Proof of Work in the New World

Proof of Work

Redfining the meaning of “work” with a new ring to the phrase “don’t trust, verify”.

Since ‘Proof of Work‘ was first conceptualised in 1993 and the phrase first coined in 1999, the underlying model of experimental Bitcoin relies on has come a long way. A form of cryptographic zero-knowledge proof which is a foundation in permissionless blockchains and cryptocurrencies, PoW is a mechanism of proving and veryfing computational effort or sufficient “activity”.

Machines abound, large and small, moving and immovable. Bitcoin’s hash rate, improved by the increasing collective computing power of miners, determines its resistance to attack. The more machines that join the network, the stronger it gets.

I like to think of it as having a life of its own. Almost like a living body of people, a pool of supercomputers interconnected by a neuronal network of cables, temperature cooled by individual fans, pressure-limited by RAM, beating like a heart through its CPU and using its memory to mint gold-like coins distributable to the world.

How far could it go if it had arms, legs or both? How many steps would it take to generate one BTC? How difficult must difficulty be for an appropriate cost function if computers could move? Who sets the puzzles or will it be a not-so-easy game? While it might work while stationary, how does one determine or mathematically caclulate what ‘work’ is moderately hard or feasible while moving?

While Bitcoin’s hash rate is changeable as a whole, it lacks specificity. Can the hash rate be divided or tailored to somewhere specific?

Can difficulty be tailored or adapted by AI to individual machines to improve output or will it never drift from a pre-determined fixed mathematical state? What about adapting mining difficulty to machines of older age or those with less power to be more inclusive so as not to toss aside rigs with more experience but less ability.

All these questions on reliability of speed and difficulty are tied to three factors:
1. The computing body,
2. The transmitting device and
3. The network.

On supply and demand, will Bitcoin’s gold-like finite supply still be applicable in a hundred years?

There’s also the question of centralisation (or decentralisation). Many would argue Bitcoin isn’t really private or anonymous. What about those for whom anonymity is an absolute must to be an active working participant? While a centralized governing authority may suit most, full and complete participation can only be achieved with the option of self-sovereignty in a truly decentralized environment. After all, not all of us are crazy. With respect to the latter, what safeguards will be in place with a Monero-like guarantee of absolute privacy and anonymity – decentralised self-governance and machine identifiers so to say.

With Bitcoin mining consuming enough energi to power an entire country, it makes perfect sense to seek an alternative, more sustainable source that balances consumption with emission. Imagine what one could do with enough energy to power the world.

Learning the cryptic code of mining opens up a whole new world indeed, with hope it’s not Pandora’s box.