The creator of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen, thinks he’s got a solution to the negligible climate impact of mining cryptocurrencies, with his new Chia token.
Based on proof-of-space rather than proof-of-work models, Cohen’s great innovation is to use hard disk space rather than processing power—‘farming,’ as opposed to mining.
Discussing the inspiration behind his project with Breaker magazine, Cohen said that people could use excess storage capacity, which would reduce the commercial incentives for mining. He told the news outlet: “The idea is that you’re leveraging this resource of storage capacity, and people already have ludicrous amounts of excess storage on their laptops, and other places, which is just not being utilized.”
“There is so much of that already that it should eventually reach the point where if you were buying new hard drives for the purpose of farming, it would lose you money,” Cohen continued, describing how he thought the Chia network would be less vulnerable to attack than Bitcoin Core (BTC).
He explained, “To attack Chia you’d have to get access to more resources than the network as a whole, which will be a huge amount of resources once everyone has signed up. The cost of acquiring them upfront would be huge, higher than the cost of the ASICs you’d need to attack [BTC], so to overwhelm the system would be much more difficult.”
However, not everyone is buying into the claims, nor the viability of a token that solves what academics say is an over-egged problem.
Dr. Katrina Kelly-Pitou, research associate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, recently said that claims about energy intensive mining processes and the environmental impact of crypto mining were overblown.
“I am a researcher who studies clean energy technology, specifically the transition toward decarbonized energy systems…New technologies—such as data centers, computers and before them trains, planes and automobiles—are often energy-intensive. Over time, all of these have become more efficient, a natural progression of any technology: Saving energy equates to saving costs,” Kelly-Pitou wrote in an article for The Conversation. “Like many other aspects of the energy industry, Bitcoin is not necessarily a ‘bad guy.’ It’s simply a new, and vaguely understood, industry. The discussion about energy consumption and bitcoin is, I believe, unfair without discussing the energy intensity of new technologies overall, specifically in data centers.”
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