Monday, March 7, 2016

Superheroes in the Making: Harnessing the Power of Technology and Collaboration

Once upon a time, we relied on experts for everything. We were told what to wear, how to act, what to like and what to despise. These experts were usually high up in the chain of command or organizational hierarchy. The prominence of their position – the ethos they exude – demands our attention. As such, we were compelled to heed their every word.

These experts go by different names. In the past, we call them kings (experts who hold power) and priests (experts who have the truth); today we call them scientists (experts who hold knowledge) and celebrities (experts who have charisma).

We trusted them because we believed in their expertise. We believed that their level of mastery in their study is one that we cannot reach. After all, most of them have spent years acquiring whatever expertise they are known for.

A scientist’s invention is the brainchild of his research in hopes of addressing an existing problem. People who actually use the invention, however, do not necessarily have the same vision as the inventor – they might see the invention as the solution to a different problem altogether. For example, Coca-Cola was first conceived as an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and relieve anxiety. Today, it has become the most popular soda in the world.

However, people do not usually change the world single-handedly. Much like us, they need validation, or social proof, that their ideas are substantial enough to merit further exploration. For this, communication is critical, and modern technology has paved the way for exploration and collaboration with multiple people in an instant.

During the Age of Enlightenment, people would meet and talk in salons with a view to amuse or educate. Salons became centers of intellectual and social exchange. It was salons like these that would eventually sow the seeds of the French Revolution that overthrew the monarchy. While we do not seek to dethrone the experts of our day, the communication that we are now capable of has created numerous virtual salons where ideas are regularly disseminated. The collective expertise of the non-experts is comparable, if not superior, to that of an expert.

Due to the ease of collaboration, we no longer have to rely on experts for everything. This is not to say that we completely disregard the experts, but that we can work on par with the experts as they can provide significant value. The point is, working together, non-experts are capable of making substantial contributions to their field of study. 

You and I are capable of changing the world.


  1. Great post Adrian! I love what you have said here. I do have a quick question for you. Should we try to make a significant but small impact in many aspects of our lives, or should we take the time to become experts now and then make substantial contributions in a single area? This question obviously ties into the historical concept of specialization that began in the last 19th century ( In essence the question is: Do we have enough people that are competent in enough areas to outweigh their collective impact that they could have if they all became experts in a single field?

    1. Very good comment. Helps to sharpen the issue. I think as Adrian talks more in terms of amateurs complementing, rather than replacing experts, we can envision using / becoming both.

  2. Although I missed the many visuals that helped to pace your prior version, this one brings in an important historical component -- about which I would like to hear more detail. You need to add to your piece some contemporary sources that discuss the rise of the amateur. See some of the early books mentioned in this crowdsourcing presentation.

  3. This post was really well written, and definitely made me think. I can imagine this content being really convincing if presented in more of an "ignite" style video.