Crowdsourcing and Darwinism

In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett describes how Mind is not necessary for Design. Its not just the folks behind Intelligent Design that have a problem with this. Other communities are uncomfortable with this as well.

Crowdsourcing is Natural Selection
Much of the opposition to Crowdsourcing seems to reflect the same desire for an intelligent designer. Obviously crowdsourcing has worked with Wikipedia, but I wonder if it will catch on as easily with Wikimapia.

Layers are the Species
Maybe I’m too entrenched in ESRI technology, but when I look at Wikimapia, I really wish it had layers. Is there some way we could have layers without an intelligent designer? In Darwinian terms, perhaps we could think of layers as being analogous to species. Natural selection would allow new types of layers to evolve. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single layer based web mapping site that allows users to create new layers. Mindless users should be allowed to create new layers.

Features are the Genes
Maybe take it a step further and treat the feature as a gene. Richard Dawkins says its not really species that compete for survival, but genes. Provide a tool that makes it easy to move features from one layer to another, keeping markers to trace their ancestry. I’ve always felt deciding which layer a feature belongs in is somewhat arbitrary, so why not allow natural selection decide? Of course we’d need to relax the relational database requirement that all features have the same set of fields. Instead, XML schemas would be used. (Problem, how can schemas evolve?)

Mashups are Sexual Reproduction
Maybe the mashup could be thought of as sexual reproduction. Mindless users would mashup existing layers to create new layers. This would be analogous to Jamglue, which allows users to create new audio by mixing together existing audio.


3 comments so far

  1. Dave Smith on

    Hmm… not sure I buy that model.

    Also, FWIW, GeoRSS, KML, Virtual Earth Collections and plenty of others are “layer-based” and let users create their own layers and content…

  2. Sean Gillies on

    Folksonomic tags become the fodder for layers in crowd-sourced geodata, no?

  3. Kirk on


    Do any of these sites allow me to select some features, then create/publish a new layer that is based on those features, then add some of my own features to it? Each feature would need to maintain ancestry info. I would also like to query a layer with a search string to see only the features that satisfy the query displayed.


    Yes, I hadn’t really thought of it that way, taxonomy directed folksonomies, look particularly promising.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: