There are many benefits, we are learning, to being part of a crowd; in less time than ever, we can achieve more creative, higher quality ideas from crowdsourcing contests like the Pepsi Refresh Project, pay for work to be done inexpensively (or for free) with microtasks on sites like Mturk, and get our questions answered more accurately on social search engines like Quora… but what does it look like when you take these benefits a little bit further? Things start to look strange, quickly…Cue the Twilight Zone Music…
Imagine, a few years from now, walking through the park wearing a Lady Gaga style pair of glasses (or Google style) with an Quora-like app facing your retinas and a small camera on the front of the glasses streaming everything you see to anyone who wants to view and offer helpful info or opinions on what you see.
In your glasses, you can see a chat-room like feed of botanists offering information on the types of trees around you, a college student studying water-safety states their opinion of how safe it is to drink from a water fountain as you take a few sips, and then someone types ‘WATCH OUT!!!’ when they see a little kid who’s lost control of his bicycle on the edge of your cam’s periphery.
Via augmented reality, your glasses also allow you to leave digital messages on physical objects, or hovering over people’s heads, for your friends to see if they should ever see the same object or person.
Lunchtime comes around, and the mic on your glasses hears your tummy grumble; your personal recommendation system analyzes your past food choices, cross-references nearby food joints that your friends and others have liked, and instantly returns the perfect recommendation to your glasses. Now, you see the participants in your stream discussing if it’s a good place or not, but you’ve already decided and sit down to your table. You finish lunch, leave a verbal review on the restaurant’s website, and now you’re heading back home.
When you get home and take off your glasses, you stand in front of your computer interface system, always on and always connected. (The economy, at this point, is largely based on thoughts and ideas since robotics and automation continued to unburden us from physical labor.)
No longer do you work for a single corporation, instead you work when you want on a per-task basis. The Internet, the global system, knows your specific skills, expertise, and interests. From the other side of the world, a scuba-diving business posts a request for a new digital brochure. The system knows your skills in graphic-design and your passion for scuba-diving, so it instantly recommends the task to you.
You collaborate with five others of varying complimentary skills, automatically chosen from around the world. The whole thing only takes you 15 minutes.
When you’re done, you are all credited system points; these points will allow you to request a small amount of work from someone else in the system for whenever you need it. You’re thinking about using them to help you search for the best radiologist program in Northern California next week because you’re looking into moving to that area and making a career change.
Fast forward a few decades from this, technology has changed drastically as the accelerating returns from the performance of computers, the advances in medical-science from scanning technologies (allowing us to understand our biology at the molecular level), crowdfunded research, and scientists using crowdsourcing to solve problems have allowed for the trans-humanist movement, a part of the technological singularity, to take hold.
Brain computer interface technology has allowed for perfect mind control with a seamless wireless connection between your neural pathways to the computers around you and the Internet at large. Suddenly, your brain is connected intimately to every other brain on the planet. A single global brain. A super-intelligence comprised of billions of minds.
Now your very definition of self is blurred, as is the idea of work & play, and you are now adding your input to the group, where perceptions, concepts, and ideas are passed around from person to person at blazing speeds.
Your every thought, your every neural-pulse is broadcast, recorded, shared and routed to individuals for maximum computation.
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you can choose to share experiences virtually with the other cyborgs in the system. Together you are creating new pieces of art that reach the heights of sublimity, hearing and telling the funniest of jokes, and experiencing shared emotions and sentiments which are a blend of the group's. You are now a hive mind…
Sound far fetched? As strange is this scenario may have sounded to you, there are many that predict it will come true.
Books like Ebo Cloud paint the picture, some followers of theories about the technological singularity predict it, and futurists are not counting it out.
Interested in the future of crowdsourcing? What do you think? Could crowdsourcing lead to a hive mind?