What a brilliant idea: Proof of usefulness in Crypto

David Glibertson, describes in his excellent Medium Series “ My adventures in Crypto” an new visionary idea how the mining energy wasting could be converted in some useful energy consumption by solving real world puzzles. What a nice idea, here the excerpt of his idea. You can find the whole article here.

One of Bitcoin’s biggest downsides is the fact that it uses — some might say ‘wastes’ — an enormous amount of electricity.

So I’ve been wondering, what if you could take the proof-of-work mechanism — with thousands upon thousands of processing machines doing work that is ultimately discarded — and somehow get it to do some useful work.

Have you have heard of Folding@home?

“Folding@home is a project focused on disease research. The problems we’re solving require so many computer calculations — and we need your help to find the cures”.

Now you’ve heard of Folding@home.

Doesn’t it seem wrong to you that on one hand there is a need for computing power that will ultimately save lives, and on the other hand there is a mass of computing power being ‘wasted’ to secure a cryptocurrency?

How hard could it be to combine the two?

Maybe it’s possible to break down the protein folding work that Folding@home does into chunks that take a predictable amount of time (e.g. 10 minutes).

If you automate that process of building 10-minute chunks of work, then you could have a difficultly adjustment just like there currently is.

Maybe that’s not possible — to get the timing reliable enough — so perhaps you could have something in the consensus mechanism like: You must earn the right to mine a block by solving a protein folding problem.

Your overall chances of mining a block in a given day would stay the same, since everyone must follow the same rule. The protein folding might take 2 minutes or an hour, it wouldn’t matter in the long run provided the work is evenly distributed.

Maybe it just isn’t possible to break down protein-folding work. But maybe it is possible for SETI work, or something else I haven’t heard of.

Lastly, you’d need a way to submit work to the network, perhaps to be voted on by nodes. Since you probably don’t want to be instrumental in cracking passwords, you might require proof of who the person is. So a proposal to submit proof-of-usefulness puzzles to the network might take the form: “we are Folding@home and our signed proof is at” — they then have a licence to publish puzzles for 1 month, or something like that.
Details details.

Anyway, that’s just some thoughts that have been rattling around in my skull. I’m sure this has already been discussed in great detail somewhere.

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