Berners-Lee: Challenge of the Web is 'creative connectivity'

The next step could be a Web infrastructure that enables collective thinking to solve problems

The challenge of the Web is to build a system that enables people to creatively solve problems that they couldn't solve on their own, said Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Speaking Wednesday at the "Future of the Web Debate," at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Tetherless World Research Constellation, Berners-Lee said one of the Web's key challenges is what he calls "connective creativity."

Creativity is that "Eureka moment," when a long-sought-after answer to a problem seems to come out of nowhere, said Berners-Lee, the senior research scientist at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.

"Creativity is what happens in one person's brain, when things start to click together because you have been consciously reading up about the problem and all the things you think would be relevant [to solving that problem], and quite subconsciously your brain has been fitting together a solution," he said.

Then the answer suddenly comes to you when you're in the shower or jogging, he said.

"That's an interesting thing that happens and it happens in just one brain," he said. "Now just suppose, given that we have those huge problems out there to solve in health care [such as ] looking for a cure for AIDS, or cancer, that part of the answer might be in my brain and another part might be in somebody else's brain. So how can we make the Web a substrate so that all those half-formed ideas out there [are connected]?"

In the future, the Web should be able to connect people's ideas in such a way that one person could store his partly formed ideas and leave a trail of his thinking for other people trying to solve the same problem, he said.

"How can we make the Web be an infrastructure that allows more than one person to think more effectively than one person can? There's no proof yet that for creative thinking we've done that," he said. "The challenge is to build a system that allows the formation of half-formed ideas and allows collective creativity."

His speech was also available via a live Webcast.

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