The Rise of Citizen-Scientists in the Eversmarter World - Alex Lightman - H+ Summit @ Harvard


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Alex Lightman
Executive Director, Humanity+
The Rise of Citizen-Scientists in the Eversmarter World

Knowledge may be expanding exponentially, but the current rate of civilizational learning and institutional upgrading is still far too slow in the century of peak oil, peak uranium, and "peak everything". Humanity needs to gather vastly more data as part of ever larger and more widespread scientific experiments, and make science and technology flourish in streets, fields, and homes as well as in university and corporate laboratories. In this talk, H+ Executive Director Alex Lightman will give an introduction and overview of the big picture of H+ the organization, the magazine, and the conference, and how the participants can make the most of their experience and relationships at the conference. The case for ending embargoes and other beaver dams in the rivers of potentially global knowledge will be made. Lightman will offer a vision of a properly functioning Eversmarter world, ending with a call to action to become a citizen-scientist, and a recruiter of other citizen-scientists.

Alex Lightman is the Executive Director of Humanity+ and the chair of the H+ Summit @ Harvard and of the inaugural H+ Summit held December 2009 in Irvine, California. He is a director of Fortune Nest Corporation (Bahrain, Beijing and Beverly Hills, CA) and of Inova Technology. He is an award-winning educator, an inventor with several US patents issued or pending and the author of over 800,000 words, including 12 articles in h+ magazine, and Brave New Unwired World: The Digital Big Bang and The Infinite Internet, the first book on 4G wireless. He has advised NATO, the US Dept. of Defense, and a number of governments on Internet Protocol version 6, the 128-bit successor to the current Internet, IPv4. Lightman's advocacy led to the only Congressional hearings held on US Internet Leadership, conducted by The Government Reform Committee and at which Lightman testified, leading to implementation of Lightman's recommendations to mandate IPv6 for the US government and require IPv6 as part of government information technology contracts. Lightman studied Civil and Environmental Engineering, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983 (Course I-A), and attended graduate school at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Santa Monica, California, where he runs marathons, and attempts his first Ironman triathlon, in the UK, on August 1, 2010.

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The Rise of Citizen-Scientists in the Eversmarter World - Alex Lightman - H+ Summit @ Harvard

  1. 1. Alex Lightman Executive Director, Humanity+ Chairman, H+ Summit
  2. 2. The Rise of the Citizen-Scientist in the Eversmarter World
  3. 3. A Scientific Call to Arms Combating aging Economic instability means more Geopolitical instability existential risks are likely to occur within Peak everything our lifetimes. [Bostrom 2002] Climate change We will be forced to (biome instability) adopt a longer-term Once-in-a-century view, as we will be the storms, floods generation to face these challenges. Tectonic shifts The unforeseen
  4. 4. The Rise of Open Science Aristotle programmed Alexander the Great to be an Citizen-Scientist-Conqueror; flora, fauna, soil samples Boom in the 16th through the 18th centuries: Networks of mathematicians corresponded and shared results, issued challenges, and competed for prizes. Reputation became currency for intellectuals competing for sponsorship by patrons. Patronage motivations were both practical and ornamental. [David 2003]
  5. 5. Historical Citizen-Scientists  Sir Isaac Newton: after graduation from Cambridge, worked at home from 1665-7 to develop theories of calculus, optics, and law of gravitation  Benjamin Franklin: measured ocean temperatures while crossing the Atlantic, mapping the Gulf Stream  Albert Einstein: developed special relativity as a hobby while working as a patent clerk  Steve Wozniak and Homebrew Computer Club: early DIY computer hobbyists, produced hackers and IT entrepreneurs
  6. 6. Big Science Small Science  Manhattan Project,  Typically done at Apollo Program, LHC universities by teams and communities  Scale necessitates funding from  Interface between government(s) and/ science and society or industry  Publish or perish: research geared to winning grants
  7. 7. Rise of the Citizen-Scientist  Moore's Law-like Learning Curve for Laboratories  The Return of the Individual Inventor  The Revival of the Mania for Measurement  The FaceBook Ever-Smarter Friend Effect  Prizes and Grants
  8. 8. Instruments Following Moore's Law  Falling cost of equipment. E.g., one can buy an education thermal cycler for $1K (MyCube Personal); the LavaAmp pocket PCR will be smaller and cheaper (hundreds not K’s!)  Computer simulations and analysis: better, faster, cheaper as per Moore's Law.  Instruments are increasingly portable. Disposable bioreactors and hollow fiber cell cartridges can easily fit in a basement lab.
  9. 9. The price of genomic sequencing  2003 - $300M(est) - first human genome  2007 - $2M(est) - first personal genome  2008 - $60K - Applied Biosystems  2009 - $5K - Complete Genomics  2010 - $1K?
  10. 10. Return of the Individual Inventor  COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) provides increasingly affordable technological capability.  Open source manufacturing empowers inventors to create prototypes and improved tools.  Novel combinations of cheap technologies can be readily combined in DIY projects, from gas turbines, to mobile microscopes (CellScope), to cruise missiles(!).
  11. 11. The Measure of the World  Advances in measurement and precision drive science and technology.  Measurements enable models, simulations, allowing visions to be made real.  Cheaper sensors and networking enables citizen-scientists to cooperate and enhance measurement capability.  What's needed: quantitative literacy.
  12. 12. Eversmarter Networks  Social networking provides the unprecedented freedom to meet like minds.  Tools like Facebook can be leveraged. Please raise your hand if you are a Facebook friend of mine. Smarter “curators” get more smart friends. Less smart are spammy, lose friends fast.  The result: emergent, self-organizing R&D networks and teams out of intelligent kind commenters on Facebook links.
  13. 13. Fame, Glory, and Cash Prizes  “Whuffie”, reputation capital  Challenges, X PRIZEs  So-called “crowdsourcing”: actually markets/ networks/exchanges connecting patrons and citizen-scientists: e.g., InnoCentive  Proposal: scientific seed micro-grants to bootstrap citizen-scientist efforts
  14. 14. Citizen-Scientists in Action  Emergence of collaboratories, as DIY and networking enable sharing of homebrew infrastructure, perhaps in the form of Dave Orban's vision of an open Internet of Things.  Entrepreneurs may emerge. Nolan Bushnell's talk will offer perspective on how this may unfold.  Not tied to corporate ROI or academic publish- or-perish constraints: free to publish negative results.
  15. 15. The Iceberg of Results  Positive results are above water, rewarded and brought to the top by a publish-or-perish system.  Negative results are mostly under water. If the studies are small … the findings often are never published, leading future researchers to waste time and money going down the same blind alley. Or, if a study that fails to support a popularly held idea … goes unpublished, people may continue to believe in an association that has never actually been proven. [Kolata/NYT 2002]
  16. 16. Kudos as Currency Freedom from external funding constraints means that worthy projects that will benefit humanity don't require a business case for justification. Reputation can suffice, as one creates an enduring legacy. It amuses me to see how afraid you are, lest the people should accuse you of recommending useless studies. Socrates
  17. 17. The Entry-Level Cost of Science  Theoretical physics: LHC = $9 billion  For a citizen-scientist: as little as a smartphone and broadband!  See Darlene Cavalier's talk on citizen-scientists disrupting science in a good way!
  18. 18. A Perfect Storm  Commoditization  Democratization  Connectivity in an Ever-Smarter World  Cheaper, smaller sensors enable more measurements to be accumulated  Citizen-scientists will be increasingly empowered
  19. 19. Hindrances  Imposed barriers: embargo, onerous tollgates, silos. Does Cuba have unique treatments?  Publish-or-perish: selection pressure for grant- worthy results  Commercial bias: selection pressure against unfavorable results being published  ROI optimization bias: selection pressure for projects that are low-hanging fruit
  20. 20. An Open Cornucopia of Knowledge  Open courseware online provides university education  Free access to scientific journals  Open software and data sets enables direct participation  Free tools enhance investigation: e.g., Wolfram Alpha  Other citizen-scientists
  21. 21. Accelerating Knowledge  Scientific inquiry is wed to liberty: “Tear down that wall!” Free communication and inquiry is vital for communities of practice to thrive.  Proposal: public access sharing of research infrastructure with citizen-scientists, forging new participatory networks.  Idle infrastructure can be shared and/or rented, increasing net research throughput.  Sharing and coordinating research proposals can reduce duplication of effort.
  22. 22. A View to a Future  Science fiction inspires technology, which further inspires SF. Citizen-scientists can be “future engines”.  See Ray Kurzweil's talk!  On the horizon:  DIY 3D bioprinters  DIY tricorders  DIY synthetic genomics  DIY pandemic response
  23. 23. Forthcoming H+ Summits H+ Summit 2010 West - Live Long and Prosper November 5-6-7, 2010, Los Angeles H+ Summit Europe January 29-30 2011, London H+ Summit 2011 East May, 2011