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Avi Gadish

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How do we best balance collaboration and individual efforts to solve our grandest challenges?

Collaboration has played a vital role in the research of new ideas and discoveries. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama unveiled upcoming plans to allocate funding and resources to what he called the Brain Activity Map project. The project, which is projected to last a decade, seeks to study the inner workings of the human brain and to develop a complete map of its activity. The project is aims to “solve” the brain in a similar fashion that the Human Genome Project (HGP) did the human genome. The HGP was a huge success both scientifically and economically and involved worldwide collaboration in multiple fields of science.

There is no doubt that collaboration between individuals, especially when spanning multiple disciplines, yields positive results. Certainly, the most effective way to solve some of humankind’s greatest problems (say, diabetes, AIDS, poverty, clean water, etc.), would require the world’s best and brightest to drop everything else and team up! This is total collaboration. It is my belief that, were it possible, the way to solve some of the world's biggest problems would be to pool the world’s resources together in a collaborative, positive, and effective manner.

Of course, there are drawbacks to total collaboration. Many would argue (especially those who may be “drafted” into what may seem like “conscripted collaboration”) that time is better spent researching something one is passionate about, interested in, and invested in! In addition, many other discoveries and advancements may be delayed, or worse, unrealized if all of Earth’s intellectual resources are taken up by a single project.

I open the forum to the TED Community: Does total collaboration hold the future of scientific discovery, and if so, can we really risk putting all of our proverbial eggs in one basket?

Topics: collaberation
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    Feb 24 2013: Avi, thanks for your post!
    I want so badly to positivly contribute to this post however it's difficult to respond to your question. It is too lofty, too vague. Perhaps the question you should ask is how to generate smaller collaborative efforts, determine what problems are most significant and find out how to fund them.

    Total collaboration of the world's resources toward one goal is completely impractical but yes, teamwork in general is a good thing that advances every field.

    With total collaboration comes the requirement of some investment group selecting where to place their funds. This is limiting. What should we focus on first the cancer that affects the wife of investor A or the poverty that afflicts the rural town in a country that founded Investor Company B. Who chooses the problem to focus on first?

    Eric Berlow states, "The more you can zoom out and embrace complexity, the more you can zoom in on the simple details that matter most." Complexity makes collaboration essential to solving any issue and collaboration is the key to building any solution, but on a smaller scale. Look at my post for Jay's question [bit.ly/15d7gKF] ... collaboration between creative marketing teams and research groups results in educational and promoted videos.
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      Feb 25 2013: Hey!

      You bring up a great point, in that money seems to be a deciding factor for most scientific research. Whether it be grants, or individual investment, people want to see a return on their dollars. Back to when I mentioned the Human genome project, or Obama's new Brain Map, a huge focus was about finance and economy stimulation. Perhaps another important (TED) conversation about this would be the next step!

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