Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gamers to the Rescue

Let me clarify something, before I get into the meat of this blog post: I am not a gamer. Geek, yes. Nerd? About some things. But gamer, I am not. I was doing good to beat Super Mario Brothers, back in the day. Pinball, I'm golden. Air hockey? A more ruthless soul has not been met. Video games, though, notsomuch. But, being a geek and around computer people on a day-to-day basis, I know gamers. And knowing them, this article doesn't surprise me much. In fact, it makes me proud that gamers are helping do something so useful.

What I am curious about, is how will this information be utilized later. No, no, not the protein folding data. We pay medical researchers for that stuff. No, what I'm curious about is who else will start utilizing gamers as cheap problem solvers. We already have complex problems being solved via distributed computing* in other areas of science as well—SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) uses it to analyze radio telescope data, for example. What intrigues me, is the question of who else will turn a problem into a video game, and then let gamers do the dirty work, as it were. We already have folks who are using twitter as cheap research and development and open source code operating systems, so why not make a game out of problem solving? I'm not talking about the stuff that's kind of a given, I'm wondering what non-lifesaving problems could we solve. Could they figure out how to make my dishwasher load itself (my laziness knows no bounds, sure) or figure out how to find that one sock the dryer always eats. Figure out how to make flying cars an affordable reality; how to make my regular car's heater work faster on a cold morning. Would those things change the world? no. would it help the common man? Oh yeah.

*lotsa unrelated computers, networked together to compute a common problem

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