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Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

Cloud Sourcing & Crowd Sourcing:  Can We Be Bees?

By Shlomo Maital



   Cornell Professor Thomas Seeley has written a fascinating book, Honeybee Democracy (2010).  In it, he explains what beekeepers have known for years:  that overcrowded hives will “swarm”, the majority of the hive’s workers will take off with the old queen and move into a new home, while the remaining bees will rear a new queen in order to perpetuate the parental colony.  Somehow, these tiny bees with microscopic brains manage to find just the right new home, and engage in a fair, democratic process, without deep-pocketed lobbyists,  in which the entire ‘swarm’ ‘votes’ on several alternatives, and, according to Seeley, nearly always picks the best one.  

    One recalls the late Kurt Vonnegut’s scandalous comment, that the only difference between George Bush and Adolf Hitler was that Hitler was elected honestly.  Does bee democracy work far better than human democracy?  You have to believe it does.   

    How the homeless swarm of bees decides where to live, and the settling of the debates among the scout bees who have found potential homesites, is explained beautifully by Seeley.

    I recalled Seeley’s book while reading about a new feature-length film, “One Day on Earth”, by Kyle Ruddick, 32, surfer, and Brandon Litman, 30, serial entrepreneur.  (Global New York Times, Sept. 1, 2011, p. 9).  Without funding, advertising or investors, the film-makers used the Internet to “amass footage from across the globe” from over 100 countries, all of it filmed during the 24 hours of Oct. 10,  based on a social network that now has more than 17,000 members.  After they began, film-maker Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator), backed by Google and YouTube, did the same, and their film “Life in a Day” was released in July.  But Ruddick and Litman are undeterred by the deep pockets of Scott.  Want to bet their film will be better?

     Two trends are merging. One is the “cloud”.  Music, films, photos, everything is now migrating to “the cloud”.  A second is  the “crowd”.  Groups of people large and small combine to pool their brains, like bees, to create something of value.  This is the ultimate democracy.  When the “cloud” and the “crowd” combine – the result will change the lives of all of us, hopefully for the better.

   Innovator:  What new service or experience can you invent, that combines the “cloud” and the “crowd”? 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
September 2011