Citizen science: playing games and the fate of humanity

Media:  Talk   

25 April 2017

Byens Lys

Jacob Sherson

Associate professor of physics at the university of Aarhus. He is the founder of CODER - the university of Aarhus Ideas Center for Community Driven Research - and the founder of the citizen science highly internationally successful project Science at Home. His work has featured in The Verge, Los Angeles Times and Nature. Homepage

Fastpoholmen Duo!

Sometimes they are 8 people, sometimes they are 3. Tonight they are 2. Adam Fastholms unique and lyrical universe gets a little support from Trine Trash. Homepage

Can the general public playing online computer games outcompete experienced researchers and power computer algorithms? How will the concept of citizen science influence the way we think of research in the 21st century? Which tasks are we humans still superior at solving? Can we identify sets of human skills optimally suited for solving any given task?

Technological development is at the moment accelerating so fast that some scientists claim that within a few decades we will reach a singularity in which the technology will be more intelligent than Man. This development could potentially render the entire human race obsolete. The current fault line between artificial and human intelligence is probed by an emerging field called citizen science in which complicated research challenges are posed as online computer games and solved by players around the world with no formal training. Ordinary citizens have already contributed to research in as diverse fields as astronomy, protein and RNA folding, and neuron mapping.

In the project, Jacob Sherson and his group have extended this democratized research to the realm of quantum physics by gamifying a class of challenges related to the development of a so-called quantum computer, which could potentially have more computational power than all conventional computers in the world combined. Data from the more than 150,000 players clearly demonstrates that humans using their intuition can outperform the most powerful optimization algorithms. In general, humans have through millennia of evolution developed an uncanny ability to very often reach the right decisions although seemingly not having enough data.

Using a suite of online games, Jacob Sherson’s group currently investigates this smart-data, rather than Big-data, processing in an interdisciplinary team involving researchers from physics, chemistry, didactic and cognitive science, psychology, economy, and researchers studying human problem solving, creativity, and innovation.

If we can understand the subtle mechanisms underlying human innovation then potentially in the future we can create “an equation for innovation and creativity” telling us exactly which skills are required for any given challenge. We may also develop entirely new forms of artificial intelligence based on smart- rather than Big-Data. Or, we may “fail” and eventually find that there is just an unquantifiable “human core” to innovation and creativity.

Afterwards, the world famous Fastpoholmen in duo version will be playing. Adam Fastholms unique and lyrical universe gets a little support from Trine Trash, this night, as they set out for a tour around the world. The forests of Sweden, the landscape of the moon and a little love. This is what you get. Safe travels!

Entrance to the event is free. No registration is necessary. Doors open at 19:00.

The talk: