Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Blockchain, what is it?

35 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 Newer→ Last

  • David Hood, in reply to Moz,

    Have any of the crypto-currency/blockchain people solved the fundamental problem of power consumption?

    Nope.

    From a Motherboard/Vice article yesterday Ethereum transactions are estimated to take 45 kilowatt-hours of electricity per transaction, VISA is estimated at 0.00651 kWh per transaction.

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/d3zn9a/ethereum-mining-transaction-electricity-consumption-bitcoin

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to David Hood,

    {cries}

    Money quote:

    Cryptocurrencies are inefficient by design. Their decentralized nature demands a way to establish trust between strangers on the internet, and for technical reasons the best answer we seem to have developed so far is to back blockchains up with enormous amounts of electricity and computing power.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH, in reply to Moz,

    Have any of the crypto-currency/blockchain people solved the fundamental problem of power consumption?

    You say "fundamental problem", they say "feature".
    Seriously though, there are proposals. Alex's piece linked to this article about one proposal.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    As expected (and I think I documented this someplace many years ago) this is likely to lead to rampant deflation – which is of course just as much a problem to anyone attempting to use the currency as rampant inflation would be.

    You'd probably have to tease that out. To me it looks like a major reason to buy the currency, because its value is rising rapidly. But therein lies my complaint - it's literally a reason to burn electricity for the purpose of mining Bitcoins, which in themselves are not really valuable at all. It's like we've invented a far, far more energy intensive way of creating the medium of exchange than a mere printing press (or the simple entering of a number into a ledger the way most money is created), and we've allowed everyone to have one. I don't think this is a boon to humanity. On an individual basis, they're compelling to have. But on a societal level, or a species level, it's literally nothing but a massive drain on a valuable resource, to do something that we actually already did more efficiently. That's late stage capitalism cray, a natural end game to the endless human and other energy and resources that we have already thrown at the diminishing returns of the knowledge economy. A product that takes electricity to do nothing, simply because it is costly to do so, forming a marker of our relative power to simply burn down something of value to show our own value.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    forming a marker of our relative power to simply burn down something of value to show our own value.

    Somewhat amusingly there are "primitive tribes" who do much the same thing, sometimes literally - The Pyramids and St Paul's Cathedral, for example, but also the various "burn the giant straw man" things where my bonfire is bigger than yours.

    A better system is a "gifting economy", as seen in many parts of Polynesia. The best person is the one who is the most generous. Sure, it has downsides, but looking at that from metastising capitalism those don't look so bad.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    From a Motherboard/Vice article yesterday Ethereum transactions are estimated to take 45 kilowatt-hours of electricity per transaction, VISA is estimated at 0.00651 kWh per transaction.

    That seems to be cherry picking data to make the problem sound as bad as possible. It's like saying that cars are terrible because the first automobiles could not travel as fast as a horse. New tech usually starts off worse than existing tech and gets better. This is what Solar Panels are doing right now.

    The fact that they consider the power consumption of Graphics cards at all is an indication of this. The Newness of ethereum is why graphics cards are being used. Bitcoin is typically hashed using ASICs which are far more energy efficient.

    Reporting Energy per transaction is a metric that implies that the energy cost scales with the number of transactions. It doesn't. For Visa it probably does a bit with some economies of scale helping out as the volume gets massive.

    With BlockChains, Lots of transactions doesn't make the hashing significantly slower or faster. Transactions divided by Energy start to look better when the number of Transactions increase. If Visa ran on Etherium The efficiency of Etherium would look a lot better.

    That does raise the question of "How many transactions can we have in a block?" The theoretical answer is "As many as we want" The practical answer is "As many as the protocol allows, and the protocol needs people to agree."

    The most efficient solution would be a single blockchain with the entire world economy running on it. If that happened there'd be a lot more miners but the number of transactions would be rather a lot.

    From another standpoint, Energy consumption is not a requirement of a blockchain . The requirement is that everyone may contribute but via a mechanism where contributors have a limiting factor to stop them from overwhelming other contributions. Processing power meets that criteria, but others may exist. I read about a RAM intensive hashing algorithm which uses far less CPU but requires lots of memory. In that case the miners with the most RAM would get the best results.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Neil Graham,

    I read about a RAM intensive hashing algorithm which uses far less CPU but requires lots of memory.

    Yes, and there's also even less wasteful options like connection time (which favours IOT devices... oh the malware we'd see, if all that counted was the number of devices). It's not a field I'm competent to even express opinions on the technical details, but from outside what matters is resource consumption.

    I wonder if a tamagotchi-style thing would work, where your contribution was solving a simple captcha once an hour. Or even just "press button on device A in response to request on device B" (viz, they get your email, push and SMS details, you get a message via one of those and have to press the requested button. But the cheaters have to deal with a lot of possible requests, from an SMS saying "what's eight + ||" to an emailed picture of a newspaper-letter note saying "hit the (8) ball" to a push saying "Pleas count the e's").

    The issue there is the "proof of identity", where you don't want to simply up the frequency to prevent multiple enrolment, but it's very hard to both reliably detect a person at all, then to accurately identify that person. I wonder if there's a network-oriented solution instead - your contribution is periodically convincing another network member that you're human? Not a hierarchy, but a random association. Gamed via "always agree" perhaps?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Captchas. Noisy images generated in the reverse direction, human input required to go forward.

    Ideally mined by large numbers of slaves in developing countries.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Neil Graham,

    Bitcoin is typically hashed using ASICs which are far more energy efficient.

    The best estimate for bitcoin is 94 kWh per transaction. Working here: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/ypkp3y/bitcoin-is-still-unsustainable

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Moz,

    This just reinforces my earlier dismissal of the "contracts" in Etherium as taking us back to the days before formal legal systems, when might was right and if you didn't like it you had best be the one with the might:

    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14691212

    Write your contract in a programming language with known bugs, including "while it's true that 2+2 usually equals 4, we sometime rewrite one or both of the 2's as other values so the answer might not always be 4. The contract that results is still binding on you, but may not be binding on us".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.