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[flagged] Crypto-currency craze 'hinders search for alien life' (bbc.co.uk)
52 points by dsr12 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments



They might benefit later when the price of the hardware plummets after a bigger crash...

who am i kidding, this is ruining everything.

The whole crypto craze is starting to remind me of "The Shoe Event Horizon " from the Hitch Hikers Guide.


Or Bostrom's Paperclip Maximiser (edit: someone else got there before me)

Ironically if you draw a Venn diagram of "people who are worried about a dystopian future in which badly-designed AI reallocates enormous portions of the world's resources to an utterly useless end" and "people really into promoting and mining crypto" you might not need a second circle


> Ironically if you draw a Venn diagram (...)

Actually, this turns out to be not true.

https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/MajyZJrsf8fAywWgY/a-lesswr...

The LW crowd was among the earliest people who were aware of Bitcoin, and utterly failed to exploit it for some reason.


Maybe Satoshi was actually an Alien AI transmitted to us so we destroy ourselves.



I should have heeded the warning, this thing goes places, literally!


Sublimely ironic this future is turning out to be.


I'm vaguely curious if there's a typical profile of the people who are going to go bankrupt, lose homes (if they have them), etc. when this whole house of cards comes crashing down.


You sound very confident. Why don't you short the cryptocurrencies you are sure are going to "come crashing down" to make a lot of money?


See The Big Short. Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. I'm also not aware of reliable mechanisms to short cryptocurrencies broadly.


I would like to do this but I don't have several million dollars lying around to get in on the futures market. And I'm sure as hell not going to keep a margin account at any cryptocurrency exchange.


Yeah, somehow all the crypto naysayers always refuse to put their money where their mouths are. I wonder why.


in 2015 i thought cryptocurrencies would probably appreciate so i bought a reasonable amount that was within my ordinary-consumer budget and my appetite for risk. i did okay.

if i wanted to do the same thing now but short, i probably could, but wild swings in price would probably result in my being wiped out after a margin call, on top of which ordinary people have no access to any kind of collar.

if an asset is difficult to short, you are more likely to end up with a bubble. so, if i'm going to reciprocally assume bad faith, bitcoin bulls have a reason to make short-selling systemically impractical.


Reminds me of the paperclip optimizer. The singularity is us.


oh god that too.


Are cryptocurrencies the Great Filter?


So Cryptocurrencies was all along the plan of Aliens to limit our quest to find them /s

That said, the demand for GPU's didn't decrease even during the recent market crash and I personally believe it will be like this until Nvidia comes up with their custom chips for miners


> So Cryptocurrencies was all along the plan of Aliens to limit our quest to find them /s

That's just a side effect that prevents us from discovering them. The true purpose is to accelerate the process of making Earth more habitable to alien life (and less habitable to us). Apparently aliens like CO₂ and hot climate (makes me wonder why they don't just settle Venus, but maybe it's too warm for them there).


Proof of stake on Ethereum is right around the corner. As soon as that happens there will be plenty of cheap GPUs back on the market.


The funny thing about the bitcoin fans is how they don't realize (or think it's good) that the BTC network does not become faster or scales as more hardware is added, quite the contrary


It does, however, become exponentially more difficult to double-spend, which is the whole reason we have proof-of-work security in the first place.


Yes, however, it already is enormously difficult to double-spend. If this were the actual motives of miners adding ever-more hash power, we ought to discuss at some point how secure is "secure enough" and at which point the added security has a higher cost than benefit.

Otherwise the whole thing sounds like the paperclip maximizer justifying its actions: "But if I burn this forest, we will have even more paperclips!"


The only motive of miners is profit. This is by design. How else could you incentivize a bunch of random people to find partial SHA-256 collisions?

Security is ensured by the economic incentives baked into the protocol. Security is the by-product of economically selfish behavior.


Which is why cryptocurrencies won't convert into more energy-efficient schemes - after all, they see the exponential waste as feature - and we'll be stuck with this energetic disaster until some authority finally puts a stop to this charade.


"Some authority" will use violence to stop mining locally, and it will immediately move elsewhere.

This is a nearly pure market system, driven by economic incentives. Cryptocurrency mining is the best and highest use for the scarce resource of energy. Once it becomes unprofitable to mine, then the hash rate will stabilize and the energy will be used for better purposes. Marginal producers of hash rate will be priced out of the market.


I don't think many people think that. They think more hardware means more money in their pockets.


Translation: Massive centralization right around the corner. It’s just amazing how quickly all of those Libertarian principles died in the face of a quick buck.


The principles were never there. That is, in cryptocurrency space, you have a small minority of "true libertarians" (who'll likely stay with PoW scheme), and then the vast majority made of scammers, greedy people, and clueless ones who just want to get rich quick.


Yes! PoS poses a much greater risk of centralization


Oh wow, I never thought of that... If it works out the way you suggest, that will be fun for the undergrad projects.


Yup, and it'll be interesting to see how other cryptos adapt.

Proof of Stake, though, worries me. It's a very "the rich get richer" solution trying to prevent the rich getting richer. Less electricity, sure, but it feels like it deepens the economic wedge between classes. If you stake 1 coin and I stake 100 coins and there's a 10% reward, after payout you'll have 1.1 and I'll have 110. How is that decentralizing? And you can't put tiers in the system because people will just install a thousand wallets/nodes and split their coins until they fall into the highest paying bracket.

I really like what the Monero folks are doing. They announced that they'll be making small changes to their PoW algorithm a few times per year in order to deter ASICs (no point to spending time and money on a super specialized machine that will be worthless in 2 months). It doesn't deter GPU mining too much, though I'd imagine that it's more of a hassle keeping a swarm or systems up to date than one rig. Ideally, they would release tweaks that reduce GPU efficiency, like highly serialized computations with lower difficulty (so the payout is similar).

And then you have Gridcoin, Curecoin, and the AI focused coins that give something back to the world, forcing a charitable donation. It's a shame that they aren't more popular/valuable. They're kneecapped by academia's schizoid relationship with computing in too many ways, but seem to have good teams and communities behind them.

My amateur opinion is that the flexibility of shown by Monero (changing their PoW algorithm) should be standard for all coins, as should the usefulness of work, like Gridcoin and Curecoin (not just 'securing the network'). Maybe something like a carbon tax, where exchanging the currency carries a contract to provide some proportional amount of work in a scientific project. Use a reverse Proof of Stake with a generational memory so that stake weight follows a coin for a while after each trade. The generational weight can be reduced by performing useful work. That useful work itself could be bought and sold, but disappears when spent maturing the traded coin.

I guess I'm trying to brainstorm a system that requires everyone to participate in useful work of unpredictable efficiency, where stability is added by punishing frequent exchanges, and holding the coin heals the wealth gap. Basically, if you're just acquiring money to 'have money' the system will deem you less important than someone acquiring money to 'use money', but forgives somewhat if you give back in computing power.

Just spitballing. I'm sure I'm missing a ton of details, but it was a fun exercise for me.


Those guys will probably switch to another PoW coin


some will. But ETH has the majority of the hashing power, so any significant moves to other coins will result in major difficulty increases. Which will further decrease mining profitability and hence even more GPUs on the market.


Probably ETC?


These guys should contact nvidia directly, and ask to reserve some of the cards nvidia sells via their site.

It releases small batches weekly.

Anecdote: last week it was 300 cards. Most of them are snatched by miners and scalpers (who resell them on ebay). I managed to get one card I need (to complete my pc) only by using monitoring script and automating chrome to purchase. 300 cards were gone in 4 minutes. The next day 12 more were available (possibly cancelled/failed orders of those 300).


Nah, SETI should be crowdfunding to build ASIC boards tuned solely to do the necessary Fast Fourier Transform [1] operations to identify what they consider interesting signals from extraterrestrial sources.

When the EFF commissioned the DES ASIC system for bruteforcing DES encryption in 1998, it only cost $210k [2]. I can only imagine design and fabrication costs have declined over 20 years.

"The whole project was budgeted at about US $210,000. Of this, $80,000 was used to design, integrate, and test the EFF DES Cracker. The other $130,000 was for materials including chips, boards and all other components on the boards, card cages, power supplies, cooling, and a PC. The software for controlling the EFF DES Cracker was written separately as a volunteer project that took 4-5 weeks. The entire project was completed within about eighteen months, with much of that time being used for preliminary research. The core team contained fewer than ten people, none of whom worked full-time on the project. The final cost came in at well under $250,000."

[1] https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/sah_glossary/fft.php

[2] https://w2.eff.org/Privacy/Crypto/Crypto_misc/DESCracker/HTM...

[+] Entire book on the subject the EFF published for the intellectually curious: https://archive.org/details/crackingdessecre00elec

EDIT: @fundemental: Would love to hear more about this if you're willing to share and have the time. Contact info is in my profile.


Interestingly last time I was active in this area (specifically VLBI radio astronomy), I was working on a project for moving FFT computations away from existing FPGA based solutions to GPU based ones in order to save money.


Or maybe start a coin which uses those operations as PoW?

Then miners will sort this out themselves ))


That is far more complicated than producing power efficient ASICs that aren't reliant on a tech fad, ASICs that can be colocated on site at each signal acquisition facility (or in someone's colo/datacenter).

Your solution should be as simple as possible, but no more simple than that.


I think the solution here is very very easy...

Aliencoin when?



No active markets.


Gridcoin i think supports seti


Yep


I think nVidia is only getting more research and development dollars because of the bitcoin craze. Its gotta be taking some of that cash and making things faster and better. Prices and hardware in short supply will quickly come down.


Unfortunately, nvidia (or amd) does not get extra cash from this craze. Not even partners and oems.

Most profits are reaped by retailers and resellers


Nvidia's profit margin seems to be swelling.

https://ycharts.com/companies/NVDA/profit_margin

I would kind of expect that to be the case as each card they issue has a very high initial cost to design, test, promote, etc. and now cards that were getting "old" have suddenly shot up in demand.


They don't get the benefit of markup, but they do have the benefit of inventory flying off the shelves. I'm not going to guess at nVidia or AMD's margins, but I'm sure they are quite happy with the additional income from GPU sales. This turns into more R&D, which AMD needs.


To those offering up suggestions of "seticoin" and similar ideas, the reason why this hasn't been done is because its prohibitively difficult to build a PoW system using useful work because useful work usually cannot be verified as correct without redoing all of the work. Another problem is that the inherent nature of useful work generally precludes it from being delivered in units of controllable and predictable difficulty.


But think of how in awe the Aliens are of the freedoms we have created for our selves.


We’ve allowed people to be venture capitalists in the system [crypto] that will replace our current finance system

-Actual rational behind letting people investing their savings in crypto be from an article I read


The greatest thing is that nobody's "letting" invest anyone anywhere here, because nobody has any authority over the system. Rather than being "allowed"to invest in crypto, you are _free_ to invest in crypto.


It’s clear the implication is crypto is “letting” you invest in itself by its nature, where as some government trying to invent a new monetary system probably wouldn’t let individuals invest for a stake in future circulation

But realistically, the government can stop you from investing. Or more specifically, the government can derail investment in the system by removing the aspect of speculation that’s driving this “investment”, by limiting people’s ability to liquidate.

The government moves slow. Yesterday hundreds, if not thousands of people here in CT got letters requesting taxes on out of state online purchases from Newegg from up to 3 years ago. Everyone knew the law was that you should report your own purchases and pay taxes on them, but they ignored it and thought “buying out of state will let me not pay taxes!”. Now the taxman is coming for its due.

Stories like this on current transactions could start to hamper the speculation on crypto drastically.


Check out gridcoin. Its a cryptocurrency that rewards you for using boinc.


Oh, but there is a great group of people who crunch projects for them all the time through BOINC.

It's called Gridcoin.

(credit to: going_full_turbo)


My brother has been able to sell his graphics cards that he has had for six months at MSRP or better even while being slightly used a few months ago. Graphic cards are hard to come by and they can't even make them fast enough. Even for gamers who need only one card.


Sounds like an opportunity for an ICO called SETIcoin.

They can both raise funds and if they figure out how to run their algorithms via smart contracts also get access to much more hardware ala BOINC.


Gridcoin


Are we not more likely to find alien life through SpaceX rockets that can launch telescopes deep into space?


The expensive part is building the telescopes. James Webb is going to cost something like $8.8 billion. Compared to that, launching it is easy.


I feel it's probably the least of my worries about crypto-currency craze


cryptocurrencies will radically change our societies so it's well wotth it. Alien life would probably destroy it.


If by radically change our societies, you mean waste billions of watts on overly complex Get Rich Quick schemes, then yes, yes they will.


I mean about permanent proof of government spending, ultra secure voting systems, decentralized government and direct democracy. bonus tip: many coins do not need watt burning. p.s you were probably an internet naysayer too


Isn't it ironic that he is so short-sighted? The demand for GPUs increases research in that area and will drive down costs soon. There will be a huge amount of cards that use too much energy for mining but that are perfect for research.


Searching for alien life is an irrational waste of energy and resources. In thousands of years of mankind's history we have seen zero compelling evidence of alien life existing in any form anywhere. The energy spent on cryptocurrencies is the cost of the unstoppable financial freedom they are creating for us. Obviously, we all wish it were smaller, but to ensure that nobody can have total control of the system, it has to be computationally heavy and expensive in terms of energy required per transaction.


> to ensure that nobody can have total control of the system, it has to be computationally heavy and expensive in terms of energy required per transaction.

To be entirely safe when I go to the grocery store I could drive a tank, but a cost-benefit analysis reveals that I shouldn't.

As a thought experiment, what would happen right now if the mining incentive went to 0 and miners subsisted entirely on transaction fees? Would the system still be secure? (It's an important question since that's what will eventually happen with difficulty adjustments)


Long before that happens we will have already moved to better, more advanced crypto currency systems. Bitcoin is not the only alternative and its importance is dwindling. "Mining incentive" won't even have any meaning by the time the danger you envision is in the realm of possibility.


I agree that probabilities are against us when looking for Alien life. There is probably beyond doubt some kInd of life in our galaxy, but there is no reason it would be occuring in the neighborhood. And we have no clear model that would Explain that all intelligent life would emit radio waves. Most species on Earth dont and they are certainly in the realm of what we define as intelligence.


I also think there's definitely something to be said for the human spirit. Searching for something greater, aspiring for the impossible, we've lost this over the last X years. Only with Spacex does it feel like we're starting to gain some wonder back. I'm of the opinion that wonder and leaps of faith are central to the human spirit. Without it, I fear we're fast tracked for a dystopian future full of listlessness.


We haven't been able to detect radio signals from outer space for almost the entirety of mankind's history. So that's not a very compelling argument.


>but to ensure that nobody can have total control of the system, it has to be computationally heavy and expensive in terms of energy required per transaction.

I don't understand how making it so energy intensive will level the playing field. Wouldn't that favor the existing financial authorities since they already have so much computing power and resources to begin with?


> Wouldn't that favor the existing financial authorities since they already have so much computing power and resources to begin with?

Oh, yes - absolutely. You can't escape existing systems of power by moving into the cloud. It's just a form of digital escapism.


> unstoppable financial freedom

By the time we find out this isn't true, they will have successfully taken cash away...while we were all distracted. Can't wait for total financial surveillance. So excited. It's going to make the Big Dildo Refund joke completely non-understandable.




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