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Extreme Bitcoin Mining Aids an Unexpected Revolution in Iceland (bloomberg.com)
174 points by allenleein 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments



>Island became a magnet for the practice once miners figured out that the place is very cold and that electricity there -- geothermal and hydropower -- costs a lot less ...

This is the next big frontier in data center advancement, imo -- submerged/frigid data center installations. Microsoft's already been playing around with a submersible data center under a project codenamed 'Natick,' while piggybacking off of its extreme portability and flexibility in terms of resources toward R&D, and it's just getting started. Google has already announced plans to do the same. [1]

It also makes sense from a scale/growth standpoint as 50% of earth's population lives within 2 hour drive from their respective coastlines. [2]

[0] https://natick.research.microsoft.com/ [1] https://www.citylab.com/life/2016/02/microsoft-cloud-ocean-p... [2] http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/10/18/how-many-people...


>Island became a magnet for the practice once miners figured out that the place is very cold and that electricity there -- geothermal and hydropower -- costs a lot less ...

Issac Arthur speculates that Titan may become a center of cryogenic industry and computing in the late 21st century.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdpRxGjtCo0

Given that immigrants tend to settle in places that resemble their home country, I wonder if Titan might develop an ex-pat Icelandic community? (Isolated. Rugged. Cold. Beautiful in a literal otherworldly sense.)

If you're going to have a submersible data center, you probably want it to be a partially submersible spar buoy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar_buoy

This gives you all of the benefits of submersion, but makes access easier. It also makes the installation immune to waves, especially rogue waves. So what else involves mooring lots of spar buoys off shore? Offshore wind farms.


> Issac Arthur speculates that Titan may become a center of cryogenic industry and computing in the late 21st century

Who the hell wants to ship stuff 9AU plus or minus just to freeze it? Why not just build a sun shield in orbit with a bunch of black body radiators on the back? Or you know, use conventional refrigeration on Earth. Pretty much anything is better than shipping it out or back from Saturn.


Who the hell wants to ship stuff 9AU plus or minus just to freeze it?

No one. So if you're already out near Titan delta-V wise, Titan is the best place with lots of resources.

Why not just build a sun shield in orbit with a bunch of black body radiators on the back?

That would work. However, the cooling will be of much greater value if it's near other things of value.

Or you know, use conventional refrigeration on Earth.

Which will happen a lot, because there are lots of things of value on Earth.

Pretty much anything is better than shipping it out or back from Saturn.

If you're in the outer solar system, then pretty much anything is better than shipping it from Earth.


If you are in the outer solar system you won't have trouble freezing anything.

"Cyrogenic industry" is freezing stuff. In the outer solar system that is like trying to sell sand at the beach.

It makes a lot more sense to talk about Titan as the gas station of the outer Solar System. Exporting methane for all of the rockets flying around doing stuff.


If you are in the outer solar system you won't have trouble freezing anything.

It's not freezing things, it's cooling things which is key. At a random point in the outer solar system, to have a lot of cooling power, you need to build huge radiators. You need to supply coolant to flow through those radiators. On Titan, you just pump fluid from a lake.

"Cyrogenic industry" is freezing stuff.

Only in the simpleton view. Cryogenic industry is doing stuff that requires low temperatures.

In the outer solar system that is like trying to sell sand at the beach.

Industry doesn't happen at the beach. It happens someplace where there is easy shipment of resources and a source of labor.

It makes a lot more sense to talk about Titan as the gas station of the outer Solar System. Exporting methane for all of the rockets flying around doing stuff.

Which means that there will be industrial infrastructure there for dealing with methane. That in turn means that other uses for that methane will have an economic leg up.


Vacuum is widely known to be a pretty good insulator. Ever had a mug with vacuum insulation? They hold heat/cold very well.

If you're doing industrial-scale processes in outer space, you're going to need some pretty massive radiators. A cold planet with lots of liquid coolant available is much more ideal.

Melting/vaporizing ice from the Kuiper belt might work OK, but it's also likely to be full of dust and other shit that will clog your cooling system up.


> Vacuum is widely known to be a pretty good insulator.

Tangential question: is there a better one? Is a better one physically possible?


Yes: you still have radiation transferring heat. Multiple layers of opaque (and ideally reflective) material between you and space will increase the insulation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-layer_insulation


Thanks. I wasn't sure this concept would work.


> Titan is the best place with lots of resources.

Ideally, you'd want to manufacture computers and equipment using local materials and Titan's surface is mostly water ice and hydrocarbons. You may get away with graphene-based electronics, using ice as a building material and nuclear power shipped from elsewhere. Every location will eventually evolve manufacturing processes that are adapted to local chemistry (and import what isn't)


Maybe they could make a lot of materials out of carbon fiber/nanotubes/etc...? Dunno about the composition of the crust and what you would be able to mine locally.


"bunch of black body radiators". Yes, a whole bunch of them, as cooling in space is pretty much horrible. Better to stay on Earth, as you suggest.


What if there was a market out where you are on Titan, and you could cool things to liquid methane temperatures by pumping liquid methane from a nearby lake?


S3 glacier extreme?


Just a thought, but sun shield(s) could potentially affect Earth's climate, and not necessarily in a positive way.


This is one of the more extreme proposals for dealing with Climate Change. Basically gigantic panels in orbit that block a percentage of the solar radiation. A similar idea is releasing a layer of very light but highly reflective dust into the upper atmosphere. There are a lot of far reaching consequences of these schemes, but they should be achievable with relatively near-term technology and are probably easier/cheaper than capturing carbon. A band-aid fix to a long term problem.


> Issac Arthur speculates that Titan may become a center of cryogenic industry and computing in the late 21st century.

More like the late 31st century


At the start of the 20th century heavier-than-air flight wasn't possible. By the end of the 20th century we'd put people on the moon, and brought them back alive, multiple times. Inter-continental flight became so routine that it's not even notable.

I wouldn't underestimate the rate of technological progress.


> By the end of the 20th century we'd put people on the moon, and brought them back alive multiple time ... I wouldn't underestimate the rate of technological progress.

That was by 1972 (1). 46 years ago. Since then, no progress on this front. Not even a repeat. This is not an accelerating rate.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_17


> Since then, no progress on this front. Not even a repeat. This is not an accelerating rate.

Well, one could argue that since then a significant bunch of our top talents have been allocated to generating financial innovations like motgage backed securities and figuring our how to get more people clicking on ads. So if this talent was reallocated to space exploration (which again someone might argue that can't be less stupid way to allocate these resources than click industry) the speed of technological progtess might change dramatically.

Just makes one wonder if there is something fishy how the free market supposedly is the most efficient allocator of resources...


Okay, but whose definition of "efficient" are we using here?

Space sounds exciting, sure, but Earth still has enough resources that there aren't any goods that can be produced in space that can't be produced more cheaply on Earth.


> Okay, but whose definition of "efficient" are we using here?

That's the problem. I have no better definition. I just have a feeling that the current economics 101 doctrine of free markets just might not be the right answer to all resource allocation problems. (I am vague on purpose who defines what is right and what is wrong. I have no answer to that, either. Just my personal opinion.)


As long as people believe that efficiency == profits, I doubt the view will change.


Exactly. Shortly there could well be no living people who've been to the moon. [1]

We went to the moon because we could. A few more people may soon go because they can. But moon bases have been 30 years away something like 70 years. On a purely personal basis, I'd love to see it happen. But realistically, we barely have people in low earth orbit.

It's reasonable to argue that we'll get there. But the burden of proof is on the people arguing it, and the "progress is inevitable" handwave is definitely doesn't cut it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:People_who_have_walke...


The way I see it is that while it's definitely extremely interesting and cool, the incentives/benefits of having a presence on the moon are limited at best.

Sure we have the means but we don't have an economically strong answer to "why should we do it"; the most of we have is "it might present some good research opportunities".

Until some breakthrough comes around that needs it or until the costs of running operations on Earth become massive we're stuck here.


There were large economic incentives in developing air travel and there is almost no economic incentive in manned space travel. Unless we have a reason to go to the Moon, nobody will pay the bill.

Having said that, SpaceX is reducing the cost of putting people on the Moon to values never before imagined possible. If the bill is much lower, someone may consider to pay it and a whole lot of interesting activities become economically viable (even for governments who want to study the Moon). Sadly, for data processing needs, the Moon doesn't look like a great heatsink.


Does SpaceX currently operate anything that can make a round trip to the moon and back? LEO for sure, but Luna? They’ve definitely done an impressive job of bringing the price per kilo launched into LEO down, but that may not translate to a journey of many orders of magnitude beyond that.


If your round trip includes landing on the moon, not even close. Otherwise yes. The current vehicles would also be capable of putting a theoretical third party lander on the moon that could return, but not one is developing such a lander (and it would be fairly weight constrained, ~2/3rds the mass of Apollo).

The really exciting thing for the moon/mars isn't what SpaceX has already has finished hardware doing though (lowering launch costs by, optimistically, an order of magnitude), but what they are actively in the process of doing. Developing a ship and rocket that they claim will be able to put on the order of 100 tons on the moon... lowering launch costs by multiple orders of magnitude.

Given their track record, the money they are (visibly) spending on this goal, and the fact that what they say they are going to do seems possible, it is reasonable to think that there is a good chance they will succeed.


That really is exciting, and I agree with your assessment of their ability to deliver. Maybe we’ll really see some developing industry in space in the next few decades... amazing. Even if it’s just vacuum industry, welding and such, it could open the way for solar power collection in space, light-sail probes, more advanced telescopes, and down the road, asteroid mining.


100 tons is fucking massive! Even my kerbals have trouble launching such payloads, when we can do that I see no problem colonizing the solar system.


100 tons is a factory. Even if all you do is to refine metals from regolith and stash them in piles outside, you'll have raw materials for a colony that don't need to be shipped from Earth, which drives costs down to, perhaps, the point of making it viable. Again, a local chemistry for the industrial processes will need to be developed.


Nobody thought Florida was inhabitable until it was. All it takes is one scientific or engineering breakthrough that stands on the right shoulders and it makes sense to build bases off Earth.

The first settlement will probably be a retirement community for millionaires fleeing the chaos on Earth. Billionaires will build and run it.


Good idea, we can send them on the B Ark.


It's millennials and younger who most closely fit those roles.


No, that’s how we all die from a disease contracted from an unexpectedly dirty telephone.


I know of no millennials who have telephone sanitation skills.


Not everything can be usefully measured with one easy metric, as in Moore's Law. In the case of something like colonization, the proper metrics are economic, not technological benchmarks. You could just as well cherry pick from The Age of Discovery, say from 1260 to 1360 and make the same statement: "X years ago. Since then, no progress on this front. Not even a repeat. This is not an accelerating rate."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Discovery#Medieval_trav...

However, if you look at metrics of economic activity across spans 200, 400, and 600 years after that, you get a far different picture. So basically, your point is intellectually bankrupt. It's based on too little data and uses an entirely inadequate metric.


I was with you until "your point is intellectually bankrupt" which is unnecessarily insulting and also wrong.

I would welcome a return to deep space, but there has been no progress towards it recently. The dates are correct.

It might be true that this is not strong enough evidence against either, and that it still remains an open question if recent technological advances on Earth will translate into a return to space, but that's as far as it goes. There's nothing inevitable about it, it depends on what people want.


I was with you until "your point is intellectually bankrupt" which is unnecessarily insulting

This is part of being an intellectual: I can insult your point all day. That's perfectly fine. Taking that personally -- not good form.

there has been no progress towards it recently. The dates are correct.

If you were an alien observing earth from orbit, you could have made the same observation ("no progress towards it recently") about ocean going exploration at multiple points, prior to it changing history irrevocably and then exploding in economic and political importance.

There's nothing inevitable about it, it depends on what people want.

In that case, it's likely to happen.


"This is part of being an intellectual: I can insult your point all day. That's perfectly fine. Taking that personally -- not good form."

Not at all. You can criticize any point all day and if someone takes that personal it is indeed not a good form. But "insulting" a point gives the impression (at least to me, and apparently to others) of insulting the person behind it, as you cannot insult a point, only a person. Quite the opposite of "beeing an intellectual".


But "insulting" a point gives the impression (at least to me, and apparently to others) of insulting the person behind it, as you cannot insult a point, only a person.

Why in the world is saying that a point is intellectually bankrupt "insulting" a point versus criticizing it? The point is made that, "This numerical circumstance doesn't indicate exponential growth." However, an analogous numerical circumstance happened at a number of points, and was followed by exponential growth. Clearly, there is something else needed for justification.

gives the impression (at least to me, and apparently to others)

So factually, no one has done anything but criticize a point, and your reaction is all about your feels, by your own admission. If you want to defend the intellectual merits of the point, then actually defend the intellectual merits of the point. This tactic of acting offended, then offering nothing more is wearing thin. I should hope that going forward from 2018, people will generally recognize that kind of activity for what it is.


> Why in the world is saying that a point is intellectually bankrupt "insulting" a point versus criticizing it?

Because “intellectually bankrupt” doesn’t mean anything. It’s just strong words for the sake of pushing around people’s emotions.

Otherwise “wrong” will suffice.

If we’re not arguing in good faith, then “intellectually bankrupt” is fine, and it can be used right alongside any other insult or epithet you’d like to feel the sizzle of.


Because “intellectually bankrupt” doesn’t mean anything.

It means baseless. The point has only a semblance of a basis. "Ooooo, 50 years seems like a long gap." If you try to make relevant historical comparisons, no, that's way too little data with way too little relevance.

Otherwise “wrong” will suffice.

No, you can be wrong, but still have a basis. Just having a semblance of a basis, relying on naive impressions doesn't cut it. That's “intellectually bankrupt.”

If we’re not arguing in good faith, then “intellectually bankrupt” is fine

Not addressing the point and claiming offense isn't arguing in good faith.


Say “baseless” then, if that’s what you mean.

Both of the words “intellect” and “bankrupt” have strong personal connotations. I think you want them to mean something different than what they do.


If you want to be taken seriously, you might get out of that attitude.

I am not your original "enemy" like you probably see him, I am someone else who tried to explain to you, that you were acting childish. Only that I worded it differently.

Oh an "getting an impression" is not the same as "getting the feeling". But probably wasted words on a self-righteous guy, like you are. Seriously, "insulting a point" ... come on, that is and will remain, laughable. Grownups, can admit, that they went over the line here and there, no big deal. But you make something one out of it. And yes, with the last paragraph, I came down to your level a bit. So I just stop the "conversation" here.


Seriously, "insulting a point" ... come on, that is and will remain, laughable.

This is my point, exactly. It is laughable. If someone is going to spout some facts, as if they mean something, but they don't, then why not call it out? 50 year pauses before crossing profound conceptual gulfs aren't that unusual in history. Here's another one: The gap between the discovery of the light's spectrum and the implications of blackbody radiation. Also, what do exponential curves look like at the beginning? For modest exponents, they generally look flat. The point made didn't account for key points for understanding exponential progress. It was intellectually bankrupt.

Grownups, can admit, that they went over the line here and there, no big deal.

Grownups can admit when they're factually wrong, and they can shake off a few words on the internet that aren't even directed at them personally. Taking the pose of offense while then avoiding the factual and logical issues reveals something else entirely.


You are not getting it. I was never insulted by your words. I was just trying to explain to you, that you were insulting others - and therefore the opposite of being intellectual you claim to be.

But if you like, stay where you are. But just one last hint, buy a punching ball or something similar to blow off steam. Your aggression, masked as "intellectualism" is a bit ridiculus.


You are not getting it. I was never insulted by your words.

No one should have been insulted by my words. If someone thinks you made a bad point, and you disagree, you might be a bit frustrated or exasperated. The only way someone having their feelings hurt makes sense when their point is called "intellectually bankrupt," is either if that person is emotionally fragile or if they think the objection might be valid.

I was just trying to explain to you, that you were insulting others

One can't be ruled by people claiming to take offense.

Your aggression, masked as "intellectualism" is a bit ridiculus.

This form of aggression which claims offense would be ridiculous, were it not such a pervasive thing in 2018. I'm not going to stand for it. It's really nothing more than cheap emotional blackmail masquerading as morality.


>ocean going exploration

Bad example. Believe it or not, exploration wasn't invented in the 1400s. Groups have had strong command of the Pacific and Indian oceans for much much much longer.


Bad example.

No. That supports my point, actually. Graph out the economic activity and wealth associated with that ocean travel. There is a dramatic change which starts around 1400.

Groups have had strong command of the Pacific and Indian oceans for much much much longer.

Those groups have also shown regressions and pauses in exploration and travel.


> Since then, no progress on this front.

But we're sending probes on Mars now; and Mars is a lot more interesting than the Moon.


I wouldn't underestimate the uninterestingness of space either. People could probably place a datacenter at Titan today. But nobody will, and for good reasons.

I don't have any narrative for why people will colonize space, but it will probably be done for sending people there, because exporting stuff for Earth isn't really reasonable.


We don't know if it grows logarithmicly or exponentially, though


If we go by wealth generated and population supported, it would appear to go exponentially.


If it took only 250 years to go from outposts to the late 20th century US, I very much doubt it will take us 1000 years to a solar system-wide civilization as portrayed in The Expanse. If you subscribe to the exponential nature of civilization changes, then it becomes doubtful Homo sapiens will be around in 100 years!


On the other hand, it's fifty years since we went to Moon and in the meantime we haven't even set-up a tent there. We assume that we'll have the technology for deep space exploration but we tend to forget the logistics nightmare of any such endeavor.


On the other hand, it's fifty years since we went to Moon and in the meantime we haven't even set-up a tent there.

In the early fits and starts of the exploration of Earth, there were multiple spans of 50 years where progress was seemingly abandoned and nothing happened.

We assume that we'll have the technology for deep space exploration but we tend to forget the logistics nightmare of any such endeavor.

Environmental technology will be harder than we thought at first, then we'll get the hang of it. Some people will die along the way. Then it will improve exponentially, as economic impetus comes into play.


Environmental technology will be harder than we thought at first, then we'll get the hang of it. Some people will die along the way. Then it will improve exponentially, as economic impetus comes into play.

Unless you know a lot that no one serious claims to know, then this is a statement of what you hope for and maybe personally believe, but for which no evidence exists. The sheer bulk of unknown unknowns in environmental tech, not to mention other assumptions you’ve been making about industry in space and more, are too numerous and prevalent to allow for confident statements either way. You may be right that humanity’s destiny is in the far reaches of the solar system, but it could go many other ways. Maybe we’ll die in the dirt, or maybe we’ll thrive in completely different ways. For all that you know, rather than personally wish to believe, our future may more closely resemble something like a Dyson Swarm constructed by drones rather than hurling ourselves into the dim and cold reaches of space. Maybe we’ll figure out a mutually amicable way to control population rates and make the Earth a Paradise, and leave space for robots. Who knows? Not me, not you.

All of which is to say, please stop passing off something that is less than a hunch as an argument. The core of science is skepticism and a demand for evidence, while the core of pop science is an inverse relationship between knowledge and enthusiasm. Claiming to know what will happen in 50 years is a joke, in 100 years delusion, and in 1000 years religion. There are so many branches and twists and turns, both positive and negative and just plain unforeseen that futurism is crap.


The sheer bulk of unknown unknowns in environmental tech

Is why I would bet that lots of people will die while we're getting the hang of it.

You may be right that humanity’s destiny is in the far reaches of the solar system, but it could go many other ways. Maybe we’ll die in the dirt

Tell you what: If we all end up dead, I'll buy you drinks! But if I'm not wrong, you can owe me my net worth, rounded down to the nearest billion.

All of which is to say, please stop passing off something that is less than a hunch as an argument

Call it what you like. I call it a conviction.

Claiming to know what will happen in 50 years is a joke, in 100 years delusion, and in 1000 years religion.

Don't sweat it. I'm not about to judge you morally and strap you to a tree over it.

There are so many branches and twists and turns, both positive and negative and just plain unforeseen that futurism is crap.

How about, "Science Fiction?"


It is more due to politics than engineering or logistics. We should have working linear aerospike engines by now. But that project got cancelled(see X-33). We should have had multiple generations of spaceplanes, one half-assed and costly brick did fly, the other was canceled. Many other promising projects met the same fate. We had time, technology and even the logistics in place for incremental development. Instead, 'we' threw a bunch of money down the drain and have nothing to show for it. So we are back to basics, but at least we made a useful leap forward (SpaceX re-usability). Once costs are low enough, new applications will come up, which may become a self-reinforcing cycle. That's what I hope for, at least.


I think in the 50 years, we've found it's more cost effective with a better return on value (and ultimately safer for all humans involved) to just shoot a robot into space equipped with a camera.

The whole Red Scare/Space Domination rhetoric was a Big Thing. The United States was sure that: sending something into space meant you could hit a target anywhere else in the world (with quite a bit of validation). If you do remember, it was because we essentially stole tech/scientists (willingly, or at least intelligently from a political and "i'm going to not be locked up in the gulag" point of view) from the Nazis at the end of the WWII that we were even able to get into space.

It was a craaaaaazy time.


I grew up having nightmares of nuclear holocaust as a child.


I've only read the books, not seen the TV version, but the Expanse universe relies on the "Epstein Drive" as a magical plot device to ignore any inconveniences of intra-system travel.

This alone makes it pure science-fantasy that is unlikely to happen on any timescale and unsuitable as a guide to what our future holds.


The Epstein drive is great for generating gravity directly from acceleration, but electric propulsion that's much less efficient than fiction would be just fine. If you can go to Mars in weeks and to Saturn in months using electric propulsion and a relatively small nuclear power plant on your rotating ship and do multiple trips without the need to stop by a large chunk of ice and hydrocarbons to make more propellant, then the kind of multi-planetary society depicted in The Expanse becomes viable.

What it's not is self-starting. Why would someone want to move permanently to the Moon? I can imagine a community starting around scientific research, first government-sponsored, then, maybe, if costs can be driven down enough (thinking SpaceX and lots of hardware reused from previous missions - maybe a couple cyclers that can be replenished/refurbished while in transit) universities in partnership with governments and then, eventually, we'd have critical mass for partners and others unrelated to scientific research to bootstrap a functional society. If manufacturing of equipment can be automated in part and done on the Moon, then using the Moon as a stepping stone to more research on Mars is viable too. In that scenario, I'd consider paying my own ticket.

But, still, we need to bootstrap it with a government sponsored research station that can grow into a self-sustaining colony.


Why would someone want to move permanently to the Moon?

You'd have to be crazy to want to do that. Fortunately, Sol system is inhabited by humans.


> Why would someone want to move permanently to the Moon?

Jobs. Aluminium-based refueling stations? Research? Cheap real state? I don't know, get cheap flights there, and people will find something useful to do.


How about Heinlein's take? It starts out as a godforsaken penal colony, but then turns into a libertarian paradise for the self reliant.

Here's the most compelling reason for starting settlement off planet: Polities that exist in a larger context will come to dominate human culture. A solar system wide culture based on relatively primitive, inefficient O'Neill colony habitats could still support a human population in the trillions with only known resources, solar power, and only small extrapolations from current technology.


It's cheaper to reverse-engineer the brain and rewire it into a fully adapted citizen than to send a person to the Moon with supplies for a week.


> Aluminium-based refueling stations?

To refuel what?

> Cheap real state?

Location, location, location. Shipping people and goods is expensive. Latencies for data are terrible.


> I've only read the books, not seen the TV version, but the Expanse universe relies on the "Epstein Drive" as a magical plot device to ignore any inconveniences of intra-system travel.

That's because they are operating on a much grander scale and there are plot constraints(it would be too slow and boring otherwise).

It doesn't take an Epstein drive to move stuff (or people) to and from Mars. Transit time will be very inconvenient, as wekk as launch windows. But this is not too different from early sea-based exploration on Earth, voyages would take months at a time.

Now, if you want to go to Saturn and back in reasonable timeframes (or even further), then yes, that's beyond current capability.

EDIT: The TV version is amazing. You should watch it. The attention to detail, while not perfect, is outstanding.


The Americas were only several months of travel from Europe though, much more desirable and nowhere near as hostile.

> The Expanse

Science fiction and especially science fantasy tend to be pretty inaccurate when it comes to predicting anything.


The Americas were only several months of travel from Europe though, much more desirable and nowhere near as hostile.

Scales for all of those things will be far different in space. Venus, Mars, Ceres, and Titan are quite cozy by those standards. Travel to Mars in 3 months may become routine in our lifetimes.

Science fiction and especially science fantasy tend to be pretty inaccurate when it comes to predicting anything.

Yes. You wouldn't spin Ceres for "gravity" and Epstein drives are just as fantastical as Warp drives if you start to account for waste heat.


If we had Nuclear Fusion and Androids, would it still take another 1000 years to seed the Solar System? I don't know, just asking...


You'll probably have to ask the Androids.


> Google has announced plans to do the same.

Citation needed? IMHO putting a datacentre under water is a horrible idea, why not pump the water 10 meters higher and cool a DC near the shoreline?


Continuously pumping sea water is expensive to maintain, the primary reason being marine biology. I once saw mussels grew inside a boat engine.

Second reason, land on shorelines is expensive. Many people dream about living on a seaside (except for people who did, practically speaking the idea is not that great, humidity, noise). Also many other businesses require shorelines, beaches, marinas, ports.


Pumping water from a lake seems more reasonable..


>why not pump the water 10 meters higher and cool a DC near the shoreline?

Google's already doing that -- http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2010/09/15/googl...

As for the Google's undersea data center plans, I'm unable to find a citation for you at the moment, but I'm fairly certain that it's in the works.


That sea water cooling DC recently became available as the GCP region europe-north1: "Our high-tech cooling system, which uses sea water from the Gulf of Finland, reduces energy use and is the first of its kind." https://cloud.google.com/about/locations/finland/


Exactly. Full submersion seems to add a lot of complication for little gain over just submersing your heat exchangers. I guess you can avoid some moving parts (and heat generation) by letting wave action circulate your cooling fluid, but that's a small fraction of the energy needed to run a datacenter.

The tradeoff is the need for watertight seals all around your datacenter (including the doors and cable access), dealing with corrosion over a larger surface area, accessibility problems, dealing with marine life (barnacles!), anchoring it against storms, environmental impact, and so on.

IMHO it is a silly idea and won't prove practical in the long run.


Or just put it somewhere that's very dry and very windy and use air-cooling? There are a couple of cold deserts that fit the bill that aren't too far latency-wise from users and are nice for solar power.


Apart from water and electronics don't mix. Think how easy it would be to sabotage an underwater data centre, you only need a single hole and let the ocean do the rest. Not to mention the maintenance nightmare of getting in and out of the place. The risks outweigh the benefits.


Stuff like this worries me. We should be doing everything we can to curb the energy and heat we produce and instead we're using vast amounts of energy to basically waste trillions of CPU cycles so that we can produce digital money that might never actually be worth anything. It's just about the most pointless use of planetary resources I can think of


Why? Doing anything of value requires expending of energy and producing heat, this is unavoidable. Saying that this activity is pointless just because you are not seeing any value does not mean that it is actually pointless. In general anything that people are willing to pay money for is not pointless for someone, otherwise that money would be spent on something else. It is like saying why a farmer needs to drive that big tractor down the field using precious (for whom?) oil and polluting the air whereas I can do things manually on my pea patch just fine. If anything we should welcome higher and higher energy use because it means higher standard of living for the humankind. And just to address 'waste' here, energy is not free so 'waste' that actually wastes resources cannot go on for long lest the waster goes bankrupt.


There are so many things I could argue with here but I'm tired so I'll just pick one.

> If anything we should welcome higher and higher energy use because it means higher standard of living for the humankind.

Why would it mean that? If we were talking about households using more and more it might, but it might not. My tv uses far less energy than the one I had twenty years ago but there's no chance I'm going back to that heap of CRT junk. Likewise all my other appliances, my car etc. My life has improved as my energy usage has decreased. But even if the opposite were true, it's not households, but industry that in this case is consuming more and more power. An industry that produces no goods, provides no service, does no research, improves only the lives of the direct owners of that industry. It's as if they're building enormous, energy sucking diamond factories, but with the added chance that diamonds might be worthless by the time they have them.

Even if I'm wrong, even if higher energy usage means higher standard of living, that's a short term outlook, because over a hundred year period it will mean a much, much lower standard of living for everyone who hasn't drowned or starved yet


You are taking a very narrow view on the energy use here. In modern economy you can think of pretty much any thing as made of energy. You are comparing how much your new tv is pulling out of a socket to your old tv, but did you figure the energy cost of producing that new tv into your calculations? I'd look at an even bigger picture. Like to travel? Now compare how much more energy must be used to go in an airplane fast compared to traveling on foot slow. You mention the car, now the radical thing to do would be to ditch the car completely, but then your life quality invariable would go down. It is great that waste goes down and we can argue that the fact that your old car consumed more fuel tells us that it was wasteful compared to the new one, but note even to cut that waste required energy expenditure in the form of people working on it, computer power for sims, etc, and, of course, manufacture.

And I disagree that higher energy expenditure overall will mean lower quality of life later on. We are swimming in energy even though we currently might not know how to convert some forms of it into productive use. That'll change.

By the way, don't get me wrong, I am totally for cutting waste on the local level just because it frees some of the money (and that is proxy for resources) for other, more productive uses.


We're mostly being bitten on the arse by the Jevons paradox. Improving efficiency has a tendency to increase overall consumption.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox


> By the way, don't get me wrong, I am totally for cutting waste on the local level

Did you not just literally say that higher energy usage is itself a good thing?

Also on your point about production: My old tv had to be built, my old car also had to be built. It cost energy to replace them, but it does not equate to higher energy usage going forward.

I do agree with one thing you said though. We're swimming in unharnessed energy right now. If we can swap all the coal plants for fusion then maybe we can afford to waste energy on generating digital money, but right now bitcoin server farms mean more carbon in the atmosphere


Its important to stop being black and white here.

You both understand each others points.


If there are other falacious points then please give evidence for their inaccuracy, otherwise it appears like you just picked an easy point to refute, but claimed the entire argument was false.


No. I've got nothing to prove to you, stranger. Arguing with people on the internet is almost as big a waste of energy as bitcoin mining. If you think I'm wrong I'm not going to convince you or that guy otherwise.


That's not a very good analogy. The way to measure waste is by seeing if you can deliver the same customer value using fewer resources.

If I'm generous with the definition of "value", Bitcoin's main demonstrated value is as a speculative instrument. That is, something people gamble on. There are plenty of things for people to gamble on that consume less energy. Or none at all. For example, they could be gambling on the weather (as the degree-day markets do). There are other practical reasons -- much less common ones --people use Bitcoin, but those too can be done more efficiently.

Doing anything of value does require expending energy. But expending energy is no proof that anything of value is happening.


It has also demonstrated value in being able to bypass the financial choke points that prevented people from (electronically) donating to Wikileaks.


Given that Wikileaks now takes credit cards, it doesn't seem like a major use case: https://shop.wikileaks.org/donate


For a while, credit card processors in the US were pressured by the government not to authorize charges, even if Wikileaks would accept them as payment. That make it effectively impossible for Americans to donate that way.

Even if that’s different now (which I’m not sure it is), there will always be the next important cause.


It avoids USD as currency.

The government will keep printing more USD and being opaque...

BTC has 21,000,000 solutions ever ever ever.

(and USD is a decent currency, there are countries with hyperinflation)


This is a great point thanks for making it. imho it could be worded better, but it subtaintially invalidates the arguments like "bitcoin can only be used to waste energy and buy buy drugs"


There's no actual user value involved. "Avoids USD" is almost a religious statement. If one is concerned about volatility, then Bitcoin is a bad choice; it's more volatile than any major currency and most commodities. If one is concerned about the US government's future behavior, there are other major currencies. (And really, a currency is a bad place to park your wealth.) For any legitimate financial aim, there's a better solution than Bitcoin.


> Bitcoin's main demonstrated value is as a speculative instrument.

I think it's primary value is for money laundering and hiding money transfers from the eyes of jealous lovers / spouses / governments.


Yeah, if you don't count speculation as value (and I'm happy not to), then I think light financial crime is the next biggest use case. Which is interesting in that a lot of money laundering is illegal because although it may be valuable to the launderer, the cash transfered often comes from something where systemic value is dropping. E.g. ransomware only makes the world worse, even if it makes the ransomer a profit.


Doing anything of value requires expending of energy, but the way cryptocurrency is right now seems to encourage... inefficiencies.

That farmer driving the tractor down the field using energy in the form of oil is typically massively more productive than the manual pea patch laborer or even the era where "working animals" were helping with a lot of the farm work. Sure, the tractor using energy, but the tractor farmer is overall way more efficient.

It would be interesting to see how crypto's cost per unit compares with a relatively energy inefficient way of monetizing, paper currency and coins. Due to the various costs involved in manufacturing and distributing a coin or bill, I really can't say whether it's more efficient or less (and Google's not helping me here). What I think is fairly obvious is that most electronic cash systems do not have this initial upfront massive energy requirement crypto has, so best guess is from a resource perspective crypto is quite a bit less efficient than most electronic cash systems.


"Doing anything of value requires expending of energy and producing heat, this is unavoidable."

I think the point is that cryptocurrency mining is not valuable, at least not compared to the amount of resources required for it.

"Saying that this activity is pointless just because you are not seeing any value does not mean that it is actually pointless."

It also doesn't mean that it's not pointless.

"If anything we should welcome higher and higher energy use because it means higher standard of living for the humankind."

No. That does not logically follow.

"And just to address 'waste' here, energy is not free so 'waste' that actually wastes resources cannot go on for long lest the waster goes bankrupt."

This also does not logically follow.


How would you value mining? What's the figure you'd assign to it? As the activity it is certainly valuable to ensure the validity of the blockchain. In my mind that's the function of the market to assign value. Of course with the technology being so new we can expect fluctuations, but I think eventually it'll settle down to some stable level that is acceptable to all market participants.


"As the activity it is certainly valuable to ensure the validity of the blockchain."

Not at the cost that it currently takes. Personally, I ascribe far, far, far less value (if any) to any cryptocurrency mining compared to using the energy for other stuff, or not using it (and not having the mark up on graphics cards).

"but I think eventually it'll settle down to some stable level that is acceptable to all market participants."

The "market participants" would only be those mining crypto, though.


Ah, but "personally" is the operative word here, other people obviously disagree.

> The "market participants" would only be those mining crypto, though.

Not only them. All people who would use bitcoin in some capacity and benefit from it, they all would be participants in that market. Miners could not exists without them, in the end of the day they get their pay from packing transactions into blocks, no transactions - no pay.


Except this stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum. Them deciding to waste a whole bunch of energy on something like cryptocurrency has very real effects on everyone else.


Ah, but you see their right to do what they want with what they own is holy you see. Can't touch that. That would be blasphemy, which is punishable with spending more of your tax dollars lobbying for stronger property rights and the state machinery to back it up.


> Not at the cost that it currently takes. Personally, I ascribe...

Based on what? And if people aren't getting value from using the blockchain, why are they using it?

> far, far, far less value (if any)

Can you put a number on that, and justify it?


> Based on what? And if people aren't getting value from using the blockchain, why are they using it?

It creates value for individuals at a bigger cost to society - a classic negative externality. Making drug dealing easier is immensely profitable and that's where all blockchain profits eventually come from - everything else is a smokescreen of intermediaries to create just enough deniability to let respectable business participate in the drug trade. It's just like outsourcing manufacturing to countries with lower environmental standards to profit from pollution (another example of something that's negative-value overall, but positive-value for the individual engaging in it).


> It creates value for individuals at a bigger cost to society - a classic negative externality.

In what way?

> Making drug dealing easier is immensely profitable and that's where all blockchain profits eventually come from

Do you have a source for this, or is this just what you believe?


> In what way?

Suppressing the drug trade is evidently something that society puts a high value on, given how much society spends on it.

> Do you have a source for this, or is this just what you believe?

Just looking at the whole blockchain ecosystem as a black box: any profit has to eventually come from outside, the rest is just moving that around. Speculators can move value around but aren't creating it. So who are the people getting something actually valuable in the real world from blockchain? I mean sure there's a bit of money laundering and evading capital controls, but the big one is drug dealing.


"Based on what? And if people aren't getting value from using the blockchain, why are they using it?"

You're assuming rationality. You're also assuming they're actually paying for the electricity. And you're forgetting that they're not paying for the negative externalities of their energy waste.

"Can you put a number on that, and justify it?"

Take the smallest number you can think of. Now, take a number smaller than that.


> You're assuming rationality.

Then explain why the people using bitcoin are being irrational. Are the miners processing transactions and receiving fees in return being irrational? Are the people using bitcoin to send and receive funds being irrational? Please enlighten us (and them, apparently).

> You're also assuming they're actually paying for the electricity.

They are.

> And you're forgetting that they're not paying for the negative externalities of their energy waste.

Classic case of moving the goalposts. The same applies to any economic activity requiring the use of electricity.

> Take the smallest number you can think of. Now, take a number smaller than that.

Dodging the question, I see.


>anything of value

Bitcoin's value (not price, mind you) is still very questionable.


Even it's price is questionable. :P


And that is totally allright. Question it all you want, that's what the market is for.


There are 21,000,000 bitcoin ever ever ever.

If you can see that, you can begin to exclude yourself from fiat money which requires centralized control of currency.

I trust rare numbers more than I trust the United States government.


> I trust rare numbers more than I trust the United States government

That's such a silly statement. Rare numbers do not control the value of bitcoin, the market does. Your rare number might be worth half what it was in December 2017, and twice what it was a year before that. Tomorrow it might be worth nothing. Or $1000. Or $1. The rareness of the number is about as relevant as the colour of the dollar


I don't. Do you really want to rely on a currency whose value fluctuates as wildly as Bitcoin's? I like knowing that the $X deposited in my bank account a few days ago will have approximately the same value in a few months or years.


This is pretty much the same attitude that will keep Bitcoin out of the mainstream.

Statements like that make Bitcoiners come across as digital survivalists, the internet equivalent of redneck militia.


I'm going to play devil's advocate here. I know what you are saying and in general it's hard to argue against it. However, I've personally seen an improvement in my well being at the same time as I've reduced what most people would consider my "standard of living".

I used to have a 3000 sq ft house, a car, a job I spent 3 hours a day commuting to in my car, every labour saving gadget you can think of, climate controlled everything, etc. I even drove to the laundromat frequently to pay someone to do my laundry because I was too busy to do it myself.

Now, I live in a small apartment in the country side, generally only minimally heat and do not cool my apartment (temp ranges from 5C to 35C during the year), I work from home, do not drive, eat seasonal, local food, preserve my own food, etc. Admittedly I got married and my wife does the laundry :-P. The improvement in my life is like night and day.

Like I say, I'm playing devil's advocate and I don't really imagine that everybody would be happy with my lifestyle. However, I really do think that the assumption that more insulation from the reality of nature is not necessarily a "higher standard of living". For me, especially, it's quite the opposite -- which would have been very surprising to the younger version of myself.

Even economically, the modern world is moving inexorably towards a place where "labour" refers to mental labour, not physical labour. For people who frequent HN, I think it's kind of assumed that this all right and proper. However, when I was teaching English in the rural high school in Japan where I now live, most of my students wanted to be fishermen or farmers. But they know that this is the way to eternal poverty. You can't realistically make a living doing that kind of thing. They end up working unhappily in a factory.

As we've fuelled the increased standard of living by reducing prices for necessities, we've created a world where everything needs to be a massive enterprise with high volumes and super low margins. Even the other day I was joking with my wife that I will quit my current job as a programmer and open a shop making artisanal cheese. "How many cheeses do you think you'll have to make in a year?", she asked. "Only about 20,000 I think" was my reply. Again, in my rural Japanese town, only 20 years ago you would have found a tofu maker, a miso maker, a sake brewery, 4 or 5 fruit and veg stores all drawing from the produce of the local area. And while the JA (national food distributor) is great about prioritising local food distribution, gone are the days where you can set up a shop or produce a product for just your local area.

It's the ubiquitous cheap energy that enables this increase in scale. It expands deliverability (I can mail order low temp pasturised milk from 3 prefectures over and have it delivered in a refrigerated truck o_O). It allows super efficient, mega scale operations from far away to under cut local, high labour intensive operations and reduces prices. In may ways it's amazing.

But, I'm not sure "increased standard of living" is actually the best term for it.


Commuting is pure misery, especially driving, and people tend to underestimate the effect of that. Avoiding a 3 hours/day commute is more than enough to explain why you'd be much happier/healthier/... even if everything else in your life had gone downhill. (A happy marriage is also a well-known source of happiness/contentment/etc.). I don't think the change in your wellbeing has anything to do with local cheeses or lack of temperature control or anything like that; if you'd switched to working from home and married but stayed in your climate-controlled big house you'd see the same improvement, maybe even a bigger one.


Eliminating a 3 hour commute every day would constitute a fairly considerable drop in energy usage


Yeah. It's possible to use energy badly, so human value is something more subtle and detailed than energy usage. I do think it works as a crude proxy though.


It is pointless.


If it is pointless, why do people use it?


Heat pollution is something to worry about, as is the material construction of electronics/chipsets due to crypto mining.

However, one side effect of this is that increasing demand for clean, cheap electricity is a good thing. Miners are basically subsidizing the development of eco-friendly energy infrastructure which ends up being good for everyone.


Which MIGHT end up being good for everyone.


What would be the downsides of cheap, eco-friendly energy?


High demand for electricity may increase the price of energy as a whole, which may make the production of electricity from fossil fuels profitable enough to expand.


See Jevons paradox, where increasing coal-efficiency counterintuitively increased coal usage and pollution:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox


What are you going to use it for, if it's all dumped into the jaws of Mammon, quite literally, just to uphold status quo. (Mining.)


I agree. The big change in bitcoin is that it is a way to literally change energy into capital without doing a damn thing in any other way, or benefiting any human being, or anything else on the planet.

It's literally waste heat from conversion of energy that could do some good, into numbers controlled by rich people. We might do better to just say outright 'all rich people, you now have twice as much money just for being you' and use the energy elsewhere… or use less and avoid cooking the planet.

In practice this is a dumb, bad idea even if you stand to benefit.


Why does it only benefit rich people?


> or benefiting any human being

If bitcoin isn't benefiting any human being, why are so many human beings using it?


>why are so many human beings using it?

honest question: isn't crypto currency a closed system of speculators selling to speculators? From the outside, to me at least, it seems like an incredibly energy hungry ponzi scheme designed around printing monopoly money using ultra rare deep sea squid ink.

So are people using it for any purpose other than to sell it to the next rube?

All honest questions. I really don't know of any economically useful way that crypto currency is currently used for.


Another problem I have with crypto is how elitist it all is, especially for an instrument with rather libertarian, even anarchist roots.

Mining BTC requires exceptional investment, which basically makes it feasible only for the rich.

Understanding BTC requires technical knowledge 99% of the world does not have.

Heck, with all the regulatory hurdles, even using BTC requires more effort than most people have the time to expend.

(Yes, you can transfer BTC from one wallet to another fairly easily. But turning that BTC into actually useful local currency can be ridiculously complicated, depending on your local laws.)


I've never heard crypto summed up so well


On what basis do you claim this? Personal speculation?

To speak plainly, I highly doubt you believe what you're claiming to believe (that cryptocurrecy is being used solely for speculation), which leaves dishonest rhetoric as the only alternative.


>which leaves dishonest rhetoric as the only alternative.

not at all. These were honest questions. I don't personally closely follow crypto, and outside of the occasional web anecdote of "there was some guy somewhere who once paid for pizza with btc" I've not seen or heard of the currency used for practical purposes.


> waste trillions of CPU cycles so that we can produce digital money

Point-of-sale systems have been doing this for 15-ish years (in the US). We found value in that over using cash, and now many are finding value in blockchain over banks.


Point-of-sale is pretty trivial computation and costs very little energy. Its value was also obvious.

>now many are finding value in blockchain over banks

Debatable, people are using it for speculation, yes. But 90% of the people hyping blockchain probably don't even know what specific problem it solves and when this trustless model is even useful. It usually doesn't hold up to closer inspection.


Each unit is roughly the equivalent of an i960 risc system with cpu ram and a display running 24/7 powered by a heat-generating wall wart. Not even counting the network equipment, before broadband many gas stations had satellite uplinks. Multiply that millions of times and the power consumption adds up.

Bitcoin speculators have profited from bitcoin, just like ACH industry investors and executives profited from $0.50 per transaction ACH fees. The only difference I see is bitcoin hasn't driven up the cost of goods for everyone.


Bitcoin doesn't avoid the need for point-of-sale systems any more than Apple Pay does. We still need something to ring up your order, even if you can pay from your phone.

So to be clear, we still need the POS systems plus we would also need the computers doing a meaningless busy-work math problem to generate the blockchain.


Crypto in the longrun could create a world where people could instantly, anonymously, and freely exchange currency with one another. Imagine how liberating that would be for the world as a whole. Companies deciding to outsource various jobs to India really helped revolutionize their economy. The internet along with cryptocurrencies would take this corporate level development down to the individual. Think about mutually beneficial exchanges like tutoring. You want to hire a mathematics tutor for somebody. Somebody in e.g. the Philippines who has excellent English and Math skills wants to sell their service as a tutor at a rate that would be extremely desirable relative to western incomes but also extremely desirable relative to his locale's average incomes. Right now even if these people are able to connect, working out how to actually pay each other is very awkward.

Cryptos could remove all barriers to entry for inter-personal financial exchange. This is something we take for granted, without realizing how much such barriers are really holding us all back. Or maybe we do realize it, but imagine these are necessary obstacles. Think of the, what now probably numbers in the dozens of, different payment platforms people jump through just to try to be able to give their money to people who they want to give it to (and all the new tertiary problems those said platforms then introduce into the process). It's really quite remarkably how backwards our global financial capabilities truly are.


> Right now even if these people are able to connect, working out how to actually pay each other is very awkward

I'm one of those people. Paying me is honestly pretty damn trivial and a solved problem.

Heck, I've hired people in the US and paid them online right from my bank's interface.


Isn't this article precisely about using the infrastructure for crypto mining for more practical computing?


Yes, after bitcoin stops being profitable to mine. After we've pumped a few billion more tons of carbon into the air in the name of blockchain. And assuming of course that some newer crypto doesn't take bitcoin's place which it almost certainly will


There is just as much waste in the finance industry. It's strange that we can't seem to do money without using an incredible amount of energy.


input "article about recycling bitcoin mining infrastructure"

output "sound bite about bitcoin mining energy use unrelated to the article"


I also wonder why are humans wasting resource like this. Like all this compute power could be used towards curing cancer or something.


People mine bitcoin because there are millions of dollars per day of bitcoin rewards available.

I would guess that collectively, millions of dollars are being spent each day on cancer research around the world.

These mining farms were built for a purpose. It’s not like all these spare ASICs were laying around waiting for somebody to find a use for them. The people running these farms would be on some other venture if cryptocurrency was never invented. And those ventures probably wouldn’t involve curing cancer either.


No, but it would not probably involve installing large space heaters for the crows.


Greed is usually the answer. Cancer research doesn't pay. Bitcoin does. If someone could just harness one to do the other. If there was a crypto currency whose calculations helped to cure cancer then we'd be on to something


People as a group are selfish and short sighted, prone to maximizing personal gain. Individuals can be self sacrificing and possess a long view, but there will be a thousand others willing to work the system to death in their place. More specifically, there are almost limitless rationales to be employed if you stand to gain from turning entropy into personal wealth. “This compute power was never going to be used to cure cancer anyway...” that kind of thing.

More pernicious are people who cloak themselves in ideology or Utopianism somthst they convince themselves that this waste of resources is a good thing. Some may even believe it, but most just don’t care and are too busy finding greater fools so they can make money.


Bitcoin is created through the use of exponentially increasing amounts of energy (I daresay there's a 'crash' scenario where it doesn't expand that way and also doesn't retain value as currently expected).

Bitcoin is VALUED in a way similar to the stock market, where people collectively decide it's super good and useful because they're invested into the system. This process is exploitable, and is purely social engineering.

If it gets too big to fail, we're all in bad trouble, but we were already in trouble from many other things that have financially become too big to fail.


What we have with deep learning is the first data center application for lots of compute with high latency. This will enable data centers in locations previously infeasible.


Iceland isn't really high latency. In many ways it is perfect for serving Europe and east coast US from one place (if required).


Iceland also has sovereignty and very favorable geography. (Being surrounded by oceans makes it easy to remain fairly neutral.) If I were the government of Iceland, I would issue a cryptocurrency.


Not government-issued, and there's certainly many reasons for failing (or at least, for its chronic floundering), but the Auroracoin airdrop was a thing for Iceland and has not performed very well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auroracoin

https://coinlib.io/coin/AUR/Aurora+Coin


It was rolled out very poorly here, no vendor integration and the claiming mechanism was webscraping the local yellow pages site here and eventually was blocked.


If you are a government, why would you issue a cryptocurrency? Why not issue a more more traditional digital currency with a central ledger?


A government would be responding to customer demand.

Sure, they could create a centralized digital currency. But the market might not want to use that, so what's even the point of spending all this effort making it in the first place.

Whereas a decentralized currency has features that sounds me customers want.


Currently, demand for cryptocurrencies seems indistinguishable from zero. At the same time, demand for government issued centralized money is quite large.


History has seen rapid changes in the demand for government issued money.


The word "rapid" on that phrase was an entirely different meaning from when it's used to describe the rate of change of cryptocoins demand.

A large market is a more stable market. Crypto may get large at some point (I don't see why they would, but I don't see everything), but today they are nothing. Thus, preaching that people massively want them is nonsense.


A cryptocurrency would be less under the control of the government, which could well be a feature.


not for the government...


But perhaps for other governments and other parties. The customers.


Iceland is not neutral in any geopolitical sense of the word. Iceland is fully within the US/NATO orbit.


It makes sense for Iceland to be in the US/NATO orbit. If there were a European/Russian conflict, they'd be a bit too strategically valuable for Russia. Given that's the only major geopolitical impetus, they're still in a good position to do financial stuff with a large part of the developed world.


We're VERY high latency here. only 3 sub cables and only one of those is a North American link that first stops twice in Greenland. We need better connectivity.


What's your ping time to Europe, the US and Australia? (out of interest).


One hope I have for the Bitcoin mining bubble is that it will indirectly subsidize improved information systems infrastructure in many remote places as well as improved on-demand chip fabrication services. Once the bubble is gone those things will go to more productive use.


I've spoken to people who've been in the community for a long time and they seem to view the blockchain hype as something generated to get banks to underwrite the updating of systems that have barely been maintained since the 80s.

(Despite it not being really necessary for like 95% of problems, of course.)


You are from which countries?

It's still pretty hard, long and costly to transfer cash from a bank to another one. In fact at mine, still until recently it took 24 hours just to add someone to send him fund from the same bank. Interac, which is the provider of debit in Canada, recently made a way to transfer cash that many banks decided to add for a cost of 1$ per transaction. It's now widely used and banks use that as an incentive now (2 free transactions a month, amazing!).

This is all due to old antiquated technologies used by the banks. They clearly don't want to evolve. Bitcoin at least is universal, simple and works.


Dunno if you'll see this but I'm from the US. I also haven't had much experience with inter-bank transfers. Most people I know use my bank and its great for international travel.


I doubt it was deliberately engineered as such but it does seem to be having that effect.

It's also disrupting international wire transfers and venture capital, two antiquated industries ripe for it.


You must be delusional to think Bitcoin disrupts SWIFT. https://economics.stackexchange.com/a/9184/18775

> SWIFT handles about $5 trillion per day,

> SWIFT payment message volumes are usually around 11.5 million per day

Now, daily Bitcoin-USD traffic is below a billion https://www.blockchain.com/en/charts/trade-volume and even at its heyday it was five billion give or take. That's 0.1% of SWIFT. And Bitcoin couldn't handle more than 600k transactions a day even if it tried and these days it's 150-200K https://www.blockchain.com/en/charts/n-transactions which almost reaches 2% of SWIFT...

Also, it's unusable for legit business transfers since you absolutely have no idea how much money the other ennd receives.

SEPA has higher volumes but lower values https://www.ebaclearing.eu/services/step2-sct/statistics/ but even that lower value is a magnitude above Bitcoin -- worldwide. With SCT Inst it even beats the transfer speed of Bitcoin.


Agree -- the major players already know their customers, so they are more interested in distributed ledger than blockchain. A distributed database with ACID transactions is a more flexible way to implement this stuff: https://blog.fauna.com/distributed-ledger-without-the-blockc...


Blockchain is a form of distributed ledgers.


The discussion was about "blockchains", not Bitcoin.

I expect that many financial institutions will be using private blockchain in the future.

Although this is much more boring than it sounds. A blockchain is just a kind of database, where entities sign their transactions with their private keys and then share the results.

You don't even need to do any "mining" for private blockchains.


> I expect that many financial institutions will be using private blockchain in the future.

What for? If you have trusted parties, why do yo need a blockchain?


2 things.

1: even a private blockchain significantly helps with trust. If someone attempted to double spend, such an attack would be immediately obvious to everyone. At which point you send in the lawyers. That's valuable.

Blockchain Purists will disagree. But the point is that it is easy to make untrusted transactions with people, if attempted attacks are merely illuminated, and you know who the attack is coming from.

And 2: even if we assume everyone is "trusted", financial settlement is a very outdated system. Mistakes are easy to make when people are looking though filing cabinets to figure out who owns what.

My definition of a "Blockchain" is merely a shared database where people sign transactions with their private keys.

The mere act of everyone signing everything with private keys, and store in a shared data as is valuable in and of itself.


> Also, it's unusable for legit business transfers since you absolutely have no idea how much money the other ennd receives.

Can you expand on this? What do you mean you don't know how much the other end receives?


> What do you mean you don't know how much the other end receives?

I am sending you 1 BTC, how much money do you have? Calling a Nakamoto scheme a "cyber"currency is just part of the scam. Money is like USD. So, how much money do you have?


I strongly agree with your GGP comment, but the point of BTC is not money is a bad one.

How much money do you have if you receive 1 BTC?

Check the spot price after several confirmations (or one to none, depending on your facilities)

How much money do you have if you receive $1MM USD?

Check DXY in ~3 business days when your deposit clears.

Now yes, of course BTC fluctuates in value substantially more than USD, but this is not a problem in BTC, but rather in the existing market conditions. Your comment is akin to saying that USD was not money in the 1930s.

Apart from that contention, I completely agree that BTC has not (and in my opinion, will not) disrupted SWIFT.


> Your comment is akin to saying that USD was not money in the 1930s.

USD has the benefit of active management from a central bank, active management from Congress, and being a government-backed currency with a minimum threshold of demand (being the currency which is used for government spending and taxation).

Insofar as a completely different universe where BTC is an actively-managed currency of a world superpower is "existing market conditions" then yes, BTC is just like the USD. /s

The better comparison is gold, which is a commodity like Bitcoin, and yet much more stable than BTC. Thing is, there is also a minimum level of demand there, for jewelry and industrial purposes. Small, but real. Nobody actually has an interest in Bitcoin stability, it's just investors who want to make money on it going up or down. So... it does.

(the real rollercoaster was back when Tether was printing hundreds of millions of dollars on a daily basis and injecting that into the crypto-economy. Ever since they knocked that off, it's been hanging around the $6000 mark.)

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3195066


I believe this too.

And also improve electricity access in more remote areas (where real estate is cheaper) - especially pushing distributed solar power.


I liked this analysis of the situation from when the Bitcoin Miners came to Washington State for the same reason:

https://twitter.com/patio11/status/1000966967056941056

"We are going to place a point-of-presence for an intrinsically global network, hardware and a skeleton crew, in your geographic territory for as long as you're the dumbest power provider in the world."

"..."

"If you're not that dumb say so, I have a list."


> Iceland estimates the industry will consume more than 100 megawatts by the end of the year.

All this energy wasted mining a virtual currency that no one uses.

We have to ask ourselves: is Bitcoin mining really the best use of our resources? Is it worth adding to our already engorged carbon footprints?


Isn't that the benefit of Iceland - That there is no (or significantly) carbon footprint?


Well if they hope to succeed, they better start the long process of laying down some more fiber connections to the rest of the world. They have to go through Greenland or Europe to get the US.

https://www.submarinecablemap.com/


I have been wondering, why hasn't Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon built DC in Iceland?

To avoid the risk of volcanic eruption?


The main reason is latency - makes more sense to build a datacenter in the UK or Northeast North America as that would reduce the average latency for more people. The domestic need for a massive datacenter is also rather small.


Yup, all major tech companies have data centers in Dublin, mainly because the government has made it very easy and attractive to do so.


Apple, Facebook , and Microsoft are all building or had Massive Datacenter, at least one or two somewhere in EU and US. Likly for Storage and other non latency sensitive application. But none of them choose Iceland, where Electricity is clean and cheap.


Iceland has no direct optic cable connection with the US[1].

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/73ekox/map_of_unde...


arh. thx


"looking past the faddishness of cryptocurrencies". Bitcoin is an excellent proof of concept for blockchains but I sold mine some time ago because of the ethical issue I have with Bitcoin mining consuming so much power. Some of the newer coins are much more efficient in terms of consuming power. To refer to cryptocurrencies in general as a fad though is very naive and sounds more like central bank desperation.


So.. the article concludes that they're "Building Knowledge" on how to maintain data centers housing racks of servers and ASICs doing mining/blockchain work? I wonder if the same argument could be made for the adult content industry, that, for better or worse, has been pushing the barriers of compute and bandwidth since the dawn of the dotcom era.


So... bitcoin miners in Iceland aren't using ASICs?


Remember the Gell-Mann amnesia effect. All Bitcoin mining is done with ASICs but some other cryptos use GPUs. Many industrial-scale miners use both, I guess for diversification.


Fair question, if you read the article it was written as if it's specifically bitcoin miners who are abandoning GPU farms, but mining bitcoin with gpus was not viable a long time. Is the article misleading, or is it referring to a larger time span?


“After devouring nearly as much energy as all of Iceland’s households combined, Bitcoin miners may be about to return something to the community that’s housed them.” Implication is that the miners do nothing for Iceland? Seems unlikely. They’re probably incorporated businesses paying taxes and injecting wealth into local economy through payroll and other expenses. Why is Bloomberg anti-bitcoin?


"They’re probably incorporated businesses paying taxes and injecting wealth into local economy through payroll and other expenses."

What evidence do you have of this? In other areas where this happens, like up by the hydroelectric dam in Washington State, this very much does not happen, and in fact, many mining operations are illegally attaching to the grid.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/09/bitcoin-m...


>Why is Bloomberg anti-bitcoin?

Maybe this?

https://qz.com/84961/this-is-how-much-a-bloomberg-terminal-c...


Profitability is not the same as social value. See also media critiques of high-frequency trading.


They're probably not against bitcoin, crytocurrency is a controversial topic these days and they just leverage on that.


post-bitcoin? fadishness? Bitcoin "probably won’t be here far into the future"

When I am interested in the predictions about the future of bitcoin... my first thought is not to ask a "business development manager at the HS Orka power plant in Iceland"

Lol... sales people, in particular, have no credibility about predicting the future... It's always what they are selling.


>Bitcoin “probably won’t be here far into the future” said Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson

Seeing as this guy -- who could make reams of money[1] if he's an accurate price predictor by shorting bitcoin by buying deep, out-of-the-money puts -- isn't rich by doing so, indicates he's inept at making price predictions.

https://99bitcoins.com/bitcoinobituaries/

[1] If bitcoin's price catastrophically collapses, a put option would yield ~1,000X / 100000% returns.


"The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."


That's not how options work and it's precisely why options exist: to purchase value in domains which are extraordinarily rare without the delta exposure of leveraged spot-shorting.

The premium:payout ratio of such a trade requires him to be right only once in 5-10 years for him to walk away profitable.


> That's not how options work and it's precisely why options exist: to purchase value in domains which are extraordinarily rare without the delta exposure of leveraged spot-shorting.

Yo, Options have Theta-decay. Push options too long, and all your money decays away.

https://www.dough.com/blog/speaking-greek-theta-decay-time-d...

Seriously, don't just... buy options without understanding the risks. You can MITIGATE Theta-decay by rolling over your options to longer-and-longer terms, but it requires maintenance, and you still lose out on money each time you roll options over.


>Push options too long, and all your money decays away.

Assume you let all options expire OTM the following still holds:

>The premium:payout ratio of such a trade requires him to be right only once in 5-10 years for him to walk away profitable.

Minimizing theta exposure extends that duration.


If you buy a put option, someone sold that put option to you. Only one of you will be correct, and one of you has theta-decay (while the other person benefits from theta-decay).

That's how the options market works. Someone pays theta-decay for the long-tail chance of hopefully being right sometime in the next year or two... while someone else collects that theta-decay over time.

Its insurance, plain and simple. Sometimes, the insurance company wins, and sometimes the buyer wins.

-----------

But with any trade, there's the other side. If you go long-put, someone else has decided to go short-put against you. Your final bet is that the short-put giver will actually give you the money when you win your bet.

And that's a bet within the BTC market I don't believe in. Too many BTC markets have gone kaput, I'm not trusting anyone in this market.


Bringing up theta seems to be tangential to your concern: Solvency. Delta & Gamma have more applicability to solvency issues than theta


I'm avoiding Delta and Gamma mostly because its clear that you understand those issues. Or at very least, I haven't seen you write anything that warrants me correcting you with regards to Delta / Gamma.

Also, Delta and Gamma are the causes of big-swings. So I think most people fear those and give them appropriate amount of respect.

Theta on the other hand is the difficult one. Option sellers collect the pennies in front of the steamroller, while option buyers are hoping that they're right eventually. Typical human psychology doesn't really handle this case very well, on either side.


He'd have to be right… against a solvent counterparty.

What big, reputable players are selling Bitcoin put options at the moment? As of last fall, the market seemed to have been extremely immature: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/033115/it-po...


>What big, reputable players are selling Bitcoin put options at the moment?

https://ledgerx.com/


"On May 22, 2017, Ledger Holdings Inc. announced the closing of $11.4 Million in Series B financing"

That totally sounds like a well capitalized counterparty…


? LedgerX isn't your counterparty. They are facilitating two parties to the trade I believe.


Hmm, I'm not 100% sure, but in traditional options markets, I believe it was the exchange that backed the trade:

http://www.options-trading-education.com/34/counterparty-ris...

"In option trading on stocks risk management is handled by trading through standardized options contracts listed on futures and options exchanges. These markets provide accurate, up to date information, and back all contracts."

If you're right, then the counterparty is not LedgerX, but some internet rando. Not sure that this would make me more complacent about counterpart risk.


For “normal”, exchange-listed options in the US, the counterparty is the OCC (Options Clearing Corporation): https://www.theocc.com


> That's not how options work

Repeatedly purchasing options to take tail risks is a bad strategy. (Repeatedly purchasing options to negate a tail risk you already have, on the other hand, could be smart. Or it might mean you have a great options salesman.)

For the bet to pay off, it has to happen on schedule. With options relating to something like Bitcoin, moreover, there is the additional risk that catastrophic failure wipes out the exchanges, leaving you in years of litigation enforcing your contracts. (See this story of a short seller whose short went to zero [1].)

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-11/-go-to-ze...


Only if you are leveraged.


There is nobody selling credible long term deep OTM puts.


Define credible


> Define credible

Will be (a) solvent and (b) willing and able to pay out if Bitcoin goes to, essentially, zero. "Willing" is an important limiter because when assets catastrophically crash they tend to take out their pricing infrastructure. So two parties may reasonable disagree about what something is worth at the time of option settlement.




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