has been chosen, we want everyone, from amateur scientists to the professional scientific community, to try and solve it.
Nesta [the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts in the UK] and the Longitude Committee are finalising the criteria for how to win the £10 million prize, and from the autumn you will be able to submit your entries.
I’ve previously described the success that Zooniverse has had in amateur science, but the Longitude Committee has upped the ante considerably by offering such a large prize. Good luck to all my readers!
© 2014 Norman Jacknis