Luis von Ahn is very, very clever.
He thinks that people waste a lot of time playing solitaire.
"How many hours do you say?"
He figures that we "waste" 9 billion hours a year just playing this game on a computers.
By contrast, it took just 20 millions hours to build the panama canal.
He asked himself, "How can harness this time to output something good?" This is a very interesting answer, and Google invited Luis to tell them what he did, and the lecture is recorded here.
The lecture is well worth your time. Because he tricks people into doing work, and in a very modern way, Luis becomes the Tom Sawyer of the age of computers. Only, he doesn't use a brush, but a game pallet.
You should just go to this site to see a list of games that he has developed to get people to solve very tough problems.
Now, here's the deal. I see what he is doing, and it pretty much makes me wonder what in the world am I doing with my life.
My job is one of negotiation.
About the best that I can hope for is applying a little game theory to my negotiations. However, the bane of my life is that I actually don't create anything new. I simply preserve what we have. I am standing on the other side of the table trying to figure out how much I have to give to somebody else so that they will buy my company's products.
This is a good job. It is a job that needs to be done. I have many people who depend on me successfully negotiating our products price so that they can send their kids to school, set aside money for retirement, or create a career. It is a job worth doing.
But it is not what Luis is doing. Luis is not simply trying to preserve what has already been created. No, indeed, Luis is creating. He is using his minds and and the gifts that God has given him to to make something. To tease something into the light.
He creates something where there was nothing.
He pulls a rabbit out of a hat, and I wish I am him.
Perhaps tomorrow, or the day after, I too will find a hat. I too will find a rabbit in the bottom of the hat.
But tomorrow, tomorrow I go to work.
And I'll negotiate one more day.