Luis von Ahn had a question: Was it possible to get 100 million people to translate the web into every major language, for free?
A disproportionately large amount of information on the Internet is in English. Von Ahn wondered how he could harness the power of massive online collaboration and intrinsic motivation to make that information accessible to non-English speakers. The answer is duolingo, a platform that allows you to learn a language by translating actual sentences off the Internet (with perfect scaffolding of course). Duolingo’s algorithms are then able to combine multiple responses to produce crowdsourced translations that are as accurate as those from professional translators. If one million people used duolingo, it will be possible to translate the entire Wikipedia from English to Spanish in eighty hours!
What does duolingo have to do with El Sistema?
I love ideas. When I hear stories like these, I wonder how people come up with such novel, brilliant solutions. How can we create an environment that fosters such thinking? It could be a little audacious and idealistic to draw a connection, but could arts education with an intentional social change aspect create more von Ahns? People with creativity and heart, who are able to harness the power that collaboration has to successfully address large-scale problems in the world?
Beverly Hiong, Sistema Fellow '14