What if while you slept, you could “give away” your computer to a kid in need on the other side of the planet?
In 2013, Kenya announced a plan to give every child in school a laptop. It would cost 600 million and deliver 1.3 million laptops. It’s a nice idea, but not a smart solution. And for a nation with many other issues, 600 million is a lot. That would explain why in 2016 the government said it would instead setup community computer labs that students could freely use. Even these have barely been set up today because of issues with Kenya’s electricity grid and other infrastructural problems. It’s important that the youth of impoverished nations, like Kenya, have access to quality computers on which they can freely learn and create. You can’t just throw shitty, slow laptops at students. The quality of the machine matters. Have you ever tried doing anything on a crappy laptop that freezes? It’s the worst. Whats the point of giving students shitty laptops that can barely load a video? But, quality costs money. So what do we do?
Hmmmmm, well, you probably have a good computer, right?
My idea is to leverage the power of the people (you) and the technology behind cloud computing.
Most of us have basic laptops which we just use to browse the web or watch movies. Though, some of us have some pretty complex custom rigs built to do things like run games at 69,000,000 FPS or to train complicated machine learning algorithms.
What I’m getting at is that we got hella computers and the computers we use today are decent. Your computer is probably way better than those shitty 200$ laptops the Kenyan government was going to give those kids. Something else to note is that our computers are personal devices and aren’t being used 24 hours a day. You definitely can’t use a computer while you sleep. That means your computer is probably being wasted, just sitting there, for at least 7 hours a day while you slumber. Thats over 2000 hours a year or around 83 days.
Cloud computers are cool, right? Essentially, they allow you to borrow someone else’s physical computer (ex. a computer owned by Google, Amazon, or Microsoft) to do work in exchange for some hourly cost. Also, you have your own little slice of that cloud computer that only you can use and can do whatever on. This means its impossible to go to other people’s slices. Also, it means you can‘t really do malicious things to the host computer. I won’t get into it much here, but its secure. All you need to make this cloud computer magic happen is an internet connection and a really crappy laptop. And the interesting thing is you could be using an old 100$ laptop, but the cloud computer you port into could be a 2000$ beast that you get for $0.04 an hour.
Lets take the same idea from above. Lets say you owned a 1000$ gaming. What if that computer being borrowed was yours? Also, what it could only be borrowed while you are asleep? And what if the person borrowing your computer was a student from a poor country that needed a good computer to run some 3D art software? Well, all this student would need would be an internet connection + a cheap laptop and they could easily connect to your computer and have their own slice of your machine. Remember, this means they can’t touch your stuff. They can only do things within their own slice. The student is happy because he or she can has access to a FREE powerful computer, and you don’t care because your sleeping.
This is an idea I’ve been tossing around for a few days now and wanted to get it off my chest because I think its pretty cool. Some of my friends said it wouldn’t work because poorer nations don’t have stable internet connections so they wouldn’t even be able to login to a cloud computer. But, thats not true. 88% of Kenya’s population has access to the internet thanks to cheap data plans and the fact that everyone uses mobile payment.
The internet is more available than ever and I think its power combined with the power of computers owned by normal people like you and me could drastically the rate at which society advances. That kid in Kenya who borrowed your computer may have been using your gaming rig to work on some computationally heavy artificial intelligence problems. Who knows? He could go on to change the world but we’ll never know unless he’s given a chance.