They’re the unsung heroes of Bitcoin, sitting in hot, dark rooms full of supercomputers, generating wealth that we can all ultimately enjoy. But many miners are now cashing in their Bitcoins and leaving the profession. We spoke to an anonymous miner about the state of his industry.
PC – For those of us that maybe don’t know, can you tell us how a Bitcoin is mined?
BM – Sure. Miners are set complex mathematical problems that they have to solve using computers. The miners are in competition and the one that solves the problem is rewarded with a Bitcoin.
PC – How complex are we talking?
BM – Really complex. One question was, “If a train leaves the station at 11-32am, and I give away three apples, how many apples do I have left?” It took a network of several thousand supercomputers two months to work out the answer.
PC – Which is?
BM – The farmer takes the chicken across the river first and leaves the fox with the grain.
PC – Okay, super complex.
BM – And expensive. We’re talking a lot of computers consuming a lot of energy. If Bitcoin mining was a country, it would consume as much electricity as Switzerland.
PC – Wow. And Switzerland has a LOT of cuckoo clocks and fondue sets to power.
BM – Exactly.
PC – And yet, in spite of the difficulty, mining has continued to grow as an industry. So what’s changed?
BM – We’ve been set a new problem that seems unsolvable. “If the price of Bitcoin suddenly halves, and the price of electricity suddenly doubles, how can you make a profit mining Bitcoin?”
PC – Hmm, that does sound tricky.
BM – When we were first set it, the problem seemed so dangerous, we actually sent a canary into the computer room to be the one to press ‘enter’. It’s a good job we did as the computer exploded.
PC – Oh no. How is the canary?
BM – He lived, but he’ll never operate a supercomputer again.
PC – Oh dear.
BM – It’s one of those completely unsolvable problems, like “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Or, “What’s the point of Lady Gaga?” That’s why miners are selling up.
PC – Authorities in Kenya and El Salvador have offered miners cheap geothermal power if they transfer their operations to those countries. Is there hope for you there?
BM – Possibly. But they have different electricity sockets so I would have to buy 45,000 travel adaptors from a pharmacy. To be honest, I will probably stop mining.
PC – And what will you do instead?
BM – Pursue my dream. I never wanted to be a miner. I wanted to be a ballet dancer, like Billy Elliott. But 12 years of eating cheeseburgers next to a big computer hasn’t done much for my physique. I might try opera singing instead.
PC – Best of luck.