In 2003, human beings spent over 9 billion hours playing solitaire online. This factoid, brought to us by Luis Van Ahn, the brilliant Guatemalan-born professor from Carnegie-Mellon, has now made the rounds. But then he contrasted the number of human-hours it took to accomplish other highly significant works in which humanity takes pride, say the Empire State Building (7 million human-hours) or the Panama Canal (20 million human-hours), and the results were just jaw-dropping. If you could take the amount of voluntary human effort that was going into playing solitaire and channel it to these grand projects instead, the Empire State Building could have been completed in 6.8 hours and the Panama Canal could have been built in one day.
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