I've always been bothered by the little orphaned chunks of time that are lost during everyday life like being stuck in line or waiting for an elevator. Some people play casual games for check their various social networks, but none of that feels rewarding or is in any way productive.
For a while I liked contributing to Galaxy Zoo, which is an amazing project that enables volunteers to help categorize massive amounts of automatically captured data, saving literally years of time for the highly qualified scientists who would have been going through each picture themselves. They have done a good job of bringing on more space projects, but they are too niche to have massive appeal and they aren't taking this great idea, expanding on it, and enabling other people to do amazing things with it.
While brainstorming for this hackathon, we briefly touched on the idea of somehow exposing this kind of crowdsourcing power to a wider range and scale of projects, but initially passed on it as not exciting enough. However, as we continued to run through ideas, we kept coming up with blocking problems that could have been solved if this was available as a service. This started a cascade of ideas spanning a wide swath of industries where Idle would make something better, faster, more affordable, or simply possible.
There are applications at every level, and once you get started you can't help but find new opportunities in everything you see (we passed a politicians office on the way to the hackathon and I couldn't help but wonder what they would do with large scale sentiment analysis across their target demographics or a more objective way to count votes).
Almost every project and sector would benefit from a platform for leveraging the time and brainpower of a massive group of people. A few ideas that have been running through my head:
- massive data visual analysis like galaxy zoo
- leveraging human intuition like the protein folding game
- supercharging conservation efforts that are currently extremely underfunded and trying to rely on local volunteers to notice animals, identify them, and correctly report them.
- the social networks process billions of messages a day and cannot afford to respond to all the flagged posts
- evaluate public opinion toward new messaging/branding/products
- enable an entire genre of crowd powered tools (we were blocked on several ideas that needed a way to verify an image of something, which would be trivial if this existed)
- get accurate sentiment analysis for app reviews and feedback
- enable teachers to be more effective (and help make them more accurate)
Medicine and other Domain Knowledge Industries
- how many lives could be saved if every prescription was asynchronously double checked 1000 times by med students?
- how many innocent people would not have been convicted if there was an affordable way to arbitrate all court decisions
- humans are great at spotting spam - what if we leveraged thousands of people to stop spam forever?
I can think of 1,000 ways that a strong, easy to use platform like Idle would change the world for the better, but the most exciting part is all the ways that I can't think of. If we enable people around the world to tap into the organic supercomputer that is the human race, thousands of new ideas will come out of the woodwork. Somewhere there is a researcher, passionate indie developer, or child prodigy that just needs this missing piece to connect the dots and do something truly amazing.