Making a Difference
Nov 15, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes

'Free Rice' is a program that gives rice to the U.N. World Food Program people if you define words for them. Get the word right and you successfully donate ten grains of rice. If you're wondering how much rice that is, it's less than a spoonful. Which makes me ask, how much does rice cost? If you define words for a full hour, how much worth of rice have you donated? Well if you want to know about rice you go to rice online, which puts it between $350 to $450 per metric tonne, bagged, depending on the quality of the rice and where you buy it. According to Brett Jordan (who appears to have looked it up) 1000 grains of rice makes 26 grams. That gives each grain of rice a value of less than one one-hundredth of a cent (obviously it costs more if you buy it at Safeway, but the U.N. doesn't buy it at Safeway). So if you define one word, you have earned less than a tenth of a cent. At that rate, if you manage to define 100 words in an hour, you will have contributed 10 cents to poor people. Much less than the site is making in advertising - and rather less than if you had spent the time working at McDonalds and mailing them the cash. Total: 18
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