SETI Claims Cryptocurrency is Hurting The Search For Alien Life

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 - 7:16PM
Technology
Alien Life
Wednesday, 14 February 2018 - 7:16PM
SETI Claims Cryptocurrency is Hurting The Search For Alien Life
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The ongoing speculator goldrush surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is causing more than a few problems for humanity's scientific progress.

Leaving aside the downturn that's going to occur when the bubble inevitably bursts and Bitcoin instantly becomes worthless, there's a more immediate problem: speculators are hogging all the good hard drives. According to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, one unforeseen result of the cryptocurrency craze is that those looking for intelligent alien life are having to work with inferior hardware.

Dr Dan Werthimer, a representative for SETI, has explained to the BBC that the current situation is less than ideal, as most of the high-end hardware is being sucked up by prospective Bitcoin miners:

Opening quote
"We'd like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]... and we can't get 'em. That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?' This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months."
Closing quote




Mining cryptocurrency requires powerful hardware in order to handle the calculations involved, and an increasing number of late adopters of the technology, all looking for a big payout, means that there's not enough computer equipment to go around.

This is an issue that's affecting a lot of different industries, including the world of video games, as hard drive prices are rising because manufacturers are having a harder time getting hold of key components while demand for secure cryptocurrency takes precedent over other uses of the technology.

According to Werthimer, SETI requires the very same equipment in order to scan the heavens for radio frequencies that aliens might be using to communicate:

Opening quote
"At SETI 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 - is it AM or FM, what communication are they using? That takes a lot of computing power."
Closing quote




Considering the continued radio silence from the stars, it's possible that SETI's efforts may prove fruitless. Aliens might not be using the same radio signal-based communication technology that we've developed, and they might not even be looking to explore the stars at all.

There's also the possibility that there genuinely aren't any other intelligent life forms out there in the cosmos, which in and of itself seems like a fairly bleak prospect.

The good news is that, one way or the other, these current hardware shortages are likely to be shortlived. Production will increase to meet the new demand, and it won't be long before speculators start questioning whether cryptocurrency is genuinely worth the hassle in the first place. As with comic books and Beanie Babies, no investor boom can last forever.

For those who are really looking to make a fortune from the popularity of cryptocurrency, another, safer bet has presented itself. Now looks like the perfect time to invest in computer chip companies, as everyone from Bitcoin speculators to video gamers to alien enthusiasts are looking to spend more money on their products.
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