Posts Tagged ‘crowdsourcing’
Consider this: In 2006, 247 million people became infected with malaria.
Nearly 1 million deaths are caused by malaria each year and 85 percent of those are children, who die from the disease at a rate of one every 30 seconds.
In fact, malaria is the leading cause of death in Africa for those under age five.
According to the World Health Organization, malaria is both a disease of poverty and a cause of poverty; survivors are often subject to impaired learning, school absences, lost work and increased economic distress. Where prevalent, the disease can account for 40 percent of all public health costs.
There is no reliable cure or vaccine for the prevention and treatment of all forms of malaria — particularly the drug-resistant strains caused by Plasmodium falciparum, which kills more people than any other parasite and is of particular interest to the researchers.
Crowdsourcing A Cure For Malaria
IBM’s Watson computing system broke new ground earlier this year when it defeated two celebrated human competitors on the “Jeopardy!” game show.
Now, The Scripps Research Institute is hoping to do something equally novel but more critical to human health with part of the prize money from that tournament: Find a cure for drug-resistant malaria.
And it’s asking for the public’s help.
Scripps Research and IBM are encouraging anyone in the world with a personal computer to join World Community Grid (WCG), a sort of “supercomputer of the people” that will crunch numbers and perform simulations for “GO Fight Against Malaria”—the project that Scripps Research and IBM have launched.
World Community Grid is fed by spare computing power from the nearly 2 million PCs that have been volunteered so far by 575,000 people in more than 80 countries.
Now that’s crowdsourcing!
Breaking It Down Into Wee Bits
WCG gives each PC small computing assignments to perform when the devices aren’t otherwise being used by its owners, then sends the results to scientists seeking a faster way to cure disease, find renewable energy materials, create clean water techniques, or develop healthier food staples.
Or, in this case, perform simulations for the fight against malaria.
Scripps Research, which has already used World Community Grid to discover two promising new inhibitors of HIV to advance the treatment of multi-drug-resistant AIDS, is now taking on the malaria project as well.
By tapping into World Community Grid — which turned seven years old just this past week — Scripps Research scientists hope to compress 100 years of computations normally necessary for the effort into just one year.
The scientists will use this resource to more quickly evaluate millions of compounds that may advance the development of drugs to cure mutant, drug-resistant strains of malaria.
Data from the experiments will then be made available to the public.
Elementary, My Dear Watson
Earlier this year, scientists for seven World Community Grid projects received half the $1 million first-place prize from the “Jeopardy!” game show tournament that saw IBM’s Watson computing system compete successfully against two former human champions.
Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to overcome a longstanding scientific challenge—building a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
“Working on malaria started as a hobby that I advanced during nights and weekends for a couple years, when I wasn’t working on FightAIDS@Home,” said Alex L. Perryman, Ph.D., a research associate in Scripps Research Professor Arthur Olson’s lab. “With persistence and a lot of help from IBM and from fellow Scripps Research scientists, we are now ready to launch the largest computational research project ever performed against drug-resistant malaria.”
The team at Scripps Research successfully proposed a project whose design and development would benefit from the winnings. Perryman, who describes the malaria project in more detail here, explained that “Without the funding provided by some of the money that Watson won on “Jeopardy!,” this Global Online Fight Against Malaria project would not have been possible.”
Background: World Community Grid
World Community Grid is one of IBM’s exciting philanthropic initiatives. Founded in 2004 and running on Berkeley Open Infrastructre for Network Computing (BOINC) software, it provides computational power available to scientists who might not otherwise be able to afford the high speed computing they require for timely research.
To date, 19 research projects have been hosted on World Community Grid, spinning off 30 peer-reviewed papers.
Nine of the projects it has hosted have generated particularly promising results that are being further researched, or followed up with a second phase on World Community Grid.
If it were a physical supercomputer, World Community Grid would be one of the world’s 15 fastest such machines.
Go here to learn more and to participate in this important new research effort and help the global fight against malaria.
If you’ve ever wondered to yourself how you can get involved in and in support of IBM’s “Smarter Planet” initiative, the following provides just the kind of example to foot the bill.
IBM and the University of Antioquia today announced a joint research project that will use computer power from IBM’s World Community Grid, which pools and uses the idle computing power of volunteers’ personal computers around the world to help accelerate scientific research that addresses humanitarian challenges.
In this particular instance, IBM and the University of Antioquia will be using the World Community Grid computing power to predict potential inhibitors or drugs that have the potential to control Leishmaniasis.
The research project will try to find potential inhibitors of the Leishmaniasis parasite, or explore the application of drugs currently used to treat similar diseases.
Using the computational power of World Community Grid enables the screening of 600,000 potentially useful chemical compounds stored in a public drug database. The idea is to virtually apply these compounds against 5,300 Leishmania proteins in an effort to identify prospective drug treatments.
Instead of implementing costly and lengthy laboratory trials, or spending dozens of years performing computations on small computers, millions of experiments will be simulated using the software installed in the devices comprising World Community Grid.
“Conducting this same project in a local cluster would take more or less 70 to 100 years. With World Community Grid, it will be completed in a maximum of two years. This is evidence of the data processing capacity of this network dedicated to provide computational resources to try to find a solution to the problems that besiege communities in need around the world, as is the case of Leishmaniasis,” said Carlos Muskus, Coordinator, Molecular and Computational Biology, PECET, and project leader.
“This disease urgently calls for new and effective treatments, given that the number of infected patients has climbed to more than two million people in 97 countries.”
What In The World Is The World Community Grid?
World Community Grid is a network of more than two million individual computers, providing donated computer power during the time in which their computers are idle, creating the world’s largest and fastest computing grid to benefit of humankind. World Community Grid is based on IT innovation, combined with scientific and visionary research, plus volunteer, collective and nonprofit actions to create a smarter planet.
Individuals can donate their computers’ time to these projects by registering at www.worldcommunitygrid.org, and installing a secure, free software program in their personal computers running Linux, Microsoft Windows or Mac OS.
Computers request data from the World Community Grid server when they are idle, or between key strokes during non compute-intensive jobs. In this way, they can help complete the protein computations required to perform the Leishmaniasis research in Colombia.
Sponsored by IBM, World Community Grid has offered researchers worldwide the equivalent of millions of dollars’ worth of free computational power to enable medical, nutritional, energy and environmental research.
548,310 Users And Counting
At present, more than 548,310 users and 1,729,127 devices are part of IBM’s World Community Grid in 88 countries, including Colombia. World Community Grid’s server runs Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) software, maintained at Berkeley University and supported by the National Science Foundation.
Projects undertaken by the World Community Grid, which have yielded dozens of peer-reviewed scientific research papers, include efforts to cure muscular dystrophy and cancer, as well as to develop cheaper and more efficient solar cells. Other projects include Fight AIDS@Home with Scripps Research Institute, which found two compounds that may lead to new treatments of drug-resistant HIV strains.
The Nutritious Rice for the World project completed 12 million computational transactions in 11,000 computing hours, in an effort to achieve healthier, more disease and weather-resistant rice strains. And the Genome Comparison project run by Fiocruz has organized and standardized the way scientists understand the role of gene sequences in maintaining health or causing illness.
Go here to learn more about IBM’s corporate citizenship initiatives.
There’s a new Rupee coming to town.
Or, at least, to your computer keyboard.
Noted Indian tech blogger Amit Agarwal pointed out in this post recently that the Indian Rupee will soon have a unique sign that will be recognized around the globe, much like the U.S. dollar or the British pound.
According to Agarwal’s post, the Indian government shortlisted five designs following a crowd-sourcing contest to choose the new Rupee symbol.
You can see the five final designs below.
The Indian Finance Ministry initiated this competition in February 2009, and it’s believed that these new signs will be easy to write and were designed to appeal to both the India and international communities.
I did a one person straw poll here at the IBM Bangalore office, and we vote for option 3.
You can get more backstory in the following clip from NDTV:
The title of NYU ITP professor and author Clay Shirky’s Sunday morning keynote was enough for a major draw: “Monkeys with Internet Access: Sharing, Human Nature, and Digital Data.”
And amusing as the title session was, the title was serious enough to jump up straight to the top of my personal SXSW Billboard charts for best session, because it was a session that got down beneath all the pixels, HTML code, and social media splatter to really focus on the underlying human motives that drive our behavior, in the digital realm and off.
After thanking the sleepy audience for “getting vertical so early” on a Sunday morning, Shirky explained his talk would be broken into three key segments:
Buses and Bibles, Monkeys and Balloons, and Lingerie and Garbage.
He started his talk explaining that oftentimes, our recommended approaches to solving problems is too simplistic. Congested traffic? Build more and bigger roads. Or provide better public transportation as a viable alternative.
But as in the case of PickupPal, a ride-sharing service in Ottawa, the inclination towards sharing (in this case, providing information for ride shares) existing code (in this case, laws) can conflict with the opportunity for efficiency (getting people from point A to B with limited utilization of petroleum and the roadway).
In other words, PickupPal was too efficient to be legal, and the Ottawans had to change the law to accommodate its excellent opportunity for efficiency.
This was really a fight about sharing, and how much efficiency could be allowed.
Gutenberg was another example. His original product was the selling of published indulgences, and the press was originated to enable the publishing of more indulgences faster and cheaper (as opposed to those published by handwritten scribes).
Soon, Gutenberg turned to publishing bibles and Martin Luthers’ Theses, and before you know it, the Protestant Reformation was in full bloom (and as a reaction, the scribes begin writing slower). By 1600, Catholicism was simply another religion.
Shirky’s point: Abundance breaks more things than scarcity.
When things are scarce, we know how to deal with them. When they’re abundant, the price goes away. Things we previously thought were scarce we don’t know how to price or value.
In this case, it was bad news for the scribes, and ultimately the medium destroyed the message.
Flash forward a few hundred years and enter Napster, the fastest growing software in history (in 1998-99). It garnered 70M+ users in a very short period of time, and it had not a trace of geekiness anywhere.
At the time, the crime rate had fallen to historic lows, and it was only the “theft” of recorded music via digital means that was a major issue. Shirky compared this to the sharing of primates, who had different modes of sharing for good, services, and information, the last being the most frictionless.
And in Napster’s case, all it had done was to take a world of music that had previously been constituted as a good or service (something you could buy), and instead turned it into one of information (something you could easily share with no real cost to you).
Here’s this song for so-and-so, put it online, and watch it take on a life of its own. Like monkeys, we have positive feelings about sharing information with one another – we’re biased to like doing so, which completely freaked the music industry out.
We do NOT voluntarily withhold information if sharing it made someone else happy, and this was the case with Napster.
We have positive feelings about sharing information with one another (like monkeys). We’re biased to like doing so, which freaked the music industry out. We didn’t voluntarily withhold information if sharing it made somebody else’s life easier, because the barriers to doing so were low and it we like helping others if it takes no greater effort on our part.
But in this case the music industry shocked and spiteful when we didn’t do what they wanted us to do (not share).
We didn’t voluntarily withhold information if sharing it made someone else’s life easier. The industry was shocked, spiteful, when we didn’t do what they wanted us to do.
Shirky then launched into the “Balloons” part of his talk, referring to the DARPA Big Red Balloon Challenge.
Last December DARPA said they would give away $50K to anyone who could identify the lat/long of ten large red balloons.
They figured it would take up to a month for someone to identify all ten. A team from MIT found them in about ten hours.
But to help with the find, there was a need to have a link to a spherical trigonometry formula that would help seekers with accounting for the earth’s spherical shape in their quest. Where did DARPA link to?
Wikipedia. Why? Because a link to the same article on the online Brittanica would have required registration, etc. Wikipedia was faster, cheaper, better. Wikipedia was all about sharing.
Finally, Shirky moved into the Lingerie and Garbage section, starting with references to “LOLcats” and the three wolfs howling at the moon t-shirt phenomenon, but ended up in some very serious situations around the globe, one where people have taken to sharing to create civic value and to help change the culture participants find themselves embedded in.
Places like PatientsLikeMe.Com, where patients who suffer from the same conditions come together to document their symptoms (and treatments) in excruciating detail.
Places like India, where females came together to challenge the extreme male Hindi power structure through online and offline activism, and who now speak with a common, group voice that India politicians can no longer ignore.
Places like Kenya, where in December 2007 the Ushahidi movement originated by Kenyan lawyer and blogger, Ory Okolloh, helped build an Internet mapping tool to allow people anonymously report violence via cellphonee, and which was able to collect testimony of incidences of such at lightning speed.
Ushahidi was also used recently to help out in the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes.
Shirky suggested through these tales there has been great progress. Ten years ago, we couldn’t have even tried such things. Now, with these tools available, our motivation has swung to help one another.
Anything we formerly did in terms of intrinsic motivation was often with small groups. Now, we have the capability of doing revolutionary things on a much grander scale.
Moving ahead, the only question becomes, will we do them, or will we stand by and be paralyzed, as in Darfar, or Sarajevo, or other places around the globe?
Only time, and possibly a few revolutions, will tell.