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Today I took part in a panel discussion with Munir Ismet, Andy Mulholland & Anthony Williams at the 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference 2009, in Malmö Sweden. The talk made the case that web2.0 crowd-sourcing depends on a very limited resource: human attention and communication, and that only by harnessing the collaborative work of people and intelligent computers can we make the systems that support our societies really work.
In researching the talk, I did a quick calculation: There are 7 billion people, more or less in the world. We can speak about 4 words per second, and each work has about 5 characters (let’s say 16 bits each). That’s 320 bits per second. So, all of us, maxing out our output bandwidth (blogging is slower, can can’t really be done while speaking), have an aggregate output data-rate of about 2.25 Tbps. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it, but it’s only a quarter of the bandwidth of one, single, Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexed fibre optic cable (a fast one).
And yet our systems, from which we derive enormous benefit, saturate the capacity of a very, very large number of optical fibres – we – all of us, all together – cannot possibly monitor all of this, and of course we shouldn’t try. But inflexible computer systems can’t either – at the base, inflexible computation outsources flexibility to human beings, and we’re going to run out of people to do that, too.
Here’s the conference programme (http://www.egov2009.se/programme/) and here’s a link to my talk (http://www.slideshare.net/witbrock/talk-on-human-computer-collaboration-from-egov2009-conference).