After many years of rapid scientific and technological progress, we are a long way from the 2 MHz computer that put the first man on the moon. But the more we learn about the world around us, the more questions we have. And the questions are getting harder.
Computer simulations help scientists solve the world’s biggest problems in health and sustainability. The bad news is there is not enough available computational power for them to do so. Supercomputers cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and very few research projects get to use them.
At the same time, the average adult spends 5.9 hours per day with digital media on smartphones, tablets, and computers. Devices thousands of times more powerful than the computers that put the Apollo team on the moon spend the majority of their time unused.
A team at UC Berkeley developed a computing distributing platform called BOINC to address this very issue in 2002. The open-source platform allows users to volunteer their smart devices’ processing capability to research projects around the world.
Almost 800,000 computers connected to the network provide 35 petaFLOPS to scientists attempting to find cures to major human diseases and solutions to climate change. The computer grid is the 5th fastest supercomputer in the world after Tianhe-2A, which cost 390 million dollars to build.
It is estimated that there are over 2 billion computers, 2.5 billion smartphones, and over 1 billion tablets worldwide. The BOINC network of volunteers is just 0.015% of the modest total of available devices. Instead, people choose to allocate valuable processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.
At its peak, the bitcoin network was estimated to consume 73 TWh a year, more than the entire country of Austria. People readily mined cryptocurrency because it boiled down to receiving something for free without risking a loss. Simply speaking, it was emotionally rewarding.
Providing incentives for volunteering spare processing power to science can significantly increase the resources available to scientists. Our API presents a way to reward volunteers with points for every qualifying hour they dedicate to science.
A dedicated cloud wallet can be used to redeem points on discounts online, access to online publications, or any other connected reward. Volunteers can check their balance history, transfer points to other connected wallets, or pool them together with friends or family to spend on better rewards.
Just by using our resources more effectively we can help uncover cures to lethal diseases and prevent irreversible climate change. With a little incentive, we can come together to achieve the impossible like we did many times before.