This short post explains how websites like Wikipedia could help solve important computational problems by harnessing the computational power of their readers' browsers.
Many problems in biology, medicine, physics and other sciences remain unsolved because they require enormous computational resources. Several volunteer computing projects (e.g. BOINC) currently allow people to donate some of the computing power of their personal computers, in order to enable scientific research that could not be done otherwise. With volunteer computing, THOUSANDS of personal computers all around the world can work simultaneously on a scientific research project. I argue that much more than this could easily be done and that MILLIONS of personal computers could simultaneously be used to solve important scientific problems. How?
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Quite unexpectedly, this short post made the front page of Slashdot immediately after its publication and received a lot of attention. I summarize below some of the comments that people made on this idea.
Post by Marco Taboga, hosted by Statlect.com.
This is a brief summary of the main comments made on this page, on Slashdot and on Reddit.
Many people are concerned that their personal computers could be unduly exploited without their explicit consent. Of course, one should find mechanisms to let users explicitly approve their participation in large-scale distributed computing projects.
Modern computers have higher electricity consumption when their CPUs are used more intensively. Therefore, donating CPU cycles entails a small cost for donors.