Imagine if there were 300 million police officers on the road everyday. How easy would it be to track down a criminal? How quickly could we find a missing child? Social Media has the potential to fill the gap!
Monday December 7th, 2009 The New York Times published this article; With Lure of Cash, M.I.T. Group Builds a Balloon-Finding Team to Take Pentagon Prize written by John Markoff. The intro to the article caught my attention as another example of how social and collaborative networks have the capacity to leverage exponentially the power of information:
“A group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology edged out about 4,300 other teams on Saturday in a Pentagon-sponsored contest to correctly identify the location of 10 red balloons distributed around the United States.
The contest, which featured a $40,000 prize, was organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in an effort to develop new ways to understand how information is disseminated through social networks.
The winning group, a small team at the M.I.T. Media Laboratory Human Dynamics Group led by a physicist, Riley Crane, took just eight hours and 56 minutes to complete the challenge.”
Essentially, using an accuracy based cash reward system and a social networking website the team was able to gather intelligence as to the location of the balloons all accros the country in just under 9 hours.
Now imagine the potential to utilize social networks to locate a missing child or a wanted criminal! Imagine the locations pinpointed by the network users being fed into a mapping application, the validity of the locals could then be statistically tested for accuracy. It would literally be like having an entire population of volunteer police officers!
Having said that, the motivation in this case was cash so that lends the question would the volume and accuracy of response be comparabe if the motive was altruism? A team of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) scientists tested this question and found that “In the final results all of the motives seemed to be effective,”
With that, my only remaining question is “When are we going to put this into action?”