An atlas of new systems
You can’t use an old map to explore a new world.”
We like to say that we live in the age of information, but truth be told, we live in the age of noise. Sure, there is reliable data out there and if you are looking for a good movie or suitable book, the algorithms will do a fairly good job of hooking you up. But if you are looking for something more complex or specialised, not so much. The current data streams are simply not tailored to fill your inner oceans, and in as much as they actually flow there, they contain all manner of unwanted debris.
There are two reward systems that divert the flow. One is the incentive to make a profit, the other is to engage you emotionally in order to support the first. This means that in order to find what you need you must first sift through layers of data that seeks to capture your attention, nudge your behaviour and get you to purchase something you most likely do not need. It’s a bit like entering a library where the books never matches the cover and are all being continuously rewritten to illicit a specific response from you, and not the one you that necessarily serves your best interests. Not exactly the ideal space for a fact-finding mission.
But what if there was a way to collectively curate data, verify its veracity and index it in an open, reliable and accessible way? What if there was a common language that would help you find what you are looking for with a minimum of time wasted by digging through the layers of data you don’t want? Enter the global map of everything useful!*
At first, the map will host communities added by our members but as the database grows there will be polls, petitions, proposals, projects, best practices and more, all curated and traceable back to the source. As the map evolves, it will become useful for advanced and granular searches.
Imagine the following situation. You work in middle management for a municipality dealing with the growing issue of homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness. Your job is to come up with a solution to alleviate the situation. You could google the issues and see what shows up, contact some local organisations that might be more more knowledgable, blow a wad of cash on a so called fact-finding mission, an even larger wad of cash on eager consultants. Or you could just wing it based on whatever ideological dictate prescribed by the ruling political class, a quite popular option and more so the more ideologically invested said ruling class is. In this latter case you would basically be attempting to reinvent the wheel and most likely coming up with an inferior prototype.
Alternatively, you could Simply search using hashtags like #homeless, #drug-abuse #mental-health and use category labels like #project and #municipality and all the past and present projects working with these issues will show up on the map. From here you will be able to refine your search, look at statistical results, uncover best practices, select the ones with the most promising results and reach out to the project managers in question for advice. Armed with an experiences supporting team and a barrage of tested practices you can set up your own project, the measurable results of which you in turn will add to the atlas of best practices using hashtags and labels so that others, in turn, can reach out to you.
More than this, you will be able so explore data flows on designated map overlays. For instance, you will be able to see how resources move across the globe, the flow of the remittance market, the movements of refugees, energy use per capita across the globe, carbon emissions, air quality, human rights abuse, average life span, main casues of death, exports and imports and all manner of other statistical information that will help us start seeing the the same world through the eyes of data instead of different worlds through whatever colour our individual or ideological or geopolitical has tainted out glasses. In these flows you will be able to zoom in and out, too see how different regions and even different areas of the same city compare to each other. Perhaps from here we’ll see how to better match available resources with needs for more long term stability and sustainability.
As our smartphones and other devices in the years to come measure increasingly more of our daily lives we will be able to feed this data onto the map providing real time updates that are both granular, reliable and anonymous. Trend and spikes will show up instantly, emergencies can be mitigated before they happen using pattern recognition, resources can be deployed to where thy will have the greatest impact and their results measured continuously. All manner of good things can come from sharing data in an open way but that keeps personal information separate.
Besides, maps are cool. In one way or another, this is how we understand our world. And shared, accurate maps will make a huge difference to shared understanding of the world.
*Well no, probably not everything. But at least a map of curated things that the people who walked before you found useful.