SETI looks for Aliens, Compute for Humanity tries to save the World

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SETI looks for Aliens, Compute for Humanity tries to save the World

Compute for Humanity: Save the World From Your Sofa

Compute for Humanity bills itself as “a small application that uses your computer’s spare processing power to raise money for charity.” Like SETI it wants to use the computing power that you do not use, but for a good cause. It does a tiny bit of cryptocurrency mining on your computer (think Bitcoin) and donates 100% of the money generated to nonprofits like GiveDirectly and Watsi. It’s a neat idea, and since I’m all about technology working for us (and not the other way around) I was immediately intrigued.

The website makes it clear that Compute for Humanity tries hard to be unobtrusive: instead of working continuously, it only mines for a few seconds at a time, using a more efficient algorithm than Bitcoin and making sure it’s not running when your computer’s doing other more important things. It does so little that you don’t notice any effect on your electricity bill (or battery life or computer performance), and the project raises money for charity by crowdsourcing to get lots of people running it at once.

I was still a bit skeptical—it seemed like there should be a catch. But the project’s financials are all on the website, the code is open-source, and the privacy policy is short and Snowden-friendly. And the website rightly points out that “if there was any funny business Apple would revoke the app’s ‘certificate’ and you wouldn’t even be able to install it.” That’s true. I also reached out to Jacob Evelyn, the Boston-based programmer who created the app. Evelyn explained that he pays for all expenses (like server costs and developer licenses) out of his own pocket, so all of the money generated by computers running Compute for Humanity goes to charity.

So I took the plunge. First, true to its word, the installation process was literally:

  1. Download.

  2. Open.

I didn’t need to make a password, no installer put who-knows-what on my hard drive, and—this seems obvious—the app is completely free. (Shouldn’t everything be that simple?)

I opened the app and boom—I was saving the world! All through a tiny icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen:

I like that you can forget about it and let it do its thing and you’re helping charities for free. But the real fun comes with a system of… well, I guess I’ll call them “hearts” and “trophies”:

You earn hearts slowly over time, and can choose to donate them to support your favorite cause. You earn trophies by doing different things, from reaching milestones of donating your hearts to inviting friends using a special referral link (help me get a trophy by using this one!). Plus, I’m insanely curious about this:

And my computer still runs as smoothly as ever. So, I’m convinced: this is maybe the easiest way to help the world, it costs nothing, and it’s pretty fun to boot. Try it yourself here: https://www.computeforhumanity.org

 

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