The theme of Future of Crowdsourcing Summit, coming up soon in San Francisco and Sydney, is how crowdsourcing (applying the minds of many) is the future of everything.
It’s a big claim, though to be frank I can’t think of many things it’s not the future of. Anything of human creation, which is most of what we know, has in some ways a crowdsourced future. There are probably three categories of things that will NOT be fundamentally shaped by crowdsourcing:
* Things in our environment that humans don’t impact (possibly volcanic activity and asteroid impact, though even those might not be immune)
* Individual creativity (important but historically overrated to an extraordinary degree)
* Aspects of our humanity that are intrinsic and we do not shape (sex (perhaps) and actually not much else given our increasing powers over our genetic destiny)
Let’s look at some of the things that crowdsourcing most definitely will shape:
Work. Unquestionably work of all kinds is being rapidly distributed across organizational and national boundaries and increasingly broken down into components with structures suitable for crowds to address. The nature of work for many individuals is likely to change dramatically in coming decades.
Organizations. As work is redistributed, global talent can be tapped, and processes are broken down into modular elements, organizations will have to significantly restructure to remain competitive and survive. There will be a continual redefinition of what is internal and external to the organization.
Start-ups. Entrepreneurs were probably the first to recognize the potential of crowds in generating, developing, testing, and evolving products. As never before, the power of the idea reigns supreme, as this can be far more easily converted to reality, and even funded by crowds (see below).
Government. Many developed world countries, notably US, Australia, and UK (where crowdsourcing was part of the rhetoric in the recent elections) are shifting to a view of government tasks and functions as guided and potentially even partly performed by citizens. We can finally start to believe, as it should be, that we are the government.
Media. Media has already swiftly shifted from a world of content created by elite to one of mass participation. This is rapidly going further to where even traditional journalism and news is becoming crowdsourcing, from on-the-spot reporting through filtering, preliminary writing, fact-checking, headline selection and layout, usually overseen by professionals.
Funding. Crowdfunding has been most prominent to date for creative ventures, however is rapidly growing in funding entrepreneurial ventures and philanthropic activities. Peer-to-peer lending is also allowing crowds to allocate capital for return.
Social change. Across cause selection, funding, project definition, execution, and more, philanthropy and social change are admirably suited to crowdsourced models and are already illustrating many of the concepts.
Science. The structure of academia and scientific endeavors has to date largely (though not entirely) been focused on individual and small-group efforts. Opening up scientific exploration and refinement of ideas to the many (not least by open sourcing academic journals) will transform scientific progress.
Art. Many artists are already creating collective art, both explicitly and implicitly, and much of the art of the future will come from many. As noted at the start, there still is a role for distinctive individual creativity.
Environment. There is no question that our environment will be shaped by the thoughts and actions of many, aggregated into ideas, solutions, decisions, and projects.
Health. The research, science, and behavior that drives our health and longevity will increasingly come from aggregated insights.
Crime. Unfortunately the power of crowds can be applied to ill purposes as well as good, and forward-thinking criminals are beginning to use crowdsourcing for fraud, malware creation, drug synthesis, smuggling and other applications.
These are just a few domains to which crowdsourcing can and will be applied to shape our future. What other things in our world will be shaped by crowdsourcing?