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Climate CoLab TEDx Talk


In September 2015, Climate CoLab project manager Laur Fisher gave a talk about the Climate CoLab at TEDxSomerville, in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Below is the TEDxSomerville blog post about Laur’s talk, written by Amelia Suda:

Laur Hesse Fisher is the project manager of the Climate CoLab, a project run out of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence that is trying to help solve the problem of climate change using crowdsourcing.

The fact that Laur Fisher works at MIT’s Climate CoLab is no accident. The Climate CoLab, a project of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence (a lab that is studying the way massive amounts of people can collectively solve a problem together via the internet) is trying to solve the problem of climate change by bringing together thousands of scientists, policy makers, business people, investors and concerned citizens. This fits squarely into Laur’s background in sustainability and interest in collective intelligence.

“Studying collective intelligence is studying how groups of people can work together in ways that are smart and effective. I’ve always been excited about the idea of the human race working together as a global community. Once considered a naive idea, platforms like Wikipedia and the Climate CoLab are making this a reality.”

So, the idea of using collective intelligence to solve global environmental problems felt like a perfect fit. Though not without its challenges.

“We have very impressed by the caliber of ideas that have been developed on the Climate CoLab, but not every contest we run succeeds,” Laur says. “For example, something as physically and morally complex as geoengineering – physically altering Earth’s climate to reduce the impacts of climate change – is difficult to crowdsource solutions to. We need to find a new way for the crowd to tackle this topic.”

She said there can be a disconnect between what the experts in the field are working on to fix this problem vs. public knowledge on this issue. “It’s about finding out how to open up the expert’s process to the public and figuring out what role the experts and crowd play in solving the climate change problem”.

A new approach the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence is exploring is an initiative where they invite the crowd to piece together individual ideas to form a larger strategy. “For example if one person has a proposal on carbon pricing, and another has an idea about smart grids (where your meter communicates with your appliances), and another has a strategy for mobilizing the public– these ideas can be combined to make a larger “package” of ideas that can be implemented on a national or global scale.”

For Laur, TedxSomerville really comes full circle for her. She studied at Tufts and was actually in performances at the Aidekman Arts Center where this year’s Tedx will be held! In her talk, Laur will share how collective intelligence and crowdsourcing ideas are helping to solve the big problem of climate change. “There are a lot of things that aren’t going well in our world and I get that. What has me get up in the morning are the people – like those who join the Climate CoLab – who are working to create and strengthen this global community.”

*Clarification:  Prof. Geoffrey Hay did launch a start-up based on his 2013 Grand Prize-winning proposal, HEAT, however he still maintains his position at the University of Calgary.