Accidental Sustainability

August 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

Captcha is a security method that asks users to type in a series of numbers and letters that automatic spammers and bots can’t type on on their own — because they’re not human. So millions of real people are typing random characters into computer every day, maybe every hour.

Kind of a waste*…. But what if there was a way to take advantage of all that random typing?

reCaptcha is a project of Carnegie Mellon University that uses your security feature to fix digitizing problems in scanned books. reCaptcha hands off its problem children to you as a security Captcha. You type in what the computer can’t read and thereby contribute to the digitizing project. From the reCaptcha site:

“About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books”

This is not done as a sustainability project. It does promote sustainability, though, by turning a single-use move into one that fulfills two needs at the same time.

*except for it’s security function of course.

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