TED Talk of the Day #009: Massive-scale online collaboration

Event: TEDxCMU
Speaker: Luis von Ahn
Bio: Builds systems that combine humans and computers to solve large-scale problems that neither can solve alone.

If you are on Internet, then you are likely to be familiar with CAPTCHA – that irritating question you have to answer to prove that you are human and not a bot.

Well, your irritation is being channelled to solve problems. If you have ever filled the new reCAPTCHA form, then you have UNKNOWINGLY contributed to digitization of a book.

What is the big deal, you might ask? A snippet from the talk:

This is the number of distinct people that have helped us digitize at least one word out of a book through reCAPTCHA: 750 million, a little over 10 percent of the world’s population, has helped us digitize human knowledge. And it is numbers like these that motivate my research agenda. So the question that motivates my research is the following: If you look at humanity’s large-scale achievements, these really big things that humanity has gotten together and done historically — like, for example, building the pyramids of Egypt or the Panama Canal or putting a man on the Moon — there is a curious fact about them, and it is that they were all done with about the same number of people. It’s weird; they were all done with about 100,000 people. And the reason for that is because, before the Internet, coordinating more than 100,000 people, let alone paying them, was essentially impossible. But now with the Internet, I’ve just shown you a project where we’ve gotten 750 million people to help us digitize human knowledge. So the question that motivates my research is, if we can put a man on the Moon with 100,000, what can we do with 100 million?

The same thinking has been used to develop Duolingo – a mobile app where more than 300 milion users are learning more than 23 languages – a majority of them for free.

That is the new disruption – what can you offer for free to millions of people?

List of previous videos at https://sharebooks.org/category/videos/

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