The other night I was catching up on the latest world news from my prime TV journalists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Colbert interviewed Riley Crane (take a watch of this six minute clip), an MIT postdoc who lead a team that won a DARPA Network Challenge to find ten red balloons on display at all locations at 10:00AM (ET) until approximately 4:00 PM (local time) on Saturday, December 5, 2009 scattered around the US in the shortest time.
The winning team found all of the balloons in 6 hours 52 minutes. The team used a cascade of financial incentives; they shared the $40,000 prize among those who helped find the balloons. To drive the social network, those who referred those who found a balloon received part of the winnings. Listen to Riley Crane on Colbert Nation and look at the team’s website for more about how it worked.
I think that we need to seize on this social invention to solve some pressing matters in our recent history. For instance, why not use this technology to find, for example:
- evidence of crimes or egregious unethical behavior committed by Dick Cheney
- managers of sub-prime mortgage companies who intentionally targeted people who could not financially support home ownership, those who created low-doc and no-doc mortgages.
- members of the defense and spy establishment who knowingly foisted the WMD strategy on the world to support Bush’s craziness
- what happened to the $billions in cash disbursed in Iraq during the early years of the Bush War?
How would this work? Well, some ideas will lead directly to real money, others will require some wealthy folks with interest in the question to put up some short change to invent the discoveries. Then, we just sit back and watch the social web work.
There is a problem here, that is fairly obvious and not without some risks. The same social discovery process can be used by anyone with a little cash and access to the web. We will see a tsunami of questions from a less desirable portion of the world.