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World of Warcraft Meets War Plan Orange: The Military Utility of Collaborative Problem Solving in a Virtual Environment

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Technical Report

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Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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This study explores the utility that collaborative problem solving in a virtual environment may have for the military, and for the Air Force in particular. The author assesses the ability of large groups of laypeople to outperform small groups of experts, drawing conclusions on what types of problems yield to the wisdom of crowds, and in what circumstances. After examining the phenomenon of crowdsourcing, discussion turns to the Air Forces ability to adopt a crowd-based approach to problem solving. Finally, potential environments for problem solving are proposed, ranging from fully immersive simulated worlds to lower fidelity, web-enabled exercises. Though research shows it to be dependent upon technology and subject to certain constraints and requirements, the potential applications for crowd-sized collaboration in virtual environments hold significant promise for the Air Force of the future.

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