The combination of human and computer intelligence might be just what we need to solve the "wicked" problems of the world such as climate change and geopolitical conflict, says a new study.
A microtasking approach alone cannot address the tough challenges we face today, the researchers have said.
The study authors explained that recent techniques provide real-time access to crowd-based inputs, where individual contributions can be processed by a computer and sent to the next person for improvement or analysis of a different kind.
This enables the construction of more flexible collaborative environments that can better address the most challenging issues.
This idea is already taking shape in several human computation projects, including YardMap.org, which was launched by Cornell University in 2012 to map global conservation efforts one parcel at a time.
"By sharing and observing practices in a map-based social network, people can begin to relate their individual efforts to the global conservation potential of living and working landscapes," said Janis Dickinson, professor and director of citizen science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
YardMap allows participants to interact and build on each other's work - something that crowdsourcing alone cannot achieve.
The project serves as an important model for how such bottom-up, socially networked systems can bring about scalable changes.
The researchers believe that this approach could help the university's Alzheimer's disease (AD)research.
"By enabling members of the general public to play some simple online game, we expect to reduce the time to treatment discovery from decades to just a few years," lead author Pietro Michelucci, director, Human Computation Institute, noted.
"This gives an opportunity for anyone, including the tech-savvy generation of caregivers and early stage AD patients, to take the matter into their own hands," Michelucci pointed out.
The article was published in the journal Science.