Thursday, August 19, 2010

Internet of Hearts and Minds

The flood disaster in Pakistan moved slowly from the periphery of my vision to central focus. An e-mail arrived from the IEEE Foundation calling for donations to the IEEE Pakistan Engineering Educational and Professional Development Rebuilding Fund. A4 posters asking for support have been posted in the elevators. But today things got really real when I was asked to help edit a piece written by a TU-Delft PhD student studying flooding in Pakistan that described the disaster. The piece gave a succinct overview of the current situation and its potential for further deterioration and long-term damage, within Pakistan and internationally and, hopefully, will reach a wide readership. It seems that my social network needs to reach out an grab and shake me before I can turn my attention to an event of such a staggering scale and figure out how I can add my humble little building block towards an overall solution.

The vision formulated by The Social Computer initiative says that we should expect more. Bascially, the Social Computer is the act of collaborative computation by the people, of the people, for the people. Human computer convergence on this scale has the power to solve problems: we link up not only our individual intellectual capacities, but also our individual abilities to interact with an influence our direct environments. The goal is to "tackle large scale social problems that are beyond our current capabilities".

It shouldn't take weeks for the Pakistan disaster to filter through to me and for me to start understanding what I possibly might do. But the fact that it eventually does filter through at all, that in some way I end up really feeling connected do my little bit, illustrates the untapped power of the The Social Computer. In order to focus on internet-scale social computation as the force that revolutionizes humanity as the whole by fostering the best impulses of individual, I call it "The Internet of Hearts and Minds." The next miracle of modern technology is the one we make ourselves by linking ourselves together to form The Social Computer -- it may be a slow and silent revolution, but it is one with the power to help us all.