Monday, October 3, 2011

Patterns of the hive mind

There are patterns all around us but we don't realize they're there. With greater computing ability, these patterns are increasingly being found and they reveal simple, basic things that have eluded our notice entirely.

Technology Review has an article about patterns that were revealed by the simple act of tracking taxi cab routes in Beijing. In a sense, the study tapped into the collective knowledge of professional drivers who knew to take a circuitous route because a traffic problem would be encountered if they took a more direct route. The study mapped out the deviance between a straight line from pick-up to destination, and the circuitous route the driver actually used. This told them where the traffic problems were.

Then they removed the blockages indicated by the patterns and eased the flow of traffic. Simple and easy -- but only after you saw the patterns. It was so effective that this will probably be done in every major city. Patterns are just sitting there, waiting to be discovered. (And I particularly like that this was a pattern of the hive mind.)

As we tap into the knowledge underlying the patterns that surround us, we're going to win all sorts of battles. This is the beginning of the Knowledgeable Era. Wonders await us -- but only if we can keep from killing ourselves in the interim.