Kaggle: Crowd sourcing the future

December 16, 2011 12:15 pm

Content comes in many shapes and forms, but now it has the potential to solve all the world’s problems

How may times have you thought to yourself that somewhere out there in this big, beautiful world of over seven billion people, there must be someone with the answer to your problem?

It stands to reason that with the amount of brainpower available worldwide, there shouldn’t really be any problem without a solution, right?

Anthony Goldbloom, the Aussie behind Kaggle, has taken exactly that type of thinking and turned it into a business.

The idea behind the startup is to harness the ‘cognitive surplus’ of the world’s brightest scientific brains. According to its website:

‘The motivation behind Kaggle is simple: most organizations don’t have access to the advanced machine learning and statistical techniques that would allow them to extract maximum value from their data. Meanwhile, data scientists crave real-world data to develop and refine their techniques.’

Kaggle, like online dating for geeks and geeky projects, brings them together in a happy marriage that benefits all.

Of course, being the data-loving site that it is, there’s an infographic to explain how it all works:

And if you thought that science and data couldn’t be fun, think again.

The site works by posing problems as competitions, with the prize money for solutions ranging from the thousands to the millions of dollar range.

Kaggle boasts over 17,000 members, all at PhD level, and all eager to put those bright minds of theirs to work for cold hard cash, something that is all too rare in a lifetime of scientific research.

And as for the rest of us mere mortals, we’re benefiting from the research as well:

‘To date Kaggle has crunched data on dark matter, predicting which used cars are likely to be bad buys, improve the World Chess Federation’s official chess rating system, and predicting the likelihood that an HIV patient’s infection will become less severe, given a small dataset and limited clinical information,’ claims the website.

The really exciting thing about Kaggle is that it is the latest in a long line of companies that are bringing democracy back into the way we look at… well, everything.

Traditionally, information has been tightly controlled up to this point in a bid to stack the deck in favour of the powerful few. With a simple website offering what is in essence meagre – and sometimes not-so-meagre – prize money for brainpower, it’s foreseeable that the cure to AIDS, the solution to climate change and the answer to global hunger could be within reach and, most importantly, democratically discovered.

 

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