I’m more excited about this than I’ve been about anything in a long time, though I must admit that I am a little late to the party. Conversations about cryptocurrency with more tech-savvy people can be embarrassing (I recently asked a group of engineers if there’s anything you can do with GPUs, other than mine), but at its heart this is such a simple idea. There are tons of people mining Bitcoins, usually in pools, and they are converting a huge amount of energy into computational power; meanwhile there are a lot of scientific research projects that desperately need computational power, and that rely on volunteers. Why not kill two birds with one stone, and incentivize research? After all, the computational problem you have to solve to add to the Bitcoin blockchain is difficult, but it does not have an inherent value — it is difficult for the sake of being difficult.
Quick Disclaimer: I have not made a fortune off of GridCoin, as you will soon learn, but that’s not the main point
A Little Bit of Background
Until I heard about CureCoin, none of this cryptocurrency stuff really interested me. As an investment, it seemed really volatile and a little bit sketchy; as a concept, I wasn’t really sure why it had taken off in the first place, and why one of our student-taught seminars was thinking of doing cryptocurrency instead of…I don’t know…a history of computers, or something else interesting like that. For all the hype, I knew very few people who were actually investing in or mining this. But then suddenly something changed, and everyone I knew was interested in it. What happened?
It was a get-rich-quick scheme, a currency fueled by greed and foolish risk. It was a community-based force of change, a currency that would be free of government influence and that would prevent the next financial crisis. It was using as much power as Ireland. It was making people really excited. So was it good, or was it bad? Was it intelligent, or was it stupid? I still don’t have answers, but I did have an obvious question: What was all of this power being used for?
GridCoin is a lot like the more intuitively named CureCoin. GridCoin is linked to BOINC, which services a number of scientific projects from protein folding to astronomy research, and CureCoin is linked to Folding@Home, which is exclusively centered on protein folding. Why did I choose GridCoin over CureCoin? No particular reason, to be honest. GridCoin did seem to have pretty good YouTube videos.
When I started mining with my LG K10 Android with an ARMv7 Processor rev 5, the results were…as I predicted…not very impressive. It took me a little while to get to 0.001 GridCoins. A GridCoin is worth about six cents. You get the idea.
I added a 2009 Macbook with an Intel 2 Core Duo Processor. I don’t want to run BOINC on my main computer, which may say a lot in and of itself, but now the Android has a companion.
I am now the proud owner of 0.028 GridCoins, with a magnitude of 0.05 and about 200 RAC. Those last two numbers are GridCoin jargon, and I don’t fully understand what they mean, but my current value is $0.00168, or a little more than a tenth of a penny.
So yeah, I haven’t made a fortune and at this rate I probably never will. It doesn’t help that I’m only really running this app when I feel like it, ie when it’s convenient and I’m not doing anything else. In that same group of engineers, I said I was just trying to prove a point. To whom, they asked? To myself?
Well no…to anyone reading this.
These efforts, small as they may be, are part of a larger effort. With hardware that is superior to mine, which I am sure most people have, we might be able to do something that’s truly meaningful. Hell, with hardware that’s superior to mine, you also might be able to pick up an at least modest amount of money, unlike me.
The idea to use idle computational power for research has been around for many years. Now it’s incentivized. People are adding to, circulating, and investing in currency that’s valuable because it’s valuable. BOINC has contributed to medical research, research in physics, research in math. Combine what modest resources we have, dedicate it to something bigger than us, and we might just be the ones to fuel something great.