Monday, October 20, 2008

Google 10 to the 100th Application

So I worked almost all weekend on this application for Google's 10 to the 100th project and I have to submit it today (yikes), so any quick feedback on wording, the YouTube video, and the idea would be greatly appreciated. Also if you a part of an organization that could help this become a reality, please let me know and I'll add you to application. Finally, any thoughts on a better name? This one is a play off Google's Knol - A unit of knowledge.

8. Your idea's name (maximum 50 characters):

Dyknol – A dynamic unit of knowledge

10. What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Dyknol will be an online problem solving tool that uses a system of sciences organized around models to address the world’s most challenging issues

11. Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

Dyknol is a mash-up of Knol, data analysis and visualization, video, GIS, and other services that are all organized and structured around mathematical models recreating aspects of different problems being studied. Dyknol will be used in sponsored projects led by experts, educators, and policy makers to develop real solutions to our most pressing problems.

Similar models are already used both in academia and industry to reveal the root causes of complicated problems, forecast issues before they become a crisis, and test possible solutions. Models allow experts with conflicting explanations to make their assumptions explicit which can then be compared to real world data. Through this process even the most conflicted problems can be reconciled. Models can also be used to describe a problem at different levels of detail for different audiences. From grade school, to college, to professionals, we can help people engage with finding solutions to any problem they finding interesting.

This tool would be similar to the debates in Knol, but instead of simply an exchange of text, facts, and figures, Dyknol would structure arguments though a causal model that is based on real data and observations. There is already software for building these models, but it is all offline and unable to link data, text, video, and other media to help explain and justify the model’s structure.

Imagine this scenario on global warming. A grade school student looks at a simple model explaining the causal relationship between CO2 and global temperatures. They simulate the model with different rates of change in CO2 and see the impact it has on temperature. Within the same space a college student explores the more complex linkages between our energy needs and CO2 emissions, while policy makers work within Dyknol to come up with practical policies that strike the best balance.

12. What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)

Dyknol would address the key issue we have with solving any of the world’s most challenging problems; we have no effective means for resolving conflicting ideas and finding shared solutions. Dyknol will be a focal point for addressing any problem there is a large enough community to support it.

In the last few decades we have seen the challenges facing us grow ever more complex. While technology has helped keep pace, it has also caused new problems. Dyknol will give us a powerful tool for breaking down problems to reveal the root causes, as well as an ability to test policies and forecast issues before they become a crisis.

The science of systems has already been applied to designing physical solutions such as bridges and skyscrapers. It is time we bring it to the mainstream for addressing systemic issues that are not just physical, but intertwined with our social fabric.

13. If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)

The whole world would benefit. With Dyknol, we’d finally be able to tackle the most challenging issues facing us today, before they become even more of a crisis. When listening to today’s society one can’t help but notice the overwhelming apathy mixed with frustration about the state of the world. Through this system we’d be giving people a way to learn the reality of our problems, affect change, and be part of something of purpose.

I personally believe that mankind has already been seeking to build this tool, but it has yet to take any real shape. Computers, the Internet, and connectivity are evidence of this change, but right now it lacks any real order. Structuring all this information is certainly no small task, but the science of systems is the key to making it happen. Building Dyknol, will help to bring about the global community we all hope for.

14. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)

The first thing needed is a web application for building models. This will require programmers that understand web applications and numerical simulation. The models built with this application will then need to be able to be embedded in web pages and Wiki’s like Knol.

In the early stages researchers will need to be sponsored to address some of the most engaging and pressing issues. Energy, the economy, healthcare, education, war and conflict would all be ideal candidates for demonstrating the potential of Dyknol. After gaining traction, other problems could be sponsored by groups of stakeholders, i.e. health insurers on healthcare, oil, gas, and electric providers on energy, banks on the economy, and anything else that gets enough support for the researchers and moderators.

15. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

In the first year I would want to see the web application developed and tens of projects reaching thousands of registered users. I would also want to see several solutions that were discovered through Dyknol put into action. In the second year I’d want hundreds of projects and millions of users creating a comprehensive network of students, educators, and professionals. Many of the projects should also be officially sponsored both monetarily and with donated time.

Eventually I can see Dynknol being incorporated into the curriculum of K-12 and beyond, helping students discover the issues they want to work on in life. The ultimate measure of success will be achieving a sustainable world that is capable of solving any problem that arises.

17. You may also submit 1 YouTube video (max 30 seconds long) explaining your project.

18. If you'd like to recommend a specific organization, or the ideal type of organization, to execute your plan, please do so here. (maximum 50 words)

I have already received encouragement from numerous organizations that may be able to help with execution:
WPI - Department of Social Science and Policy Studies

Your organization! Please let me know if you would be able to help!

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