If you ask one scientist to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar, unless they have worked specifically on that problem before, their guess won't be very accurate. But if you ask 500 random people, the mean of their responses will be quite accurate.
If you ask experts to predict the future of science and technology, will they be more accurate? SciCast, the government crowd-sourcing project, hopes so. They are asking for participants to make their predictions.
Though SciCast is based on the idea that collective wisdom is often more accurate at forecasting the outcome of events than that of one individual expert, they take it one step further, placing emphasis on relationships among questions and outcomes. “For example, forecasters might think success for a new kind of solar cell depends on the price of a key material. On SciCast, they can make the chances of success depend on the material prices.” explains Charles Twardy, research assistant professor, George Mason University and a SciCast Principal Investigator.
It's still controlled, which isn't ideal for the Science 2.0 community. Questions are chosen by the SciCast editorial team. And you can tell it has corporate influence. Topics are things like "whether or not Google will announce a new watch" or if Virgin Galactic will launch this year.
Unlike a survey, participants can change their forecast at any time in reaction to new information. Once the answer to a question is determined and made public, participants who answered correctly are rewarded and move up on the SciCast leaderboard. The more correct forecasts a participant makes, the more influence they’ll have in other forecasts.
Funding is provided by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)
SciCast Wants To Crowdsource Forecasting The Future
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