Saving the world, one computation at a time

Like many folks, I want to save the world. I mean, I would save the world, if only I had just a bit more time. And energy. And maybe some money. *yawn* I think I'll have a nap...

Ahem...anyway, it's nice to be able to feel like I'm contributing, but I do struggle sometimes with the where and how of it. One great way to chip in – or rather, delegate the chipping in – is through the World Community Grid project. World Community Grid is basically a distributed computing project – that is, it takes some computationally intensive work, breaks it apart into smaller chunks, and sends the work out to computers all over the world (including mine) which process the tasks and return results. The image above shows the tasks my Mac Mini was finished, waiting for and working on this morning.

The great thing about World Community Grid is that it functions through a client app on your computer that manages the tasks so they only use your excess computing resources – if you start working your computer hard, the app slows or stops its processing to give you as much processing power as you need. If you are one of those folks who just leave your computer on all the time, WCG can give your computer all sorts of fun things to do to keep it occupied while you are asleep. You'd be surprised how much computation your computer can accomplish overnight!

The best thing of all, though, is that the tasks available on World Community Grid are universally for the betterment of our world. In the six-plus years my computers have contributed, they have worked to cure AIDS, treat childhood cancer, find new cancer markers, develop clean energy and help fight muscular dystrophy, among many others. And I didn't have to life a finger (or activate a brain cell) – my computer did all the work!

The BOINC app, which is the open-source app developed to handle the distributed computing tasks, is available for most platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Linux and even Android. I've been using it on various computers since 2007, in which time my computers have contributed over 2 2/3 years of "run time" and returned 7,378 "results."

It's great to see the results pile up and realizing I am playing a (small) part in solving world problems. Why not give it a try?