Bit by bitcoin mining

You load sixteen tera-tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the electrical store

As you already know, Bitcoin is all the rage.  The specter of government regulation has knocked this enthusiasm down somewhat.

Notwithstanding the price volatility, the benefits of mining Bitcoin remains attractive for those that know where to look. And by look, I mean looking for cheap electricity.

Back in the heyday, you could use a simple laptop to attempt to mine Bitcoin. Now for any chance of success, you have to run a server farm. Perhaps we can change the metaphor from mining, which suggests gold, to farming, which suggests easily washable boots.

Countless computers across the globe attempt to mine Bitcoin by solving an algorithm. This proves and validates the correctness of a new transaction. Every 10 mins or so, some lucky miner solves the algorithm and receives a reward of 12.5 Bitcoins. All the other computers verify this and then stop what they are doing and start at the beginning again.

If the entire process sounds wasteful, then you would be correct. The Bitcoin mining process now takes up more electricity than the majority of countries. Current estimated consumption is 61 TWh. Mining requires the equivalent of the yearly electrical requirement of Switzerland, and just a bit more than Columbia. This power could sustain over 5 million households. Just a short while ago, some pundits were claiming that mining Bitcoin would the major user of power by 2020. And like anything, projecting exponential growth from the past into the future never really pans out.

Mining produces revenues of $6.3 billion and costs of $3 billion, providing a substantial margin of 48% plus other costs.  Needless to say the carbon footprint of this type of mining is quite extensive since a number of countries rely on coal. China plans to limit the amount of electricity to miners which are estimated to be using up to 4 gigawatts of electricity, or about three nuclear reactors worth of energy. Plattsburg in the United States placed an 18 month moratorium on crypto mining owing to the extensive electrical use.

There is a lot of debate as to the actual electrical usage, but no one really knows what is happening in the black box. Suffice to say that a lot of energy is being wasted on chasing an algorithm that someone else will likely solve.

There are only a limited number of Bitcoins and more people are chasing them with increasing levels of computing power. The electrical requirements today are quite substantial since everyone has to obtain this ‘proof of work’ standard to qualify their Bitcoins. Think along the lines of will the sun rise tomorrow probability?  A lower standard such a ‘proof of stake’ may qualify but the security standard would be lacking. Think along the lines of will I rise tomorrow probability? Usually pretty good, but I might be wrong someday.

A single Bitcoin transaction takes the energy equivalent of thousands of credit card transactions. So actually the cost of a bitcoin transaction is more akin to ‘priceless’.

The security of Bitcoins do come into question since there has been substantial hacking in some countries. Bitcoin can be like the canary in the crypto-currency mining process. But instead of the canary dying, we are talking about the crypto canary disappearing completely. And instantly.

The disappearance of all remaining Bitcoin to be mined would be the signal that someone successfully created a quantum computer. The first use of such a computer would likely not be to solve the mysteries of the universe, but rather to solve the algorithm to grab the balance of the Bitcoins to be mined.

This may take ten years, or perhaps less. As Yogi Berra opines, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

Don’t dread eating tomorrow’s frog

If your job is to eat a live frog, then best to do it first thing in the morning. If your job is to eat two frogs, then start with the biggest one. This is the wise collective wisdom of productivity managers and of course Mark Twain.

This provides a great example of why people procrastinate and perhaps a way to cope with it. This leads into why people procrastinate at all. You can understand why people might dread eating a cold frog in the morning as opposed to a warmed-up frog in the afternoon.

The New Yorker gave an interesting analysis of time. It’s only during the 3 seconds that you can sing “Hey Jude” that you can really perceive what is happening. Everything after that window is simply the past, and everything before it is simply the future. The New Yorker analyzes some thinkers on the subject that suggest you weigh the past, present and future time equally.

Why dread eating that future frog when you likely no longer dread eating that past frog. Neither are in the moment. So, you are better off living in the moment and perhaps only dreading that next bite of frog in front of you and leaving the dread of tomorrow’s frog in the future instead.

The Necktie is dead.

Long live the necktie

photo by Pexels

Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be what to wear to work. Now that employers might have this expectation you actually have to return to a place of employment.

If you picked up the COVID 15 pounds, then what is left in your closet that still fits might be thin. Even if you aren’t any more. But the old standard necktie can still fit so long as it eventually reaches the top of your belt buckle. Although some politicians see fit to wear it longer.

If there was a time to cast aside old customs, then it is time to end the necktie. Shoelaces help keep your shoes on. Belts keep your pants up. Suspenders help you imagine you are Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But ties just seem to hide your shirt buttons and make it awkward to undo that top button. Even if loosening your tie makes you look like you are truly working hard.

The next step will be to rid ourselves of shirts that have collars to hold the tie. This is the first in a series of steps to finally get back to the tee-shirts you have been wearing for the past 18 months.

The New Abby Normal

Photo by Olya Prutskova on

We live in interesting times.

Will the times ever become less interesting in the future? Doesn’t seem likely.

  1. We have learned how to zoom and Microsoft teams. All those meetings that could have been an email have been revealed for what they truly are. Little black holes where not even the truest wisdom could possibly escape.
  2. Housing prices went through roof. The fear of missing out drove so many into purchasing something they may not live long enough to pay off the mortgage and regret. As Thoreau said, it wasn’t so much that they got the house as the house got them.
  3. All the introverts became ecstatic at being forced to binge watch to their hearts content. They are now dreading having to socialize once again. I’m just saying this because a friend told me.
  4. A lot of people went out and got Covid support pets. We already had two golden retrievers before all this happened. I did splurge and got one more koi for the pond outback. The little guy has taken refuge in the pond filter for the last couple of months. Also binge watching I suspect. He will not be happy come fall when everyone comes back in the aquarium to overwinter.
  5. Time will tell if we see a lot of Covid children. If anything, there might be a pullback since few people are entering into new relationships. There may be less tension in the air since people have a reason not to keep entering the dating scene. Few people really regret binge watching. It’s more of a humble brag when they do mention it.

Keep living the Covida Loca!