Those with a figurative, but attentive ears to the sky listening for messages from extraterrestrials may find it hard to hear anything above the noise of Bitcoin mining.
According to Popular Mechanics, the mania of the cryptocurrency has ballooned the demand for computer chips used in the “digital mining” of the currency, chips also used by scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project.
— Oliver N Oram (@ONOUKSV) February 15, 2018
The creation of cryptocurrencies is a computer memory-intensive job, requiring hosts of graphics processing units (GPUs). While devoted primarily to video creation and art designs, GPUs give a user a great wealth of computer memory.
The demands on GPUs has caused Nvida, a computer graphics hardware company, told investors recently, “Whether it’s deep learning or virtual reality or cryptocurrency — you name it — it’s going to find its way to us. The mega trend is that GPU computing has come into its time.”
In fairness, aliens are at least a few million light years away and bitcoin runs out in a few. Long live basement dwellers! https://t.co/TSb9btoN0B
— Comrade Balding (@BaldingsWorld) February 15, 2018
There is no infinite supply of material for GPUs, so the hording of such material by Bitcoin enthusiasts has left SETI worried about the impact on their search for E.T.
“We’d like to use the latest GPUs… and we can’t get ’em,” Dan Werthimer, chief SETI scientist of UC Berkeley, tells the BBC.
What worries Werthimer about the shortage is that it is obviously not known what frequency aliens would communicate with us on, so scientists are trying to monitor as many as they can. And that takes processing power.
“We want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can because we don’t know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on and we want to look for lots of different signal types,” Werthimer says. “Is it AM or FM? What communication are they using? That takes a lot of computing power.”
Frustratingly for Werthimer and his research team, the SETI project was gearing up to expand its capabilities until Bitcoin swooped in to seize the market share of GPUs.
“We’ve got the money, we’ve contacted the vendors, and they say, ‘We just don’t have them,’” Werthimer says.
There is hope that when new chips in production, specifically designed for cryptocurrency production enters the market soon, it will ease the shortage of GPUs. Until then, the units found for sale have highly marked up price tags on them.
What do you think?
Leave a comment on our Facebook Page