June 4, 2012
Not Only Faster, but Better Solutions Through Technology
By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig
How many of you use Wikipedia? I bet even the die-hard researchers among you use it. Sure, the die-hards among you may go back to the source links, but your introduction to many terms/subjects is probably from Wikipedia. Now, how many of you would have believed that a model of open collaboration among the world-wide public would produce something that has surpassed the usefulness of resources such as the Encyclopedia Britannica? New terms are constantly added to Wikipedia, and errors are being corrected as we speak. It is nothing short of amazing to conceptualize how this messy process actually produces better-than-average results.
It makes me wonder if there isn’t a lesson in efficacy here. Perhaps for gargantuan tasks, the key to getting good results isn’t efficiency, proper planning, and expertise. Perhaps, instead, the keys are extremely fast and large feedback loops that help build the final product. Technology has not only revolutionized delivery, logistics, learning, and sharing, but it may also hold the key to revolutionizing our ability to come up with solutions to hard problems and public policy issues. Maybe you have heard about the video game called, Foldit, which scientists have credited with solving a problem that had plagued AIDS researchers for years. It was solved on-line in days. Amazing.
However, how does this translate to economic policy-making or any type of public policy-making? I haven’t seen many examples yet. The closest thing I can think of was when one of Marginal Revolution bloggers spoke at the recent AEA conference in Chicago. He said that during this most recent economic crisis, the blogosphere provided a wonderful opportunity for policymakers to test out ideas and theories rather quickly. He went on to point out how the immediacy of the feedback and the vast number of on-line contributors may have rendered traditional academic journals irrelevant in the policy space. It was an interesting angle from which to view the recent economic crisis and policy discussions. It is true that blogs are different than the Wikipedia model, but I think his reflection is similar to the lesson I take away from Wikipedia’s fast and large feedback loops.
How can we harness technology’s power to deepen our discussions and potential solutions in this arena? And for the educators out there, how have you used collaborative work to enhance what students believe they are able to do/solve?
Posted by Cindy at June 4, 2012 4:51 PM
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