Build a platform that supports millions of people collaborating to solve a complex, large-scale problem. Show that it works.
Some of the grand challenges facing humanity today are too complex for any single person or small team to be able to completely understand by themselves. The complexity of some of these challenges is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle with a billion pieces, where somebody threw away the box and mailed each piece to a different person. Can we now build the platform where people can bring their piece and see where it fits in, and what other pieces connect most closely to it? *Building that platform* is the challenge I propose a prize competition should solve.
Most of the building blocks necessary to do this exist now, and an increasingly large and diverse set of people have Internet access and experience contributing to conversations online. Wikipedia, open source, citizen science, e.g. Clay Shirky’s books, & maybe even a US election in which millions more people voted for “stronger together” than “I alone can fix it” indicate that a lot of people are seeking to more actively engage in making time-and-effort contributions to larger causes, are getting used to doing so online, and these collective efforts can be quite significant. It’d be great if this could be tapped to solve big problems.
In just 10 days, the specialized game FoldIt solved an AIDS science problem breakthrough that stumped scientists for years (cnet.co/2lj3sVV). Bernstein & others have built “flash organizations” to build software, games, and even some scientific contributions (bit.ly/2keadHn), and other groups are seeing limited but increasing success in crowdsourcing complex work. After this XPRIZE is awarded, humanity will have a new capacity to solve global and societal-scale challenges such as climate change, epidemics, responses to natural disasters, etc. by working together at an unprecedented scale.