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Satoshi Nakamoto

Bitcoin minting is thermodynamically perverse

I believe that the amount of energy input required to the bitcoin economy represents a serious obstacle to its growth.

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The following content was written by gridecon on August 06, 2010, 01:52:00 AM in the thread Bitcoin minting is thermodynamically perverse. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


Let me begin by saying that Bitcoin is an amazing project and I am very impressed with the implementation and the goals. From reading these forums it seems to be understood that debate about the design and operation of the bitcoin economy ultimately serves to strengthen it, so I hope these comments are taken in that spirit. *EDIT – I have been convinced by further research and discussion that Bitcoin is actually highly efficient compared to most traditional currencies, because the infrastructure required to support a government issued fiat currency represents a much larger investment of resources than Bitcoin’s cpu power consumption. I am leaving this thread active though because it has been generating a lot of interesting discussion.*

I believe that the amount of energy input required to the bitcoin economy represents a serious obstacle to its growth. I think in the long-term, transactions may be even more serious than minting in this regard, but I will for the moment discuss minting because it is more precisely bounded and defined. The idea that the value of bitcoins is in some way related to the value of the electricity required, on average, to mint a winning block is generally accepted, but the precise nature of this relationship is contentious.

One argument is that anyone who chooses to generate coins is actually making the choice to purchase bitcoins with electricity/computational resources, and that because some/many people are in fact making that choice, bitcoins have at least that much “value” to the generators, who can be assumed to be maximizing their utility. A contrasting argument is that cost of production is different than market value, and the most objective measure is the current market conversion price to a more liquid and widely traded currency such as the US dollar.

My contention is that both of these arguments miss the point and the real problem, which is the fundamental perversity of wasting large amounts of energy and computations in generating the winning blocks for the minting process. The minting process exists because of the necessity of actually “printing” the currency, and certain desirable properties of crypto-math for making the currency’s behavior predictable. The fact that the current minting process requires a large energy input of computational work is highly unfortunate and has the perverse consequence that bitcoin may actually be “destroying wealth” in the sense of wasting energy producing a digital object worth less than the resources invested in it.

As is often pointed out, a currency does not necessarily have, or need to have, any inherent value – a medium of exchange is a useful tool and can have value purely as a consequence of social convention. The cost of production of bitcoins in electricity consumed represents a waste, a “thermodynamic burden” that the currency has to carry. Consider a hypothetical alternative digital currency called “compucoin”, which purchases cpu cycles from nodes on the network. The market value of this currency would converge very closely with the cost of electricity required to generate cpu cycles. Instead of costing cpu cycles to mint, the value of the cpu cycles the coins could be exchanged for would create a rational basis for the currency’s value and integrate it with an existing market. I imagine that alternatives to Bitcoin (many of them probably sharing a lot of Bitcoin’s source code) will inevitably emerge and Bitcoin’s current minting process makes the currency “expensive” in terms of energy input. I believe this places it at a competitive disadvantage to other currencies and can only hinder its widespread adoption and long-term value. *Edit – as mentioned above, I am now much more optimistic about Bitcoin long term. I still think compucoins would be a cool idea, though!*

The following content was written by knightmb on August 06, 2010, 02:26:50 AM in the thread Bitcoin minting is thermodynamically perverse. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


I believe that the amount of energy input required to the bitcoin economy represents a serious obstacle to its growth. I think in the long-term, transactions may be even more serious than minting in this regard, but I will for the moment discuss minting because it is more precisely bounded and defined. The idea that the value of bitcoins is in some way related to the value of the electricity required, on average, to mint a winning block is generally accepted, but the precise nature of this relationship is contentious.

One argument is that anyone who chooses to generate coins is actually making the choice to purchase bitcoins with electricity/computational resources, and that because some/many people are in fact making that choice, bitcoins have at least that much “value” to the generators, who can be assumed to be maximizing their utility. A contrasting argument is that cost of production is different than market value, and the most objective measure is the current market conversion price to a more liquid and widely traded currency such as the US dollar.
My only counter is that it will seem that way to a first time user, because they have no bitcoins at all. But there are a possible 3.6 million bitcoins out there plus a member here runs a site that gives away free bitcoins so people can experiment with the system. The amount of actually energy, if you break it down, is only that of the PC itself. When you consider how few watts a processor runs to get a block where each 50 BTC block is worth about $3 USD, that’s much more than the electricity cost it took to create it. Right now, you can generate BitCoins and sell them for more than it cost the electricity to run the PC to do it unless your electrical rates are the highest in the world. The only reason no one does is the scale of economics that would be required to make it profitable.
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My contention is that both of these arguments miss the point and the real problem, which is the fundamental perversity of wasting large amounts of energy and computations in generating the winning blocks for the minting process. The minting process exists because of the necessity of actually “printing” the currency, and certain desirable properties of crypto-math for making the currency’s behavior predictable. The fact that the current minting process requires a large energy input of computational work is highly unfortunate and has the perverse consequence that bitcoin may actually be “destroying wealth” in the sense of wasting energy producing a digital object worth less than the resources invested in it.
The same can be said about gene folding or SETI since a ton of CPU time and electricity often does not reward the individual user of the their client software. It’s the collection as a whole that rewards everyone in non-monetary ways (find cure for cancer, find aliens, etc.)
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As is often pointed out, a currency does not necessarily have, or need to have, any inherent value – a medium of exchange is a useful tool and can have value purely as a consequence of social convention. The cost of production of bitcoins in electricity consumed represents a waste, a “thermodynamic burden” that the currency has to carry. Consider a hypothetical alternative digital currency called “compucoin”, which purchases cpu cycles from nodes on the network. The market value of this currency would converge very closely with the cost of electricity required to generate cpu cycles. Instead of costing cpu cycles to mint, the value of the cpu cycles the coins could be exchanged for would create a rational basis for the currency’s value and integrate it with an existing market. I imagine that alternatives to Bitcoin (many of them probably sharing a lot of Bitcoin’s source code) will inevitably emerge and Bitcoin’s current minting process makes the currency “expensive” in terms of energy input. I believe this places it at a competitive disadvantage to other currencies and can only hinder its widespread adoption and long-term value.
Unless electrical rates go up higher than the value of BTC, there will always be people willing to trade out CPU resources for it. Currently, cheap VPS farming has a return on BTC generation, though not very much. The other benefit is that the generation rate tries to remain constant, so it’s not always going be hard to generate BTC if less and less people decide to do it, the difficulty goes back down.

The following content was written by gridecon on August 06, 2010, 03:00:12 AM in the thread Bitcoin minting is thermodynamically perverse. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


Thanks very much for the extensive and informative reply. I do not disagree with the points that you made, but I also don’t believe it invalidates my fundamental point: it is not inherently necessary for a digital currency such as bitcoin to require as much energy input as bitcoin does. A digital currency that offers bitcoin’s behavior at a “lower cost” of energy overhead of the currency and transaction system has a competitive advantage. The digital currencies that will win and become standards, I believe, are the ones that offer the most value-added on top of the costs of running the system. Of course, there is room for many currencies – we already have a multiplicity – so it is not necessary for Bitcoin to become the “one true money” for it to succeed, but I believe the current minting policies will be harmful to its growth and adoption long-term. Much of the utility value of bitcoin resides in the work done to establish the security and reliability of the system – accomplishing that work with a smaller energy input would seem to be beneficial.

The following content was written by knightmb on August 06, 2010, 03:30:45 AM in the thread Bitcoin minting is thermodynamically perverse. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


Thanks very much for the extensive and informative reply. I do not disagree with the points that you made, but I also don’t believe it invalidates my fundamental point: it is not inherently necessary for a digital currency such as bitcoin to require as much energy input as bitcoin does. A digital currency that offers bitcoin’s behavior at a “lower cost” of energy overhead of the currency and transaction system has a competitive advantage. The digital currencies that will win and become standards, I believe, are the ones that offer the most value-added on top of the costs of running the system. Of course, there is room for many currencies – we already have a multiplicity – so it is not necessary for Bitcoin to become the “one true money” for it to succeed, but I believe the current minting policies will be harmful to its growth and adoption long-term. Much of the utility value of bitcoin resides in the work done to establish the security and reliability of the system – accomplishing that work with a smaller energy input would seem to be beneficial.

I think though you are comparing apples to oranges. The coin generation is for currency creation. You don’t need to generate any coin to use the bitcoin system. You can purchase it from many market sites or get some donated for free from other sites. The current minting policy is what makes it useful because a digital currency where everyone has unlimited amounts (or large starting amounts) just causes unnecessary starting inflation. The overhead for the currency is by design, otherwise if someone creates an *easier* system, it will be quickly abused. Since you can’t make everyone play fair, you create something where it’s nearly impossible to cheat by using math. To make cheating expensive instead of “easy” is where this system works. If it’s more profitable to generate coin than to cheat it, guess which one everyone will go with?
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Satoshi Nakamoto

Has someone made a “buy with bitcoins” button?

I mean an image. You know a nice one that people can put on their checkout webpages.

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The following content was written by mtgox on July 21, 2010, 08:48:44 PM in the thread Has someone made a “buy with bitcoins” button?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


I mean an image. You know a nice one that people can put on their checkout webpages.

The following content was written by jgarzik on July 21, 2010, 09:01:11 PM in the thread Has someone made a “buy with bitcoins” button?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


More than just an image…

Even though the bitcoin network itself handles fundamental transaction processing, web shopping carts will need additional amounts of payment processing to match purchases to incoming payments, be notified when a payment is processed (currently bitcoin purchase can take multiple hours to be confirmed), though order fulfillment and completion.

Even a simple “donate” button will require some sort of payment processing gadgetry a la Paypal’s web button engine, if you want people to provide names and/or messages along with their donation.

It’s tempting to code up a button engine myself, actually…

The following content was written by mtgox on July 21, 2010, 09:14:07 PM in the thread Has someone made a “buy with bitcoins” button?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


Yeah I know. I’m 90% done with the code part of it. Just seeing if someone had already made a button image before breaking out photoshop.

So wait to code yours since hopefully you can just use mine 🙂
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Satoshi Nakamoto

On bitcoin generation, and bitcoin organizations

Bitcoin is a currency, literally, in its infancy. The concept is, as far as I know, the first of its kind.

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The following content was written by jgarzik on February 20, 2011, 06:44:53 AM in the thread Pros and cons of using new Bitcoin addresses for each transaction?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


Can someone please give me a list of the pros and cons of using new Bitcoin addresses for each transaction? It seems very inconvenient to use a new address each time.

warning, I am a newbie…liked the videos presentations, did some research…and tried it.  Bitcoin.exe on an i7 –only application—24/7 x 10 days—on generate mode.  Only successful in the gratuitous .05 BTC from faucet per computer per public ip address.  I had plans to accept Bitcoins on all my websites…hired web developers  …faced ZERO SUPPORT ANYWHERE.

Bitcoin definitely needs to grow some organizations that can offer technical advice and software support for bitcoin itself.  Most major open source projects have one or more companies doing this.  That would help with bitcoin adoption, too.

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So question number ONE.  What happens to the Bitcoin if I don’t use it, save it?  I speculate it ONLY serves to increase the value of those users and optimists who are “fan boys”.  I have spent too much time…wasting…which cost me more money than I could have possibly made  in two weeks.

Bitcoin is a currency, literally, in its infancy.  The concept (distributed notary service with digital signatures) is, as far as I know, the first of its kind.  It is still being “bootstrapped,” meaning that bitcoin does not have a self-supporting economy — which must, by its nature, encompass mundane things like buying gasoline with BTC, paying rent or mortgage with BTC, buying groceries with BTC.

So, what can you do with the bitcoins you have right now?  Not a lot, if you ignore bootstrapping services (services like currency exchanges or bitcointo.com).  Mostly software services like web hosting, and an odd assortment of tangible goods.

But it seems like most folks in the bitcoin community recognize that we just started construction of a very interesting and unique experiment in currency.  Any endeavour is, unfortunately, very high risk from an investment standpoint.  It might fail for dozens of reasons…  but wouldn’t be fun and interesting if it succeeded?

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Question Number Two.  My PC’s were set up by my SYSADMIN’s.  After a few bouts of “actvity”….I ended up with 100% CPU on all cores…and the “connect” prompt  says unconnected.  Thats a lot of power and CPU cycles for Nothing…a big fat waste of time.  You want me to be impressed so we can get the concept moving?  Put up simple to understand “NOOB” isms…so that morons like myself…can learn HOW to connect.  If no connect…why the 100% CPU on all cores and NOTHING going on?  FOR DAYS?  I don’t have time for games.  When you guys are serious…I’ll be back.   I love all the concepts supporting it…but I will not GIVE AWAY valuable product from my websites for coins that have no value TO ME.

Step 1: Turn off “Generate coins” option.  It is a waste of time and electricity.

Step 2: Wait for all the blocks to download.  As of this writing, there are 109245 of them.

Step 3: Don’t panic, and read the forums.  If you can post specific problems you are seeing after following steps #1 and #2, you can get answers.

Step 4: Hire better SYSADMIN’s.  They should be able to answer these basic questions and offer basic support, or not install software that neither you or they understand.


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Satoshi Nakamoto

How many bitcoin addresses exist?

The larger the hash160 is, the more base58 characters required to represent its address.

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The following content was written by davux on November 10, 2010, 10:21:15 PM in the thread Pros and cons of using new Bitcoin addresses for each transaction?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


It’s not. It’s 62^33, which is slightly over 10^59.
How did you arrive to this result?

An address has 33 significant characters, each of which has 62 possible values (10 numbers, 26 uppercase letters, 26 lowercase).
So you have 62 * 62 * … * 62 possibilities (33 times).

Actually, now that I remember, it’s 58 (uppercase i and lowercase L are not included because they look too similar, same for zero and uppercase o).

So there are 58^33 possibles values, which is slightly more than 10^58. Still high, but not quite as high as 10^92.

The following content was written by theymos on November 10, 2010, 10:40:57 PM in the thread Pros and cons of using new Bitcoin addresses for each transaction?. All content is owned by the author of the bitcointalk.org post. (original)


An address has 33 significant characters, each of which has 62 possible values (10 numbers, 26 uppercase letters, 26 lowercase).
So you have 62 * 62 * … * 62 possibilities (33 times).

Actually, now that I remember, it’s 58 (uppercase i and lowercase L are not included because they look too similar, same for zero and uppercase o).

So there are 58^33 possibles values, which is slightly more than 10^58. Still high, but not quite as high as 10^92.

As ByteCoin already explained earlier in the topic, an address contains a non-data check code and version number. There are actually “only” 160 bits of randomness in each address: 2^160, or 1.46×10^48 possible addresses.

Addresses can also be 25-34 characters in length, depending on how numerically large the hash160+check code is (the larger it is, the more base58 characters required).
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