Finding Purpose in the Process
Let’s face it: There are dozens of things we do every day just because we have to do them. We tie our shoe strings in the morning so that our shoes will stay on for the whole day. We check our mail in the afternoon to see which bills are due. Each thing we do has a small reason why in the short term that requires us to put forth a large amount of time long-term. So what if we could find massive purpose within all of these minutia processes?
Yesterday I watched a TED video featuring Luis von Ahn which has caused me to rethink my daily processes. Luis is known for inventing a program called CAPTCHA. This acronym literally means “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart.” More than likely, you’re familiar with CAPTCHA whether you know it or not. It’s the typing test you have to complete when you want to buy tickets on Ticketmaster, change your password on twitter and thousands of other activities on just under half a million various websites. CAPTCHA’s invention has been essential in protecting websites against bots by generating and grading tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot. For example, humans can read distorted text as the one shown below, but current computer programs cannot.
Sounds boring, right? Well, the most exciting part of CAPTCHA (at least to me) is not that it protects websites from bots. It’s what you’ll probably be surprised to learn they have repurposed CAPTCHA to do…
When you look at the CAPTCHA to the left, you may not realize that one of them is the actual test, while the other is a scanned word from the hard copy of a book. You must enter both to proceed to the next page; one proves you are human, but the other - get this - is helping to digitize a book! You are literally translating offline books into online versions, just by typing in the CAPTCHA words. With over 200 million CAPTCHAs completed each day, the company is able to digitize around 2.5 million books per year. All from the simple 10-second process of verifying that you are human. How’s that for finding purpose in the process?
Luis von Ahn’s TED talk is packed with several ways to find purpose within our processes even beyond this one example. He’s even been working on a way to translate the entire web into all major languages. Yes, you heard that right. Be sure to check out the complete TED video, here, as well as his new project, Duolingo, too. Be prepared to rethink every thing you do. And remember, if you think your next project is too daunting in size, find a way to break it down into tiny activities that can be done with the collaboration of others.