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Picnic 08 : Charles Leadbeater On Watching Scientists For The Future

Picnic 08 : Charles Leadbeater On Watching Scientists For The Future
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Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 25 september 2008

The author of We-Think, Charles Leadbeater gave an impressive presentation at Picnic 08 this week. He looked at the new dynamics of creativity and innovation. He covered several subjects in his book including the prediction that many large media organizations (or ‘boulders’) are going to disappear in the next 10 years – covered by a sea of small contributions of content (or ‘pebbles’). But he warned that it’s all very well having a large amount of people contributing pebbles in the form of video clips, encyclopedia entries, blog posts and so on but now we need to match our contributions with our ability to collaborate to create something useful out of them – like encyclopedias, or games, or open source software. Leadbeater argued that this would involve collaboration that will be as sophisticated as our ability to participate – and pointed to the I Love Bees game that showed how 600,000 people tried to solve a puzzle together as an example of the sophistication we can achieve.

He says that we should be able to predict how this collaboration is going to manifest itself by watching scientists – whose practices have radically been altered by technology recently. Leadbeater said:

“Many of the ways we collaborate comes from science. Many of the practices come from scientific practice. Scientists are the most active users and developers of computer software. If you look at the practices of young scientists you get a glimpse of the future especially in the field of bio-infomatics.”

Young scientists are working in a new way to explore hypotheses. With multiple data sets they mine them using automated tools and sophisticated search engines like Collexis to find useful results). In order to simulate and test the results of hypothesis, collaborative science is creating sets of tools and they are sharing these tools to help each other. (Nanohub offers 120 simulation tools). And at the end of the process, it’s increasingly likely that the results will be published not only in a paper journal one but a digital one like the Public Library of Science – where you get set of text with references, with links, with data sets and software on how they used it plus a video of the scientists explaining their output.

Underlying all this work in new science is collaboration: The future is about collaboration more intensely and more creatively. Leadbeater says that the difference between the old and new world is – the old the world of to and for – and the new is a world of with and by. We’re going to begin to ask – who can I do things with to create more value?

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