The Ethics of Crowdsourcing

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Stephanie Lee Ethics of Crowdsourcing ‘Crowdsourcing’; Innovation or Exploitation? Abstract Crowdsourcing is the concept of mass collaboration of external outsourced tasks typically from an institution to its community (Howe, 2005). This paper explores the two sides of crowd sourcing; whether this net-enabled community collaboration is accelerating innovation or exploiting the laborers with menial tasks of little to no benefit through an analysis of Soylent, one of the latest innovations in crowd sourcing using John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, the Veil of Ignorance, I aim to demonstrate how can we all benefit from crowdsourcing and harness the true power of collective intelligence and mass collaboration just by maintaining a fine…show more content…
In 1714, the British Government was stuck for a solution to what they called "The Longitude Problem" which made sailing difficult and deadly (killing 1,000s of seamen every year) (Thomas, 2011). Inaccurate Longitude charts were causing sailors to be lost at sea, and in some cases people starved. Seeking innovation, the British Government offered £20,000 for people to invent a solution (£20,000 in 1714 is around $4.7 million dollars in 2010) (Thomas, 2011). Innovative scientists and sailors came together to formulate information that is more accurate. This is possibly the first ever example of crowdsourcing; thus, solving the problems for many sailors. The contest was considered unsolvable by many. John Harrison, the son of a carpenter, won the Longitude contest. Harrison invented the 'marine chronometer' (i.e. an accurate, vacuum-sealed pocket watch) (Thomas, 2011). His knowledge and brilliance helped solve navigation in the 1700’s. The aristocrats were hesitant to award Harrison the prize but eventually paid him the £20,000 (Thomas, 2011). This example of crowdsourcing is a great one because it highlights one of the principles of crowdsourcing - innovation and creativity can come from anywhere (Thomas, 2011). In the early 18th century, being able to navigate accurately was the difference of returning home or not. Getting lost on a transoceanic voyage did not just mean that a competing nation could
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