The first time I ever heard the term exponential technologies was in 2012. Sure, I knew of Moore’s Law and fervently read innovation blogs, but I had not been exposed to the true spectrum of technology advances happening all around us.
Luckily for us, Peter Diamandis certainly knew of Topcoder and invited our team to speak at a special gathering focused on exponential technologies and the accelerants propelling the velocity gains. Peter had taken a shining to both the methodologies that power crowdsourcing and to Topcoder’s global community of designers and developers.
Diamandis was of course no stranger to crowdsourcing. He studied prized-based contests for many years and is famous for launching the modern space race via his foundation’s very first XPRIZE. He’s gone on to co-found Singularity University as well as author books such as Abundance and Bold, amongst many other future-focused endeavors that matter.
His work carries exponential themes at their very core, projecting an optimism for our entire world that not only will things be OK, but that they will in fact get exponentially better.
If you do not frequent Singularity Hub you may be missing out on articles that discuss and showcase topics such as 3D Printing, advanced robotics, energy innovations, nanobiology, precision medicine, quantum computing and beyond. This blog is where the crazy ideas live and not just in theory, but in big, bold experimental practice.
In 2012, hearing about exponential tech and how organizations can become exponential organizations for the first time was eye opening. Today, only four to five years later, you can’t attend a tech conference without several keynotes discussing ‘our’ place in this era of exponential tech.
To paraphrase William Gibson, in 2012 the future was already here, it just wasn’t evenly distributed.
The Exponential Accelerant Known as Crowdsourcing
One of the accelerants to exponential gains that Diamandis routinely discusses is crowdsourcing. At the very core of crowdsourcing is democratization of great work, and on the flip side, open access to amazing talent needed to accomplish it.
While some see crowdsourcing as a labor arbitrage play, organizations who are on an exponential path themselves understand that crowdsourcing is being used to drive top-line, revenue creating innovations faster than ever before.
Whether an organization is developing an environment-specific application or is experimenting at massive scale to create social good solutions, crowdsourcing is, in laymen’s terms, speeding things up a great deal.
Because of the access to exceptional talent crowdsourcing provides, combined with competition mechanics used in a marketplace like Topcoder, organizations of all sizes can act more like Google or Amazon. That is to say, they can attempt to innovate more brazenly—and do so at a risk-level that is acceptable.
What we’re now beginning to see is an ultimate exponential mash-up. Crowdsourcing, not as some last ditch, Hail Mary attempt to innovate, but rather as the preferred approach to tackle a tough challenge, solve something new, or to simply experiment in new technologies and digital experiences.
And, we’re seeing this happening right inside exponential technologies themselves. Below are just three very recent examples of work and innovation happening on Topcoder that are focused on categories that Peter Diamandis and his team at SU have classified as exponential technologies.
Precision Medicine Advancements, Propelled by Crowdsourcing
Precision medicine is the practice of tailoring medical treatment—decisions, drugs, therapies and all – to an individual or sub-group. The field shows incredible promise. As computing power continues to accelerate, the algorithms that power the research behind precision medicine so to have opportunities to be improved, sometimes vastly.
Harvard, the Broad Institute and Topcoder, with funding from the Kraft Family Foundation, have created and launched a series of Precision Medicine crowdsourcing data science challenges with the hopes of improving key research algorithms.
Several challenges in this series are now complete, including Topcoder challenge DNAS1 which netted a 14x improvement to the computational speed of the algorithm while maintaining the accuracy of the existing solution.
IoT Democratization through Crowdsourcing
According to Singularity University, one of the 6 D’s of digital disruption, is indeed democratization.
More open APIs, more technology living on a public cloud, and the growth of developer communities like Topcoder that help shepherd and provide work to the talented masses in the burgeoning technologies all adds up to a fiercely paced democratization of many technologies.
The IoT, and in this case the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) as GE calls it, is no different. GE’s technology platform Predix is built on Cloud Foundry and specifically exists to be the developer and enterprise choice as the go-to cloud platform for Industrial Internet development and solution deployment.
GE has paired their new technology platform with a Community Segment curated by Topcoder. GE’s Topcoder Community for Predix was recently announced and educational challenges introducing community members to Predix have begun.
Drone Technologies as a Platform, Powered by Crowdsourcing
Drones are rapidly converging with our everyday lives. The race to provide drone services and better digital to physical drone experiences and applications is heating up, with several established—and many start-up players—attempting to carve out their niche of this expansive market.
Recently on Topcoder, we launched a Drone Challenge Series for a customer looking to build out MVP solutions quickly and with many iterations. The challenges have already spanned ideation and technology validation, wireframing, and web design, and have now moved into mapping prototypes, code development, and even firmware challenges.
Crowdsourcing provides our customer a way to rapidly experiment with multiple design and development challenges happening in parallel as top minds from around the globe self-select into the various contests.
The Future Acceleration and the Role of Crowdsourcing
Using crowdsourcing as an innovation partner is an exceptional way to move edge innovation initiatives forward faster without the need to hire and ramp specialized headcount. As exponential technologies continue their acceleration off of the edges and into the mainstream, you can look to crowdsourcing as a go-to methodology, providing you the competitive advantages of being more nimble, enabling you to move faster, and providing you with more attempts at connecting on a home run innovation solution.