The word ‘mining’ is at its peak of popularity these days, while the process of cryptocurrency minting has reached both government-owned facilities and privacy of individual homes. Still, there are some features of mining that are unknown to the general public. One of them is smart computation that can become useful in the future. ForkLog talked with well-known visionary and venture investor Alexander Shulgin about what it is.
ForkLog: What is ‘useful mining,’ and what’s so useful about it?
Alexander Shulgin: I’d start with an epigraph, a quote by Nathan Rothschild who rephrased Francis Bacon: “He who owns information, owns the world.” It’s 200 years old but it is only becoming more relevant. How do we perceive mining these days? Most people believe it is mining of cryptocurrencies. It is reasonable to revisit to Satoshi’s description of bitcoin. He wrote it was electronic cash, so everyone perceived it as money, not in its second sense, being a registry of assets.
See, p2p technologies existed before bitcoin, but they went nowhere. Their monetary value brought about by bitcoin gave them momentum, and there was a hype. If people were offered to mine data that have nothing to do with cash, there wouldn’t be any hype.
In fact, there is a spectrum of so called useful computations that cover not only mining of coins, but can mine real assets for the humankind, and it’s incomparably more useful and profitable than mere mining of data that we call cryptocurrencies.
All those Chinese GPU’s that will fail in a year’s time have only one value: they involve the youth in the technology and show there are new horizons where they could evolve, and their knowledge will be of demand. There are other important processes underway: the youth is studying and gaining expertise. Most importantly, they see a different picture of the world. It’s the world of tomorrow, the new habitat.
But even now one has to look ahead and see the new opportunities of mining. They are related to so called big data, and they’re expanding.
Of course, many have heard about big data, some even work in prototype projects focused on them. But it’s all still premature, and the flower’s petals are only opening. By 2020 there will have been 50 zetabytes of data with 99% of them non-structured and non-processed. That’s what will have to be tackled. Useful computations will have to be extracted from those raw materials.
Those hills of data naturally created over the centuries and highest mountains that are to be created by the humankind will have to be processed somehow. That’s where useful mining, which is a necessary way of processing those mountains of data, could come in.
FL: Where could this useful mining apply?
A. S.: Its applicability is diverse, in fact it can be applied anywhere. The most obvious areas of applicability are, of course, related to big data. Considering that data are generated by people, it’s clear that China and India will leave North America and Europe behind. It’s way easier to test a technology with 1.5 billion people. The technology will evolve with data processing and could create personal assistants like Alexa.
Alexa is more suitable in a North American household, not in a small apartment of a regular Chinese national. The size of your apartment influences the process of learning of your personal assistant. What is more important, of course, is to test this assistant with 1.5 billion people, which is more efficient and fundamental than testing with a million.
FL: So, Russia or Ukraine can’t catch up with that?
A. S.: As long as it doesn’t come to large-scale development of solar energy, which is abundant in Africa or India, Russia has an edge: we can produce it in bulk and save a lot. Post-soviet nations still have strong economies of knowledge, and very efficient human assets.
A nation might have a hundred people who could give the land a tilth in ten days, while another nation might have a thousand who could do it in a day. Therefore, their GDP will be higher than that of the nation with a hundred people. But when it comes to the economy of knowledge, a hundred knowledgeable and skillful people could give the land a tilth faster and more efficient than a hundred people. Such society could create a high value added product. Useful mining is a great helper in this regard: it will enable us to make great breakthrough while distributing all resources.
It takes the humankind farther than the economy of knowledge, to the economy of wisdom. Mining useful calculations is staged: cleaning data from noise, forming patterns, gaining knowledge, and using knowledge. The knowledge mined by such calculations will be the knowledge never seen before. Gaining such knowledge is insufficient even at this stage of development, it’s about proficient utilization of such knowledge. That’s what is called the economy of wisdom.
FL: So, standard mining is like using an iPhone just to make calls, while useful mining is like using its full functionality.