As amazing as computers are, there are some things they can’t do as well as human minds. Visual processing and pattern recognition happen so quickly and on such an unconscious level for us that it’s practically a superpower, and it can take years to teach a computer how to even begin narrowing down false-positive matches and the like. Our scientific computer-driven tools are burying us in data that could take generations to sift through for useful discoveries. With all that in mind, I love seeing how today’s scientists are teaming up with game designers to crowd-source research to those of us with free time to give.
I’ve participated in distributed computing projects like SETI@home and BOINC off and on for years, donating processing power from my home computer to crunch data-sets for all kinds of projects and research. As satisfying as that is, it is a very impersonal kind of donation. All you need to do is install some software, choose the projects and let it run. I know my donations were valuable, but I didn’t feel very involved. The newer generation of ‘Citizen Science’ projects are putting the data into volunteer’s hands in a more direct and exciting way.
Click below to read my reviews of three Citizen Science sites I enjoy!