There are some fascinating developments which call for some “What If Thinking”.
Four technological developments
Nowadays more or less everyone is connected to someone via the Internet. It is assumed that any person can connect to another person via a friend of a friend, all it takes is six or fewer steps for anyone to be introduced to someone – it is a small world.
Stanley Milgram explored the relationship in the Small World Experiment in 1967 and although the experiment have several weakness it is still a popular research topic. By the introduction of the Internet only Six Degrees of Separation are between you and everyone on your mobile phone. Recent studies even suggest that the world has shrinked as a result of Social Networking such as Facebook and there may only be Three Degrees of Separation. We are and feel more connected to each other.
Soon all conceivable devices will also be connected. This means that a thousand physical quantities built-in (like length, or torque, or tensile strength, or clicks per impression), as well as nearly 10,000 units of measure (like inches, or meters per second or katals or micropascals per square root hertz) will be connected to the Internet.Those devices could be linked to a person (a smart watch for instance), to a product or a process or linked to a GPS-position. If a standard exchange protocol, as proposed by the Wolfgang Connected Devices Project, will be developed, a seamless integration of as many kinds of devices may be possible.
A third development is that we assume that the production costs of devices will be decreased by the use of nanotechnology and the trend of individuation of products will continue. As a result of a reduction of production costs, several devices such equipments such as heart rate monitors, fitness equipment and books, are becoming more affordable for individual use. These items were previously only available for organisations and groups, such as a hospital, gym or library,
A fourth development that will function as a kind of multiplier that will dramatically increase the mentioned developments. Manufacturers of devices will no longer offer a device plus its processor plus an infrastructure linked to that device. They will make use of the facilities the buyer already have. That is, a computer or a mobile phone, with all their data processing qualities and connections built-in. We will see that producers will adopt strategies that are derived from the biological concept of symbiosis.
Crowd research offers a great opportunity to explore possibilities and opportunities. Already we can see examples how those four developments or trends will interact and reinforce each other, especially what we call, by lack of better, Crowd Research
- SETI, a distributed computingproject in which volunteers donate idle computer power to analyze radio signals for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.
- In the Open-Source Bee Project a global set of sensors could give scientists new insight into the possible causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). A cheap sensor could turn backyard beekeepers into an army of citizen-scientists
- Zooniverse is a citizen science web portal owned and operated by the Citizen Science Alliance. The organization grew from the original Galaxy Zoo project and now hosts dozens of projects which allow volunteers to participate in scientific research. Zooniverse projects require the active participation of human volunteers to complete research tasks. Projects have been drawn from disciplines including astronomy, ecology, cell biology, humanities, and climate science. The Zooniverse community consisted of more than 1 million registered volunteers. The data collected from the various projects has led to the publication of more than 50 scientific papers.
- eBird is an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. eBird has been described as an ambitious example of enlisting amateurs to gather data on biodiversity for use in science. eBird is an example of treating citizens as scientists, allowing the public to access and use their own data and the collective data generated by others.
- Tomnod took images gathered by their satellites and offered them to the public for viewing and identification in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. 2.3 million people used the site to look for signs of wreckage, oil spills and other objects of interest. During the 2010 Haiti earthquake, OpenStreetMap and Crisis Commons volunteers used available satellite imagery to map the roads, buildings and refugee camps of Port-au-Prince in just two days, building “the most complete digital map of Haiti’s roads”
Emerging Crowd Research
We may speculate that the availability of cheap devices linked to mobile phones will increase crowd research exponentially in nearly every area of human activity.
The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing. Quantified self is self-knowledge through self-tracking with technology. Quantified self advancement have allowed individuals to quantify bio-metrics that they never knew existed, as well as make data collection cheaper and more convenient. One can track insulin and Coriolis levels, sequence DNA, and see what microbial cells inhabit his or her body.
If the collected data are shared, imaging what hidden cause-effect relations will emerge foe example, between life style, geographical area, and food consumption. Architects could use the data to design better buildings, routes and cities. The data can be used to design office layouts that stimulates physical exercise. The data could be used to monitor healthy persons, which could lead to changes in medical science which is per definition based on ill people. It can be used to map the spreading of viruses. People could compare their work pace with others in the branch and in other branches. Scientific disciplines as psychology and sociology would be freed from unreliable research methods like interviews and questionnaires.
What if dreams are massively recorded on a world scale? Do poor people dream about other things than rich people? Are Japanese dreams different from dreams in Africa? Shadow: Community of Dreamers, crowd financed with $82,500, wakes people up with an alarm, prompts them to anonymously describe their dreams, and beams those reports into a massive online set, where they can be searched and analyzed. Dreams are coded for age, sex, location, and time.
What if there are cheap devices that measures the quality of tap water or swim water? What if people near Fukushima are no longer dependent on radiation levels from the government or TESCO because there is a cheap device that in combination with a mobile phone share information about radio activity? If many, many people have their own weather station and are plugged in a network, would it not enhance farming at a huge scale? What if anybody with a mobile phone could recognize a sought or missing person?
What if cars have an on-line device that measures the air quality, but also will display that level of air pollution at their rooftops ? Would it lead to “air pollution traffic control”? Wouldn’t it be confronting and provoke to action by citizens?
All cars have an indicator on their roof that shows the level of pollution: low, medium, too high
Ultimately, we may see an enormous democratising of information that till now has been monopolised by institutions and governments and, as history shows, often a lot of data and information has been denied or hidden from civilians.