[personal profile] jeneralist
In the worlds imagined by Marvel and DC, those with special gifts (derived from accidents of birth or lifelong dedicated work) often choose to dress up in special outfits and Fight Evil. Sometimes, they band together in organizations to Fight Evil more effectively.

In this world, wouldn't it be nice if people with special skills got together to Fight Stupidity?

For example, as near as I can tell, the folks who built the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig decided to put multiple redundant valves on the well, so that if one failed, another could still be used to shut the well down. That's good. Then they bought multiple identical valves, each with the same failure modes, from the same manufacturer. That's not so smart.

Wouldn't it be great if there were some organization of super-engineers, folks of Tony Stark's caliber, who were paid to notice problems like this in advance and draw up plans for how to stop a hypothesized oil leak using technology and tools that currently exist? "Hey, Buckaroo, did you see this oil rig design?" "Yeah, Tony, I did -- someday, if that runs into problems with methyl hydrates, it could leak millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico." "Do you think they could stop a leak, if one happened, by plugging the hole with mud?" "No, you'd need a containment vessel, too -- who do we know who has a reinforced dome 200 feet across that can handle the pressure at that depth?"

It's nice to imagine Buckaroo Banzai, Tony Stark, a few of the materials scientists who support Batman, and Reed Richards drawing a salary to deal with problems in our world.

Failing that, though -- could we have skilled engineers and scientists draw a salary funded by philanthropists to work out answers to "what if" problems?

Or could there be some way to identify and brainstorm problems a little bit at a time, similar to the way the "SETI at Home" divided up data analysis tasks? If volunteers with appropriate background knowledge each worked on problems in their "spare" time in ad-hoc teams, linked by wikis....

Date: 2010-05-27 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dcseain.livejournal.com
Brilliant! This would indeed make the world a better place.

Date: 2010-05-27 03:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] puckmls.livejournal.com
I like this idea. The network structure (hardware, software, and slushware) already exists, and it can and does work for issues you've described. (See this link for a time-critical example -- someone's Russian friend was heading into a human-trafficking situation, and the person was able to get help and contact law enforcement through his MetaFilter network of friends, and their friends, etc.)

Date: 2010-05-28 12:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siriciryon.livejournal.com
I wish I deserved to be on such a team. I would do that kind of brainstorming in a heartbeat.

Make it a game

Date: 2010-05-28 02:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selki.livejournal.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_McGonigal
* "In recent years, McGonigal has grown especially interested in the way that massively multiplayer online gaming generates collective intelligence, and interested in the way that the collective intelligences thus generated can be utilized as a means of improving the world, either by improving the quality of human life or by working towards the solution of social ills."
* Her most recent project/game: http://blog.ning.com/2010/03/a-crash-course-in-saving-the-world-through-urgent-evoke.html (CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/03/01/evoke.game.africa.poverty/index.html)
* Related organization Institute for the Future and Superstruct game: http://iftf.org/2009Ten-YearForecastFutureNow "Use our 2009 material for a guidebook—not only will you find research from the Ten-Year Forecast team, but also superstructures created by over 7000+ global players during our Superstruct game from 2008. This research delves into issues ranging from a collapsing economy paving the way for new kinds of value, to a new voice rising from the Global South plotting a new path for the next big economy, to extreme climate conditions wiping the landscape clean, to a new neuroscience presenting an extraordinary new picture of humans, and so much more."

Date: 2010-05-28 10:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] showingup.livejournal.com
I think it's a fab idea.

I have another idea. It's kind of crazy, but bear with me. What if...

... companies working on these projects were obliged to run their plans by some kind of organisation with access to the kind of skills and funding needed to assess risk and safety issues before they went ahead? Some kind of regulatory body - perhaps a nationally organised group overseen, perhaps, by a an elected body accountable to the general public?

I know. It's totally out of the box, but I'm a maverick, even if not a Merkin.

Date: 2010-06-01 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabrinamari.livejournal.com
Brilliant!

Date: 2010-07-18 11:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shades-of-nyx.livejournal.com
When I was, so briefly, employed at Government funded genius laboratory, I was very often frustrated by exactly this. We had over 1000 of the world's best brains on one campus doing research on problems that weren't even remotely relevant to reality. I spent six months on the issue of homeland defense in the case of a full out nuclear first strike by China. If we retasked that one site for renewable/sustainable/clean energy for a month, the issue would be solved. GAH!

Date: 2010-07-19 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeneralist.livejournal.com
Well, actually thinking about what it would take to handle a nuclear attack isn't such a bad thing -- if only to get Certain Folks to realize how much better it would be to prevent it.

Back in my stormative teenage years, I worked as a gofer in the House of Representatives for a summer. One of the Congressional office buildings is shaped like a long scalene triangle. I'd walk past window after window, looking out to the street or in to the courtyard, and then get to the corner of the triangle. The windows stopped, the stone took its place, and a sign was posted: "Fallout Shelter Starts Here."

Um, no. Physics doesn't quite work like that. And if they didn't understand that at the House of Representatives, why were those the folks voting on the budget for the Defense Department?

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