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BBC Future

60 Second Idea

‘Build a citizen supermachine’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week statistician Patrick Wolfe proposes an ambitious computer project that would be for anyone.

“My idea to change the world is that we build a citizen supermachine. So what I mean is that we build a supermachine through crowd-sourcing. Crowdsourcing is when we take different technical problems and split them up into tiny little pieces and farm them out all across the globe for ordinary people to solve.

So what we could do by doing that is teach a supermachine to speak and to listen in different languages.

We could teach a supermachine to see in different conditions and we could feed a supermachine all of the sum total of knowledge that we have accumulated to date.

So this supermachine would be in essence owned by each of us because it is our data that would go into its creation. And after it had been constructed anybody with enough space for a couple of servers and a hard disk would be able to use it.”

You can listen to Patrick discuss his idea with Neurotechnologist Aldo Faisal and cancer specialist Larry Nortonin more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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