Social revolution? There’s an app for that

Picture this: You’re at a party and the drunken douche next to you has just engaged you in a trivia war. You whip out your Android-based smart phone, fire up Wikipedia and punch in “furries” or “time lords” or whatever it is that you need to school this fellow on. Info attained and war won, you update your Facebook status with a victory cry: “This is Spartaaa!”

Thanks to these open-source initiatives, you’ve just avoided an all-out bar fight in less time than it takes to slam a Caesar.

We’ve seen what crowd-sourcing can do for our personal lives, but does it hold the potential to solve global problems? Renowned author Don Tapscott not only believes this is so, but has the research behind him to prove it. As part of Edmonton and the U of A’s latest celebration, “The Festival of Ideas,” Tapscott gave a compelling talk this morning on the topic of “Innovation, media and the economic and social impacts of technology.”

Straight out of the gate, Tapscott pronounced the current economic model and way of thinking as DOA – a linear system that worked well for the Industrial Age but is of little relevance to today’s digital society. He argued that in the same way Gutenberg’s printing press p0wned feudalism by educating the masses, so too shall the Internet 0wn the Industrial Age with the ease and affordability of mass-collaboration. We have entered the “age of networked intelligence,” Tapscott declared.

To drive this point home, Tapscott drew upon his many works, such as Macrowikinomics and Growing Up Digital. From social media’s role in the Arab Spring to the Wall Street meltdown, Tapscott covered the novel ways in which technology is shaping our society and how it can replace archaic economic systems. (If you want to know more, check out TEDx for a video of Tapscott dissing Wall Street.)

The talk was nothing short of revolutionary.

A final reassurance for those of you who doubt a crowd can cure cancer or create an operating system: the hivemind is surprisingly accurate.  A study by Thore Graepel and co at Microsoft Research, Cambridge found that the more workers attacking the same question achieved a much higher score (or “crowd IQ”) than just one worker on the same case – so much for groupthink. And yes, this is the same hivemind that brought you Lolcatz and (don’t google that one).

Don Tapscott’s mind-altering talk is just one of many showcased at this year’s Festival of Ideas. The festival will be on until the 18th of November, exploring the theme “Shifting Social Tectonic Plates.”

There’s something for the little people, too – the Kids’ Festival of Ideas kicks off this Saturday and looks set to be a riot. (Rylan Kafara will be giving a talk on the history of punk rock. Here’s hoping he will just scream  “All I know is that I don’t know nothing” before taking the kids to slam-dance at DV8.)


Erin Headon has been reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since ’87 and writing trash since Y2K