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Harnessing human computational power from computer games
03 July 2008 22:35

I came across gwap.com tonight. Essentially it's a set of fun games people can play. But there's more than just some idle time involved. Behind the scenes, these games are harnessing human computational power to solve interesting problems. The video on the site gives more technical details about what is happening here. It's an idea related to Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

What I found interesting in the video was how this guy generalized what he was doing by looking at each game as an algorithm that could be applied to problems other than those he was interested in solving. Of course, the natural question that arises in my mind is, how can we apply this approach to problems in family history research? Can we use this sort of thing to make indexing as fun as playing a game?

This is yet another example of harnessing the power of the Internet masses. As he describes it, you can almost look at this as a human computational grid, where human brains are being used as the processing units. In his talk at the 2008 Family History Technology workshop, Paul Allen mentioned the possibility of applying some kind of 'by-product' from all the computer games the rising generation like to play towards solving problems in family history work. I think gwap.com's approach is perhaps a step in this direction. Are there other, more meaningful interactions with our computers from which we can harvest computational 'by-products' to solve important problems in the world? Is there some way I can harness some aspect of, say, reading my email, or perusing my blog reader to make the world a better place in some small way?


Comments

On 04 July 2008 11:21 Kathy wrote:
Interesting thoughts here!


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