"The lifespan of bitcoin mining devices remains limited to just 1.29 years. As a result, we estimate that the whole bitcoin network currently cycles through 30.7 metric kilotons of equipment per year."

Over at Twitter, one of the authors of the study adds: "We quantified there's about 2.9 million machines. If they last for 1.5 years, then less than 80.000 of them will ever create a single block at all - more than 97% of machines will be discarded without even producing a single useful contribution ever."

@lrhodes oh no :'(
thanks for sharing!

> Ethereum, a bitcoin successor, announced in May plans to move to proof of stake within months, although the switchover has yet to occur.

it seems the meme hasn't gotten old (?)

@lrhodes IMO this is probably a bigger ecological disaster than the power use.

@lrhodes somebody in that thread is calling it "proof of WASTE"
and if that isn't the most accurate thing ever said about it

@lrhodes I really hate bitcoin, but this sounds weird.
What if someone stole an encrypted nazi database and had to brute force its password on a cluster of a thousand GPUs? Can we say that only one of them produced an useful contribution, and the remaining 999 didn't?

@lrhodes also their math seems to be off, at one block every 20 minutes we get 72 blocks per day, or around 2160 blocks per month, or less than 40k in 1.5 years, not 80k. (Which of course makes it even worse)

@IngaLovinde I'm not sure evoking Nazism does anything beyond add a false sense of urgency to the analogy.

I think part of their message is that, computationally, we're way beyond the point where individual hobbyists can handle the proof of work required to mine their way into the ecosystem. The fate of proof of work systems is to eventually require the entire lifecycle of the equivalent of 80+ networked machines to yield a single unit of (fluctuating) value.

@lrhodes I evoked nazism to emphasize that in this hypothetical scenario the GPUs are used for the greater good (as opposed to bitcoin), and because of that recent Epik hack.

And isn't your second part a well-known fact already? I don't think any individual hobbyists expect to mine a whole new block on their own; instead they unite into pools so that they share both "work" and reward.

Maybe that's just my academia upbringing, but "negative result is not an useful contribution" sounds weird.

(Again, cryptocurrencies are shit, and mining them is a waste; but not because a single compute unit will not produce a solution in its lifetime)

@IngaLovinde It may be a well-known fact within the community, but it isn't necessarily well-known outside the community. And that's important not just to dissuade people from directly investing, but also because nations are starting to adopt cryptocurrency as valid tender. Voters need to be aware of the costs.

I'd say the increasing number of physical resources required to generate an unit of crypto is a perfectly valid objection to cryptocurrency at least in its proof of work incarnation.

@lrhodes of course it is a valid objection! But it is "maintaining cryptocurrency requires zillion devices and gajillions of electricity", not "only every 30th device will find a new block over its lifetime"

@IngaLovinde It's a related, but distinct objection. What they're saying is, on top of the electrical expenditure required to generate crypto, there's also the cost of the materials using that electricity. Think about all of the plastics and metals and rare earth minerals that go into a mining rig. And, as the authors point out, most of those rigs are so specialized, they can't (or, at least, won't) be repurposed.

@lrhodes Yes, I mentioned "zillion devices" :)

I fully agree with all of that except for "more than 97% of the machines will not produce a single useful contribution ever".

30 GPUs will try to crack a password used to encrypt Epik database, but only one will finally find it.

30 mathematicians independently work on trying to prove or disprove Riemann hypothesis, but only one of them will find a proof, the rest not finding anything useful in their lifetimes.

There are 30 people in a search party, but only one of them will find a missing child.

That, by itself, does not mean that the rest did not contribute or did not do anything useful or are a waste.

So I'm having a problem when a similar argument is applied to bitcoin. Sure, bitcoin is shit, but for other reasons, not this one.

@lrhodes I don't like ASICs either; an ASIC-resistant coin like Monero lets people with ordinary CPUs mine, thus being less wasteful, and precluding e.g. governments effectively banning the coin by the import or manufacture of its ASICs, as to suppress a CPU coin they'd have to ban computing altogether.

Crypto can be a good thing, but damn, proof of (otherwise useless) work needs to go. It's an environmental nightmare.

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