Thursday, August 06, 2015

Sharing the Work

Scanning the cliffs near Logan Pass for mountain goats (Citizen Science) (4427399123)
By GlacierNPS [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Working together, even to change the world, doesn’t have to involve a great deal of effort. In the spirit of the “work smarter, not harder” mantra, platforms for problem solving demonstrate that mass collaboration can result in successful projects while reducing each participant’s workload.
Anthony D. Williams, PLATFORMS FOR 

One of the benefits of Globally Distributed Creative Problem Solving is this ability to share the work of changing the world. In the face of a never-ending cycle of bad news, our natural reaction may be to turn away in defeat, thinking that the problems are too big for us to do anything about. What could we possibly do in the face of environmental and cultural inertia, a billion dollar lobbying industry, and years of poor education?

Well, hundreds of people around the world, using a simple disk and a data gathering app, can provide data that will help scientists create an accurate map of the world's phytoplankton population. "Citizen scientists" around the world can help provide data to numerous scientific studies, accelerating the research process.

If you are interested in participating, you can find a number of projects at Citizen Science AllianceScientific American, National Geographic, as well as this list on Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Distributed Imagination

I want to start this post by explaining why yesterday's post was so, well, abbreviated. When I returned to blogging this week, I made a commitment that I would post 60 entries in 60 days. I really want to make it a habit to provide you with a daily summary of what I'm learning in this new venture.

The problem is, I'm still getting the hang of coming up with material on a daily basis. Looking back on yesterday, I see that I would be better off firing off a quick thought that I had, rather than trying to analyze an article when I don't have the time to do it justice. With that in mind, I will try to handle those situations better in the future.

So, with that out of the way, I would like to get back to the paper by John Seely Brown.

Rather than summarize it, I would like to single out one concept that I found to be extremely thought provoking. That would be the concept of a "network of imagination". This relates to what Brown sees as the importance of play, and world creating in particular.

"World building unleashes human potential through imagination. It allows us to dream of something that doesn’t yet exist and construct the context and content around it so that it could be."
This is fascinating to me, because it touches on what I believe is one of humanity's greatest failures today--a failure of imagination. We lean so heavily on mass media for our collective imagination, that we seldom stop to ask whether or not this imagination is serving us well. The world that our collective imagination seems to be building at this point is one of fear. Whether it's fear of our future, fear of nature, or fear of those living among us, we begin to base our decisions on these fears, and we are building a world that is unsustainable. At some point, we will make what we imagine real, confirming what we feared all along.

This is a far cry from what could positively be imagined. I think of the world that Gene Roddenberry built in his conception of Star Trek. The future he ultimately imagined was one of peace and cooperation. Some of the physical things he imagined have become reality in our day and age: cell phones, mobile computing devices, blue tooth headsets....

We need to get back to positively imagining our future and the solutions to the great problems that face us. There are many people working on these problems with a positive future in mind, but that needs to extend to the culture at large. I think that one of the great tasks of science fiction is this imagining.

Brown speaks of "Networks of Imagination" and he imagines these networks rising from collective action. I think that these networks have to work hand in hand with Globally Distributed Problem Solving Communities. There is a place for everyone; problem visualizers, problem solvers, data gatherers, those who can reframe problems in new contexts, people who can provide nudges from seemingly unrelated fields, and people who can imagine how problems and solutions could play out in the future.

We don't just need experts. We need everyone.

Friday, July 31, 2015

John Seely Brown and Entrepreneurial Learning

I was reading an article this morning on the blog of Irving Wladawsky-Berger (which I highly recommend that you add to your feed reader) when I came across a couple of posts about John Seely Brown. Brown was chief scientist at Xerox for a number of years, and is now Independent Co-Chairman of Center for the Edge at Deloitte. The topic of the most recent post was Brown's paper "Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century".

It's been a busy day, so look for a better summary this weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Other Kind of Distributed Creative Problem Solving

According to an article posted in Techcrunch, IBM and its Watson project are teaming up with CVS to monitor customer data to pinpoint health problems before customers experience a medical crisis. The article reports that "CVS will allow Watson to scour many millions of data points from patient’s clinical records, medical claims, and fitness devices to go through the same cognition process as others within the Watson ecosystem, but the idea here is to aid CVS nurses and pharmacists in determining patient risk."

The network relies on the data that is recorded by humans and machines, processing it faster than humanly possible. This will be increasingly the case as technology progresses. We will find many more tasks for Watson (and others) to work on, hopefully increasing our problem solving pace.

I think, though, that Globally Distributed Creative Problem Solving by humans will result in a more human world. That is, if we continue to remove the obstacles to global cooperation. A globally distributed network of unique human experiences, that cannot yet be quantified, should allow us to solve problems that result from our sometimes irrational behavior.

Perhaps, future cooperation between these global problem-solving networks will begin to resemble the interaction between left and right hemispheres of the brain--the human side, and the machine side. Or maybe we will fail to keep up, and Watson will, as Stephen Hawking predicts, become our Skynet.

IBM Watson

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Permissionless, or "Open", Innovation in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Open Innovation Community pointed me to an interesting article from the pharmaceutical industry this morning. In the August 2015 edition of the Communications of the ACM, an article titled "Permissionless Innovation: Seeking a better approach to pharmaceutical research and development" argues the benefits of opening some aspects of drug development to outside research. The authors, Henry Chesbrough and Marshall Van Alstyne, point out that this would allow drug companies to discover unanticipated uses for new drugs.

The article also discusses a couple of interesting instances of open innovation, namely Goldcorp's opening of its geographical data to outside innovators to help discover new ore deposits, and the pharmaceutical industry's development of Cubicin, a powerful antibiotic.

We need initiatives like this in the pharmaceutical industry and others. The more problem solvers we can engage on each problem, the better. We have the technology to organize large-scale engagement. We need to put that technology to work.

Opening research to other perspectives can help to accelerate solutions to real world problems.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Globally Distributed Creative Problem Solving

From here on out, I will be evaluating research tools, books, policies, organizations, and research according to whether or not they facilitate or obstruct what I'm calling Globally Distributed Creative Problem Solving, or GDCPS. Our problems are big right now, and we need some pretty big solutions, solutions that can only be arrived at by unleashing the full potential of our greatest tool - the Internet.

I'm looking for something like MIT's Climate CoLab, or FoldIt, though I keep hoping for something that's purely cooperative, rather than competitive. That's why I'm not a huge fan of the corporate crowd-source innovation portals, like Innocentive, or NineSigma, though I'm still going to take the time to explore what they are offering.

If you are curious, here's a look at what MIT is doing:

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Google Keep is Really Turning Into Something Useful!

I'm always on the lookout for good note-taking or organizational apps, and I must say, I've been intrigued by the development of Google Keep. At first, I thought that there was little to recommend it - it was just a way of keeping lists or notes on my Google account. I thought that the color coding was pretty neat, but it lacked quite a bit in comparison to other note or organizational apps. I went ahead and began using it as a quick way of recording notes and keeping them handy. I really liked the speech to text angle on my tablet. It worked fairly well, and allowed me to take my notes hands-free while I was walking around.

Since that initial impression, Google has quietly added updates and features, getting it to the point now where it has become extremely useful for me. In no particular order, Google has added:

  • Reminders.
  • The ability to capture and add photos to notes.
  • The ability to export the notes in a variety of formats (on an Android device).
  • The ability to share notes and update them in real time.
  • The ability to add labels or keywords.
  • A nice search function which will let you search by color, label, whether there is a photo, whether it is a list, whether it was recorded voice, and whether it has been shared.
  • When you perform a search on a the web version, you can export discovered notes as a Google Drive document.
Those last few items are game changers for me. It is now possible to color code my notes for topic, project, or field. I can then add keywords, and when I search, limit a collection to those keywords. I could color code my library work as Orange, and then add keywords, like 'Apps', or 'Google' as I add notes. Once I perform a search for Orange notes labeled 'Apps', I can further limit by keyword or go ahead and select notes from the list and export them to a Google Doc, essentially creating an outline on one topic, waiting for editing and later publication.

As I said, this is a game changer for me - the ability to dictate, label, organize and publish from one app tied to my Google account is what I've been looking for for awhile.

Here are some screen grabs to give you an idea about Keep's capabilities:

Here, you can see Keep's search box, with options to search by color, list, voice transcription, photo, reminder, and sharing status. You can, of course, search by text also. Here, I have chosen to search by the color Orange.

I have limited the search further by choosing the label 'Newsletter'. I have then selected the five cards on display.

From the three dot drop down menu in the middle of the gray bar, I can now select 'Copy to Google Doc' to create a document from my notes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

IFTTT's "Do Button" - Test Run

Today, IFTTT launched a few new features, including the "Do Button". The IFTTT app will also be re-branded as IF. The "Do Button" is a pretty nice app, and I hope that it has many applications which I will find useful. The first use for it that I'm trying out is to easily post to Blogger, so consider this a test post.

via Do Note