Monday, March 5, 2012

Website Ideas

This post is a catalog of some ideas for useful websites that I'd like to see created. (Edited from an email I sent on the singularity list.)

  1. Knowledge Wiki: A repository of data and hypotheses, which keeps track of the amount of support for various scientific hypotheses based on trusted knowledge. This would ideally grow out of the existing Linked Data network. We could see in real time the current amount of support for controversial hypotheses such as global warming. The bayesian logic would ideally be subtle enough to take into account relationships between different hypotheses, uncertainty about measurements, models of the observation bias (that is, Bayesian models of the processes by which data gets published to the repository), and many other difficulties which may be hard to foresee. Thus, it could start small (perhaps a "knowledge wiki" which connected linked data to a statistical analysis tool such as R to create public analysis capability) but would ultimately be a big research project requiring us to overcome dozens of problems in data analysis. (Note that it does not require extremely strong artificial intelligence, however-- the user is required to input the supporting arguments and many aspects of the statistical analysis, so the reasoning is relatively non-automatic.) Each user can customize the set of trusted assumptions to personalize the resulting degree of belief.
  2. Open-Source Education: This is an idea my brother was pursuing some time ago. The idea is to create high-quality drilling software with community-contributed questions. This basically means the expansion of Khan academy to all areas of education via crowdsourcing. However, the software should automatically select a mixture of problems based on its knowledge of your knowledge, according to a spaced repetition equation (google it). This functionality is embodied in systems like Anki. A combination of the right features could (I think) help to induce a flow-like state, making learning more addictive and fun. If this became popular, hiring decisions could rely on these scores more than grades, since the system naturally accumulates extremely accurate representations of a person's ability (though like grades, this would exclude people skills, creativity, and other important factors). If it worked, this would revolutionize the way we learn.
  3. Online Job Markets: The creation of robust online job markets similar to Mechanical Turk, but capable of supporting any kind of intellectual labor. This is happening slowly, but concentrating on low-skill, low-pay areas. Encompassing high-skill and high-pay areas has the potential to create a much more efficient economy for intellectual labor, since it would reduce down time searching for jobs, improve the number of options easily visible to both sides, et cetera.