I recent article I read highlights some of the power of crowds and mixes in some gaming concepts to make a novel use of crowdsourcing to help scientific progress. The amazing claim is that the power of the crowd actually came up with an enzyme that was better than anything the scientists working in the field had come up with on their own. The new crowd produced enzyme is 18 times more effective than it was before the crowd got involved.

The crowd playing this game are logged into a system called FoldIt, that basically requires folding proteins to form a correct solution. It is like a biological version of Rubik’s cube. It has rules and systems, that can be learnt and lend themselves to crowdsourcing. The power of the crowd is the ability to tackle these complex objects in bite sized pieces and problems. One of the fascinating things is that the crowd are not all experts in protein folding and in fact do not need to be to play. The rules of gene folding are like the rules of a game that can be learnt and played with.

The lesson to be learnt here is that by creating a compelling game that has easy rules and ability to experiment without consequence has not only grown a large interested group of game players, but has actually enabled time and effort playing the game to be turned into something practical in the real world. This fails nicely inline with the whole concept of innovation and working on bite sized problems, using a growth mindset and playing in safe environments. Nice confirmation of some of those concepts.

You can read some more about some of my crowdsourcing discoveries here and here.