Think Friday – The Wetware Grid

Fridays in IBM is Think Friday, we all tend to get a bit of space to consider whats going on in the world, deal with new things and absorb the idea that we can create innovation that matters.

I am an aspiring futuroligist/futurist, so here goes some thoughts from my Think Friday.

The BBC News at 10, and the earlier Radio 1 News went all mashup/web 2.0 crazy the other day. The reason was Gawker Stalker. This is a googlemap application (not so much a mashup really) that takes sightings of celebs sent into gawker by the general population. There are obviously ethical concerns and that was the spin on the story.

What is interesting to me though is that ‘open source thinking’ in this. It is about using people as the sensors for the system, not cctv, not GPS tracking attached to a celebrity. It is quite lo-tech, but enables a hi-tech surveillance. People offer their information for the benefit of a wider group, then using the ‘web service’ provided by google, what once would have been a complicated GIS system is unleashed on a web browser.

This has lots of attributes that illustrate the power of the network and the ability for people to be an integral part of it. It has an emergent organization feel too it aswell, and it is massively distributed. The people who spot the celebs are actually adding their brain power in visualization and pattern recognition to a wide network of sensors that relies on ‘luck’ and being luckier because of the scale of the human network.

Odd to consider it in those terms given the news item was clearly showing that the consumers of this service were a bit geeky and star struck.

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a prime example of using human wetware as part of a grid style application. It relies on that open source thinking model where people are willing to share their information. In this case though, amazon are trying to make it a commodity.

Is this really services 2.0, using the mass network we have, the pervasive device and expanding bandwidth to patch people into the parts of a service that computers just cant cope with. Is my brain the new transistor? What are the implications of our integration into a services orientated architecture?

Ian Hughes(Consulting IT Specialist/Futurologist)

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7 thoughts on “Think Friday – The Wetware Grid

  1. so… human wetware… what about dogs? they can sniff and tell you 1 or 0 🙂

    or picture this algorithm:

    1. web service asks owner’s dog “is she happy or unhappy?” through cctv and the dog’s tail in front of her
    2. if happy, do nothing
    3. if unhappy, tell another web service to buy her favourite flowers 🙂


  2. Yes indeed, there is no reason that other organisms can’t form part of the services chain. After all if you order your truffles it is the pig that finds them.
    (Not that I have ever ordered a truffle, but I have seen them on the tv 🙂 )

  3. I came across an excellent website at the weekend. CastingWords can provide a transcription of an mp3 for $0.42 per minute, usually withing a day. It looks wonderfully easy to use, even letting you select from multiple mp3s in an RSS feed.

    What’s special about the service is that it uses wetware. Thanks to the Mechinical Turk API an army of transcribers is unleashed on the problem, meaning you’re more likely to get decent results.

    Here’s what the system looks like from the other side. The going rate for ‘turking’ for CastingWords is about $10 per hour of audio. Not bad if you’re a fast typist. Since it would probably take me at least 2 hours to transcribe an hour of audio, I’m more likely to be a customer than a turker here.

    It’s such a cool use of the wetware grid to create value that I really want to try it out.

  4. Let’s be careful, though. Not everything that comes from the masses is positive or good by definition….

  5. The self organizing nature of these systems may lead to an imperfect state. However it is also true to say that not everything dictated by the few is positive or good.
    I think the core idea that enables people to be part of what is essentially a service orientated architecture, (which organizationally is not a new idea as many of the worlds population work for a living doing tasks that have been allocated) might just mean that it is easier for people to find their talents and exploit them?

  6. a step toward a higly specialized world, the slightest manifestation of any talent will become a micro consulting service, italian pizza corporation giving 10 cent advice on how to cook pizza with your current firdge content (any thing you have!!), or as it happens today, even more nacked old, young, fat, ugly will show and sell their only talents on realtime fantasy streams. The masses overloads the masses! the crazy loopback! fantastic colors!

  7. this site you can leavI really aggree with you Barry. I m working for a similar kind of company called WiseTypist We also offer the similar service but at 30% less than their price. You may go with their service really for smaller works but coming to volume you houls really check once with our company

    Thank and regards,

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