Solving Wicked Social Problems with Socio-computational Systems

Abstract

Global climate change is one of the most challenging problems humanity has ever faced. Fortunately, a new way of solving large, complex problems has become possible in just the last decade or so. Examples like Wikipedia and Linux illustrate how the work of thousands of people can be combined in ways that would have been impossible only a few years ago. Inspired by systems like these, we developed the Climate CoLab—a global, on-line platform in which thousands of people around the world work together to create, analyze, and ultimately select detailed plans for what we humans can do about global climate change.

The Climate CoLab has been operating since November 2009, and has an active community of thousands of users. In this article, we outline some of the challenges faced in developing the system, describe our current solutions to these problems, and report on our experiences.

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Acknowledgements

We would especially like to thank John Sterman and Hal Abelson of MIT for their support and participation in many phases of this project. We would also like to thank the following for financial support of this project: the National Science Foundation, BT plc, Cisco Systems, Argosy Foundation, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. In addition, we are grateful to Stuart Scott and the members of the Climate Summit for their participation in the early outreach efforts, Mark Klein for his advice in developing an interface to enable on-line debates, Janusz Parfienuik and TopCoder, Inc. for their development work, and our experts, moderators, advisors and other community members for volunteering their time to this project.

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Correspondence to Joshua Introne.

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Portions of the introductory text of this paper appeared previously in [1].

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Introne, J., Laubacher, R., Olson, G. et al. Solving Wicked Social Problems with Socio-computational Systems. Künstl Intell 27, 45–52 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13218-012-0231-2

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Keywords

  • Collective intelligence
  • Collaborative planning
  • Climate change