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Honoring originality via a Collective Intelligence patent accelerates climate change technologies, attitudes, and behaviors into gear.



By building off MIT's worldwide reputation a "Certificate of Digital Originality" will kickstart more climate change innovations. Our strategic end mission is to take the climate change 'Rembrandts' out of the attic. Whether Emily Dickinson’s rescued notebooks or Leonardo da Vinci’s private journals, people often have ideas with the potential to enhance the world, while simultaneously harboring a reluctance to share. According to scholars at Harvard and UCLA, “To the extent that this knowledge transforms the search process, the social construction of technological communities will influence search and, thus, shape the evolution of technology.” Creating a crowdsourced Center for Collective Intelligence “Certificate of Digital Originality” would prime advances in climate change creativity.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

As Professor Gregory Mandel explains, “In general, extrinsic motivation that confirms the creator's competence without instituting control can synergistically enhance intrinsic motivation”. 

We propose creating a crowdsourced platform that operates on simple (and revisable) premises: for an individual to upload one of their items for review they must first review at least one application from other applicants. Just like the captcha project multiple reviewers can be assigned for each application to ensure quality. If the idea is not present through a repeated methodology of Google Scholar searches, Google Searches, and other web crawling, and if there aren’t any synonymous words describing the same process then a certificate may be awarded. According to Harvard and UCLA scholars, “Since social processes largely define these subjects and the boundaries between them, ... divisions might fail to provide researchers with the most relevant set of knowledge to explore new lines of invention” By reading other people’s original ideas, thinkers will get out of their own silos through new recombinations, thus boosting individual creativity and climate change problem solving.


A very feasible methodology would guide users of every level through a stepwise process:

  1. Login with Gmail or Facebook.

  2. Choose at least one of three ideas to vet from other applicants. Your work will be cross referenced with others to ensure best practices.

  3. Search the digital realm using our search template to identify similar ideas, prior art, or synonymous descriptions.

  4. Once your determination is made, and deemed accurate in conjunction with other reviewers, your own idea will be reviewed. This process should take less than one to two business days.

Who will take these actions?

Governments, businesses, and other organizations are composed of individuals. Both independents and teams will be able to apply for certificates. Just as Facebook spread through by starting with elite colleges, social network effects will spread the concept particularly if the certificate has a “Share Now” button at the conclusion. Our team will reach out to leading climate and innovation scholars and practitioners, at universities, think tanks, and in the field. We will revise our original proposal to incorporate their requests and ask in exchange that they submit ideas or encourage their colleagues or students to do so to. Finally, we will take the first few entries with the authors’ permission and create press releases for local and national outlets and within climate and collective intelligence conferences.

Where will actions be taken:

Most transactions, such as correspondence, the creation of the portal, and the process of certification itself, will be digital. Once certified the ideas will take form in any number of ways across physical boundaries from Europe to Rio de Janeiro to rural Alaska. The headquarters, or central nervous system will be the United States and Massachusetts. The subsequent countries listed are those with the most online traffic in connection to the United States.

Where will these actions be taken?


In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

United States

Country 2


Country 3


Country 4


Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

According to NPR 80% of scientific papers leading to patented technology. By lowering the barrier of interest our team hopes to increase the number of developed technologies. A US Patent and Trademark office study found that intellectual property intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs in the United States and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). We hope for a similar impact with MIT through the certificate of digital originality. 

What are other key benefits?

Like Einstein said, “everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler”. Very feasible methodology which will guide users of every level through a stepwise process. 

To date all patent processes have been run by states. This represents a shift from forums like Reddit, into the realm of intellectual property and recognition like academia. Though the “Certificate of Digital Originality” may not have immediate legal standing in court. The ability to prove the novelty of a climate change idea in a point of time will be extremely useful and unique.

According to the IPCC, “For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected.”Looking at the reduction of harm by this certificate program as compared to specific predictions by IPCC, the momentum of the environment itself may not be changed by a hundredth of a degree Celsius. However, humanity’s ability to cope with our environment and our sense of solidarity may increase both intangibly and through injections of time, money, and resources in to the climate field. It’s difficult to determine the exact impact of certifying originality because innovation in its truest sense is not a math equation. As one writer wrote in the radical “A spaceship called Earth”, you may give 1000 people funding for unlimited learning and experimentation and 999 of these individuals will fail to uncover anything lasting. However, one individual may make a discovery that compensates for the financial investment of the other 999 and more.

All of the framework for a solid presentation of this idea is in place. One option to garner support for the creation, possibly pro bono, of this portal and methodology, would be for the ClimateCoLab to give credit to the creators and recurring credit for all subsequent inventions and climate discoveries. Just as eBay is a marketplace, designers who create the domain, are in part responsible for the subsequent transactions, though these transactions could occur elsewhere. In this sense it's not that MIT’s “Certificate for Digital Originality” would be the only place for creative validation. In fact there will likely be great competition over finding and engaging users. However, because of MIT’s global reputation the concept will likely still win favor. As we deliberate on the future we want to build, we must remember the quote about standing on the shoulders of giants, and then at our discretion give ourselves permission to chronicle our own discoveries and become giants ourselves.


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Very little to no costs if done on a pro bono basis. Small operating costs to be determined but could be offset by academic or peer review article advertising. 


This project is focused on creating the IP in the 1-15 years and the inventions, behaviors, and attitudes that will last from 15-50 years. Today the change of pace is exponential. With this in mind its difficult for anyone to realistically predict more than five years out.

About the author(s)

Jack Whitacre has three patents and graduated from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is in the University of Massachusetts Boston's PhD program as a NSF Fellow. He also helped Dr. Gary Klein write the book, "Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights".

Other two authors wished to remain anonymous. 

Related Proposals

Catalyzing systemic change to solve global warming by Andrew Gaines if they had an element of documenting and recognizing originality within their communication network. The rest of the proposals would qualify themselves as ideas worthy of MIT Certificates of digital originality if vetted. 



“Technology as a complex adaptive system: evidence from patent data” by Fleming and Sorenson

“To Promote the Creative Process: Intellectual Property Law and the Psychology of Creativity” by Gregory N. Mandel

Further reading: