Rod Collins: AIDS Case

Learning from one concrete case on collective intelligence presented by Rod Collins was uniquely from the scientific research community.

Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington,  felt something needed to be done to accelerate the progress of solving the molecular puzzle tha thad stumped the world’s best scientist for more than a decade. The evasive puzzle invovled figuring out the detailed molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus found in monkeys. Because this enzyme plays an important role in the spread of the virus, Khatib knew that figuring out this structure could be the breakthrough need to arrest the medical malady. That’s when Khatib turned to Foldit.

Foldit is a collaborative online video game developed by the University of Washington enlists the players worldwide to solve difficult protein structure problems. There are no special requirements for joining the Foldit community. All comer are welcome, which explains why most of the more than 235,000 Foldit players have little or no background in biochemistry. Khatib recognized that the molecular challenge was a good fit for the capabilities of the Foldit game. Incredibly, what evaded the world’s best individual scientific experts for ten years was solved by the collective knowledge of a divers group online gamers within only ten days.
(Collins, 2014, 101-102).

Which emphasizes his point on collaboration and harnessing collective intelligence!

When you have the capability to aggregate and leverage collective intelligence, you discover that there are many times when diversity trumps ability (Collins, 2014,102).

 

Main Reference:

  • Firas Khatib, Frank DiMaio, et al. (2011). Crystal Structure of a Monomeric Retroviral Protease Solved by Protein Folding Game Players. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

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