Do you have an idea about how to deal with the piracy in the Gulf of Aden? Well, starting next Monday, the US Navy would like to hear it and put it up for a vote in front of the whole Internet. The game is called MMOWGLI, (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet) and as an interview with Wired’s Danger Room reports, the designers–the US Navy working with the nonprofit Institute for the Future–hope to use it to discover if a crowd-sourced solution can indeed come up with innovative, insightful answers. “‘We want to test this proposition: can you get a crowd to provide you with good information?’ Larry Schuette, the director for innovation atthe Office of Naval Research. Danger Room asks, ‘Is the wisdom of the crowd really that wise?’”
The game opens by presenting a situation, and asking users to write a twitter-sized response. The best responses are voted on by the other users, who can also add, challenge, or complicate the ideas. Subsequent rounds cut out lower-ranked ideas while allowing winning ones to continue forward, hopefully resulting several weeks later with a few winning, collaborative, well-thought-out proposals.
The real thrust of this game is not to actually solve the issue of Somali pirates, but as a kind of proof-of-concept of the crowdsourcing platform. The platform itself will work regardless of the initial question, so the same approach could be used on any number of thorny issues. As Danger Room reports, “The MMOWGLI software is ‘scenario agnostic,’ says Peter Vietti, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research. ‘It can be used to tackle other tough challenges. What if the next scenario was the future of Navy spending, and how we respond to significant budget cuts across the Department of the Navy?’”
It is an interesting experiment. Can gamification elements work to solve real world war games? Will the teeming masses of the Internet end up with more insight than the United States Navy’s trained analysts? Will the problems of any group decision–groupthink, confirmation bias, ego-based political monologues–be alleviated or exacerbated by making it a massively multiplayer exercise? The Navy will hopefully know soon, and you could be part of the process. There is still time to sign up, no shipping oversees required.
Check out the article on Wired for full coverage: “Navy Crowdsources Pirate Fight To Online Gamers“