Yes, I Mine Crypto
I know that cryptocurrency can be a bit of a hot topic, with every person having a very specific and oftentimes strongly held opinion. Some say that cryptocurrency is a pyramid scheme and is unethical to the core. Some want Bitcoin and other Proof of Work (PoW) cryptocurrencies to burn because they waste massive amounts of energy. Some think that cryptocurrency is a scam and won’t last.
I think that everyone has a good point and needs to be heard, but I’m also not a centrist about this by any means. I mine a very specific cryptocurrency: Gridcoin (GRC)!
OK, so no one has ever heard of Gridcoin. Let me explain some background first.
Back in the day, I became good friends with someone who introduced me to BOINC, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. BOINC is essentially a supervisor for running multiple computational research projects. A good example of a computational research project is the ever-popular Folding@home, but note that Folding@home does not support BOINC and uses its own client instead.
Speaking of clients, you might still be confused exactly how this works.
Imagine that you have a bunch of math homework you need to do. You happen to have a bunch of friends who are great at math and are willing to “donate” their brainpower to help you complete the homework. So you split up the homework into individual problems, or work units (WUs). Naturally, your homework has a deadline, so you attach a deadline to each of these WUs. You post these on a website where all of your friends can go and download/fetch these WUs and complete them.
Now, your friends happen to be very popular and are completing homework/WUs for a bunch of other people as well. Because of that, they all have very robust systems for making sure that they are working on the homework/WUs that have the highest priority. Priority would be based on their estimate of how long it will take to complete that homework/WU, as well as when the deadline for the homework/WU is. They also make sure that they aren’t over-committing by downloading too many WUs and not being able to complete them all.
What I’ve just described, ethics aside, is the BOINC model. The first paragraph describing the homework/WU distributor is what a computational research project using BOINC does. Some popular examples are Rosetta@home, SETI@home, and Einstein@home. The second paragraph describing the homework/WU “completer” is what a computer participating in BOINC does. To do this, that computer needs to be running the BOINC client, which allows that computer to connect to whichever BOINC projects the computer user wishes to computer for. The BOINC client software then takes care of all of that prioritization.
OK, enough about BOINC. Back to Gridcoin. Gridcoin is a cryptocurrency built around the idea of “Rewarding Volunteer Distributed Computing” (that’s what BOINC does). It does this with a Proof of Research (PoR) approach, which to my understanding, is heavily modeled after Proof of Stake (PoS). Basically, you get payouts of cryptocurrency by how much computation you’ve donated to BOINC projects, but only if the project has been whitelisted.
I’m definitely not making a profit right now. Based on the exchange rate, I don’t even earn $0.25 USD a day. So this is still definitely a donation for me.
For the longest time, I donated my computers to BOINC for nothing, and I’d happily go back to that if Gridcoin disappeared tomorrow. However, I think Gridcoin is an actual cool idea, and for mere “pennies” of computation, I can run the Gridcoin wallet alongside BOINC, and I think that’s a pretty good deal.