So, I posted the other day that I’ve been watching a lot of TED talks through the TED app. It’s funny because I find myself in many conversations recently where I’ll say, “You know, I watched a TED talk recently that said…” If you’re looking to enrich your conversations with other people, by all means, you should watch/listen to some of these talks.

However, I listened to one on Saturday that has shaken me. The pure beauty of the innovation and thinking outside of the box both excites me and challenges me. It made me wish and pray for this kind of innovative thought for ministry. In this talk, Luis von Ahn explains how he’s leveraging the masses for incredibly massive collaborative projects, even when the masses have no idea how they are contributing.

Louis talks about his involvement in creating CAPTCHA. You know, the odd numbers and letters on websites when logging in to a website or buying something online. The point of CAPTCHA is to keep nefarious programs from logging into a site thousands of times or buying out all of a product. After CAPTCHA caught on, a process that takes about 10 seconds of your time, it is calculated that humanity as a whole wastes about 500,000 hours of their time EVERY DAY. Louis actually felt bad about this and started thinking about how to recapture those 10 seconds and do something great with that time, which adds up to 500,000 hours daily. What he came up with was brilliant and it was called reCAPTCHA.

You’ve seen this as now when entering a CAPTCHA, you have to enter two words. Here’s what you’re actually doing. One of the words is the code word that verifies that you are in fact human, but the other word is a single scanned word from a printed book. When you type in that word (as dozens of other people randomly are also typing in that same word), you are actually digitizing printed books. Books that do not exist in digital form are scanned and the images of the words are being typed out by us (the additional CAPTCHA word) and all these words are being put back in the correct order and the end result is an entire book being digitized by the masses. The end result is that reCAPTCHA is digitizing 1.5 million books a year. That is collaboration on a whole new level. You should watch the video and see how they’re using a new project to translate the internet into multiple languages in a highly accurate and collaborative movement with amazing speed.

Ideas like this truly inspire me. I see so many great things happening in ministry and kidmin specifically, but I also see that so many things haven’t yet been created or innovated. Somehow, I feel we should spend more time than we do dreaming up what doesn’t yet exist instead of always being overwhelmed by the task at hand. Just a thought. What do you think?

In case you’re not able to view the video above, you can find it here.