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Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.

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June 6, 2006

Inventing by and for the Masses

We've all heard of "outsourcing," "insourcing," "offshoring," "competitive sourcing," and "near-shoring." Now Wired is reporting on "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" -- the use of average people and their networked computers to create content, solve problems, and invent. The article is well worth a read.

Most relevant to this blog is the example of InnoCentive which, according to its web site, "is an exciting web-based community matching top scientists to relevant R&D challenges facing leading companies from around the globe. We provide a powerful online forum enabling major companies to reward scientific innovation through financial incentives." In other words, if a company has a technical problem that its own engineers can't crack, the company can post the problem on Innocentive's web site and award a prize to anyone -- from anywhere in the world -- who can solve it. It's bounty hunting for inventions, at $10,000-$100,000 a pop.

The Wired article goes into some detail on a particular inventor, Ed Melcarek, who has solved several problems posted on InnoCentive from the comfort of his one-bedroom aparatment in Barrie, Ontario. Why hire a team of high-priced engineers to solve a problem without any guarantee of success when you can farm out the work to garage inventors around tthe world and only pay on cash on delivery?

In the context of open source software, Eric Raymond said, "with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." Perhaps now we can say the same thing about inventions.

Posted by Robert at June 6, 2006 10:45 AM
category: Design & Engineering | Work

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