Incentivising social enterprise through technology

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

What do you do?

“I do nothing.” Rudradeb calmly states.

I’m thinking this might be a tough interview, but fortunately my fear of sounding stupid keeps me silent.

“It is my belief, that when we live our lives, it should feel as simple and easy as if we’re doing nothing.”

That was like a philosophical kick in the face. I’m relieved I can now play off my precautionary silence as profound contemplation and agreement.

Rudradeb runs Omdena, a decentralised project management ecosystem to engage volunteers of varying skill, using machine learning to solve real world challenges. More to the point, Omdena only accepts these challenges, or projects, from socially positive enterprises.

First, back to doing nothing,

It sounds coherent enough, that if you do nothing your mind is a tranquil basin ready to absorb new information (listen) and think spontaneously (creativity).

From LinkedIn:

“The idea of keeping us constantly busy means that your mind is full, so it can’t come up with new ideas. When empty, you can be creative so can perform really well.”

He emphasises being conscious of the question: “How crucial is what I’m doing? Is this really necessary?”

You can read more about this ‘doing nothing’ ethos in a recent post of his on LinkedIn, here.

It’s in part why he came up with Omdena, he explains, for he was travelling the world, and the world of AI, and summarises for me his three eureka observations.

Three observations of AI:

1) There’s little AI for good. “The majority of people see AI as a tech that takes away jobs, such as building autonomous robots. There are very few people in the space of doing AI for good, solving social problems and creating real value for society.”

2) Education has changed significantly. “No matter where you come from, thanks to online education now everyone has access to the same knowledge. There’s been huge democratization of knowledge and it has leveled the playing field.”

As a tangent of point two, he mentioned “I also observed that these entities have a lot of knowledge, but lack experience. Companies are still hiring on the basis of CVs. So there is equal knowledge but not equal opportunities” – there are still a premium for Cambridge candidates, but a perfect world is that no matter where you live [or what education you have access to] you have equal opportunities.”

3) Competition inhibits collaboration. “In the work environment, or everywhere, with everything, school, university, work…wherever, ‘competition’ is everywhere. Constant competition doesn’t make us work together, it doesn’t make us collaborate. Like, in machine learning, with competitive platforms like Kaggle, there are so many people in the world who don’t have people to collaborate with...when you make it collaborative you unlock so much more power.”

In fairness to Kaggle, a recent interviewee of mine (Andrey Lukyanenko) told me that it was common for multiple teams to group together at the end of a competition and combine their work for an academic submission. I thought that was awesome; you can read more about how we have gamefied progress here.

So, to summarise.

1. There’s little AI for good.

2. There‘s a democratisation of knowledge (but not opportunity).

3. Collaboration is powerful.