By Mark Isaiah David
Mining cryptocurrency sounds exciting – the idea that you could be earning the much talked-about, insanely valuable Bitcoin just by launching a simple program and letting your computer do all the work sounds miraculous. For a nation of people enamored with the get-rich-quick, make-me-an-overnight-millionaire dream, cryptocurrency mining sounds like a gift straight from the Heavens.
But cryptomining can be underwhelming if you don’t have a special, custom rig specifically designed for it. I run a pretty badass gaming computer (top-tier video card, lots of RAM, Intel i7 processor, etc.) but when I use it for cryptocurrency mining, my daily profit reaches a disappointing $2 to $3. That’s me running the computer 24 hours nonstop, enjoying 1st-world internet speeds, and not even taking electrical costs into account. Sure, on paper, it’s nice that I could run a simple program and I’d technically be earning money, but it’s not something that you could rely on for your retirement either.
Fortunately, you can do other good things with your computer. The concept behind cryptomining – pooling the computing power of numerous people to perform large, complex computing tasks – can also be used to contribute to other worthwhile endeavors.
The concept is far from new. In classical mythology, Psyche, while searching for her lover, the god Cupid, sought the help of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty (and Cupid’s mother). Angry that people are neglecting to worship her due to Psyche’s own famed beauty, the spiteful goddess gave Psyche the task of sorting a great mass of seeds into appropriate heaps in just one night (an impossible task for a mere mortal). Psyche would have failed, but a kind ant took pity on her, and together with an army of other ants and insects, accomplished the monumental task. One ant could not have made much difference – but hundreds of thousands of ants working together? They could move mountains.
In the same way, contributing your spare computing power to something such as the World Community Grid (https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org) can be your no-effort good deed. As they say on their website:
“What if you could study bacteria while tweeting? What if you could help treat childhood cancer while watching a video? What if you could help cure the Zika virus while listening to music? What if you could help treat HIV/AIDS while posting a status update?”
By volunteering your spare computing power to WCG, you can do science without the need to be a scientist. With no additional investment of time or money, you can help hasten important research that could help millions of people. All you need to do is download their program (called BOINC), choose a project you like,run it (permit it to launch whenever you turn on your device), then forget about it. You’ll be helping save the world while you’re binge-watching your Netflix shows on your laptop.
As a volunteer, your device will help do calculations and contribute to important research when it’s idle. Unlike many cryptocurrency miners, the BOINC toolkit won’t turn your powerful computer into a sluggish machine. Backed by IBM, the software monitors your computer’s performance and stays out of the way when you require some serious computing muscle. When you’re not doing something compute-intensive, the program will take the opportunity to ramp up its work. Just continue your normal computer usage and the BOINC app would use your spare computing power appropriately. The program is even more flexible than cryptocurrency miners – even if you don’t have a powerful video card, the app could still work on and benefit from your device.
And while the World Community Grid helps scientists solve the planet’s biggest problems in health and sustainability, there are many other projects that could benefit from your help. Scientists and engineers, astronomers and mathematicians, environmentalists and cryptographers, physicists and earthquake/radiation monitors all have important, incredibly complex projects that could benefit from the aggregated computing power of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
The BOINC app gives you the choice on which of these projects you wish to support. Analyzing underwater acoustics, deriving shapes and spins of asteroids, predicting climate, searching for the best cosmological model that agrees with available astronomical particle physics data, decrypting unsolved coded messages, running simulations to improve the design of the Large Hadron Collider, creating accurate 3D models of the Milky Way galaxy, understanding the human mind, detecting seismic waves, searching for extra-terrestrial life, solving math mysteries… choose a project you’re passionate about and you can help scientists get results in months instead of decades.
Another way you can help is by running the Rosetta program (https://boinc.bakerlab.org), which aims to speed up and extend efforts to design new proteins and to predict their 3-dimensional shapes. Why is this important? Because ultimately, designing new proteins could lead to finding cures for major human diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Imagine it – the time it took for you to read this article, your computer could have helped analyze 543 potential cancer signatures. While running cryptocurrency miners nonstop may enable you to earn enough money to buy you a cup of fancy coffee, you can do something else far more meaningful and has the potential to help you and everyone you know. In the long run, that’s a far better investment than mining for a bit of coin.