When there will be nothing to count: what to do with the farm, when mining becomes meaningless

Before Bitcoin emission slows down, there is less time left. Of course, the Bitcoin community regularly shifts the planned release date of the latest coin to the market, but this point is not so far from the global perspective.

It has long been known about the possibility of accelerating the production of new blocks by first using GPU or FPGA graphics cards, and then specialized ASIC processors were created that were specifically designed for computing hashes in blockchains, which led to the fact that in 2013, mining of “digital gold” on home devices has ceased to be cost-effective.

Five years passed – and in the spring of this year, sales of specialized mining pools for Ethereum began. Since in this way it is possible to extract not only tokens of parent currencies – bitcoin and “digital silver”, but also coins of all those based on their blockchains without changing the algorithms of their work, we can say that probably two-thirds of the existing ones are available for farming cryptocurrencies. Due to this sale of specialized equipment is growing, and today everyone can choose something to their taste or wallet: from a small home server refrigerator to a sea refrigerated container filled with ASIC cabinets, or even a whole workshop with complex cooling and air conditioning systems.

However, against this background, more and more new cryptocurrencies already at the development stage are putting limitations in their algorithms that do not allow their mining on “industrial” mining equipment. This began to happen shortly after crypto enthusiasts, having seen what happened with Bitcoin mining, began to sound the alarm, saying that such an approach ruins such basic ideas on which the first cryptocurrency was created, such as accessibility and decentralization. If the practice of protecting new blockchains from the possibility of calculating blocks on ASICs and similar systems continues, the owners of large farms may be left out of work.

In the end, do not forget that in search of funds to support its existence, the “stationary bandit” of the state can come up with a new tax, the victim of which will choose the cryptocurrency miners. Incidentally, now I’m not talking about Russia, but about any state in general. You can read more about the “settled gangster” from the American economist Mansour Loyd Olson. This tax, whether due to the inability of the authorities to make proper calculations, because of their greed or arrogance, or simply because of stupidity (always remember the “Heinlein razor”), it may turn out to be disadvantageous – and the sea container is far from take it away, all the more since there are no guarantees that neighboring states will not be even worse tuned to digital miners.

As you can see, there are many reasons why your farm may one day turn from a golden carriage that takes you to the future, into a pumpkin – so I suggest you think ahead of time what to do with it when it happens.

So, here is the situation: you are the owner of a powerful computing system. In fact, it’s very powerful, albeit probably specialized, for sure solutions that will allow you to adapt the same ASIC processors to something other than mining will appear sooner or later – and sooner rather than later. Who can benefit from these opportunities in a world where “industrial” cryptocurrency mining will lose its economic attractiveness and meaning?

Who needs your farm now? In fact, too many. There are two ways: you want to continue to make money on it, or you think that you have already received enough livelihoods, and decided to go into philanthropy. (Nothing prevents you from combining them and using that part of the resources that no one is currently selling, for charity, giving them to the needy for free.)

The concept of “farm” as applied to powerful computing systems was first used long before the advent of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Back in the 90s, many designers who were privately involved in three-dimensional modeling — whether interiors, new everyday objects or worlds, and characters in computer games — were forced to resort to distributed computing, combining the resources of computers that were part of their local networks into “rendering farms”. Then it was almost impossible to calculate complex 3D on a regular machine, standing on the table of a simple user, it would take days, if not weeks, and creating clusters, including, for example, all computers of a student dormitory, would make the calculations necessary for rendering a three-dimensional object much faster. It’s clear that this could only be done at a time.

Today, of course, the rendering of 3D models has become much more accessible, but the other type of distributed computing that arose in the same years has not lost demand. The creators of such networks did not ask the consent of computer owners for the use of their resources – they simply invaded user devices with the help of viruses and occupied part of the machine with their calculations. Such “bot farms” (then the word “bot” denoted primarily a similar infected zombie machine) were used to organize massive DDoS attacks, were used in hacking or served as chains to hide the whereabouts of an attacker committing his dirty deed. As you most likely already understood, today many “zombie networks” have turned into mining pools: one by one, but bitcoins are dripping, and unsuspecting victims are paying for electricity.

The demand for such use of computing power will probably never disappear, and some crackers are even willing to pay for services when they need some extraordinary power. However, we, of course, would not advise you to get involved in such operations – this is fraught not only with legal and moral problems, but also with the opportunity to get worms on your devices, thanks to which they can continue to be used without your knowledge, or at least a few open backdoors through which it will be possible to quietly use them if such a need arises again. By the way, just in case, keep your fists up so that in the event of a global digital war the state does not nationalize your farm in order to give it to your hackers in uniform as a data center.

There are also much more socially acceptable ways to lease out your facilities. You can provide them to companies that work with owners of low-power computers who want to play modern games, the system requirements of which their device cannot pull, or create such a company yourself – this is a fairly profitable enterprise, fortunately, at least for now, the market for such services is still very far from saturation, and demand for them is growing.

In addition to games, you can provide cloud power for solving work tasks – in terms of inaccessibility, three-dimensional modeling has been replaced by work on editing high-resolution video materials and their subsequent processing by effects. Surely in the near future, there will also be new problems for the solution of which distributed computing will be useful.

They can also be useful to residents of developing countries suffering from digital inequality and deprived of the opportunity to engage in, for example, types of remote work, such as programming or design, due to the fact that their obsolete devices are too weak.

Continuing to talk about how you can serve the public good, you should first of all pay attention to small scientific organizations that do not have their own supercomputers and therefore are able to rely only on the resources that enthusiasts will provide them. It was scientists who were the first to think about the possibility of sharing the computing load between devices – in the early 70s, researchers from the Xerox PARC R&D center used this local network.

The transition to cloud structures was predicted at the dawn of the existence of the Global Network. So, in 1993, Eric Schmidt (today he is the leading technical consultant for the owner of Google, Alphabet, and then worked for Sun Microsystems) stated: “When the network becomes as fast as the processor, the computer as such ceases to exist, it will spread across the network.”

If you don’t want (or don’t understand how) to targeted search for those in need, turn to one of the global projects based on cloud computing. The main one today is BOINC, which includes a number of studies ranging from the fight against cancer to the search for extraterrestrial civilization using radio signal analysis.

Here are the main projects included in the BOINC network (you can recognize them by the prefix “@home”, implying that you can turn your home computer to the benefit of science – so why not a mining farm?):

  • Rosetta @ home uses the computing resources it provides to model the structures of various proteins. The goal of the project is to find cures for diseases such as cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s.
    LHC @ Home is engaged in calculations for physical laboratories of scientists who work with the Large Hadron Collider in Swiss CERN. The challenges that science gives them are so serious that, although their own computer network is the most powerful in the world, its resources are often not enough.
  • Einstein @ Home provided a search for confirmation of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves, and now, when several years ago their existence was finally proved by researchers, they are looking for new sources of gravitational radiation – special astronomical objects called pulsars.
  • The most famous project included in BIONC is, of course, the ufological SETI @ home, dedicated to the analysis of the world space for the presence of potentially meaningful radio signals in it, which could indicate that humanity is not alone in the Universe. Despite the apparent pretentiousness of the idea behind the project, everything is serious – it was not initiated by the foolish consumers of tabloid newspapers about UFO secrets, but by scientists at the University of California at Berkeley.

There are projects that are not part of the @ home association BIONIC. Among them, you may find MoneyBee interesting, calculating possible fluctuations in stock markets (after all, even having tied up with mining, you probably would not want to leave the cryptocurrency market and the investment field as a whole).

As you can see, the possibilities for using the accumulated computing power are very wide. So, if you approach the matter wisely and pre-prepare your own escape routes, your mining farm will not be left without work even when all the bitcoin are counted.

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