World Community Grid

I first became aware of World Community Grid a couple of years ago. We were in the very early stages of the Covid pandemic and everyone was still shell-shocked, whilst suddenly having a huge amount of spare time.

During my spare time my eye was caught by an article about World Community Grid (WCG), a distributed computing initiative from IBM and the University of California which was trying to find treatments for Covid. The idea is simple. Most people’s computers have large amounts of time when they are idle. During these idle times your computer carries out computations for WCG and uploads them. With enough computers around the world, WCG can solve big problems.

WCG isn’t new. It’s been operating for 18 years and currently there are around 800,000 WCG users with 7.5 million devices in over 80 countries.

I immediately signed up and installed the app. Initially the app only ran during the idle times while the PC screensaver was running but today, with more powerful computers, it can run continuously without affecting performance.

WCG now runs in the background on most of the computers in our household: 2 laptops, 3 desktops and 2 mini-PCs are all helping to find a cure for Covid as well as contributing to other vital projects researching cancer and other diseases. In fact, two of our older computers do nothing else. They spend their whole time doing calculations and sending them to California.

I also have some old Android tablets and they also spend all their time contributing to WCG.

To me, this is the essence of the great World Wide Web dream: people from around the world, coming together through technology, not for profit but for the possibility of achieving something amazing. It’s such a long way from the huge profit motive that drives most of today’s internet.