01/08/2013 10:16 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

Crowdsourcing: The New Way to Solve Problems

Recently, there's a new form of problem-solving that's emerged. It's called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is the whole idea of taking a few thousand ordinary minds and having them work together to create a solution for a large problem.

One example is a game called "Foldit." Foldit asks players to fold proteins until they are stable enough to be used in the human body to help fight off diseases. Foldit was created when scientists at the University of Washington made an algorithm to help them find stable protein structures. People could watch the algorithm if they wished to, but a flood of emails to the scientists said that they could see the solutions and that the algorithm was not intelligent enough to see them. The game Foldit was created after these requests and many advances in cures have been found because of the results from Foldit. But not all crowdsourcing examples turn out this well.

TIME magazine did a survey for who should be person of the year recently, and the crowd decided to have a little fun. Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was in first place for the title, then 4chan's /b/ imageboard found the survey and changed the entire polling. 4Chan voted Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader, all the way up to first place. Not only did 4Chan place Kim Jong-Un in first place, but they also did so with a lead in front of Morsi by 2.9 Million votes. Currently Morsi only has 389,000 votes, which puts him in second place.

Obviously this is a clear example of how crowdsourcing could go horribly wrong. When the crowd decides to make a joke out of the project, the results are horribly skewed.

Crowdsourcing has become a new phenomenon in which the public's knowledge is used to help solve large problems that no one person could solve alone. Crowdsourcing did not really exist before the Internet, because there was no real way to use the regular person's knowledge effectively without knocking on each door individually. The Internet makes crowdsourcing a much easier way to get information or to use people's creativity to the advantage of whoever has the need for the general public's help. Without the Internet's assistance, crowdsourcing would not exist today.

I believe crowdsourcing will become a more common form of problem-solving in the near future. Crowdsourcing seems to be the future in terms of using people to help solve problems that no one person can solve alone. My only question is: Will crowdsourcing end up being beneficial to people, or will it only be a nuisance because of the certain types of people on the Internet?