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Cryptocurrencies and the Search for Alien Life

While the proponents of the new forms of digital wealth called cryptocurrencies claim the decentralization of wealth will be positive development for future uptopian socities, cryptocurrencies aren’t without their downsides. And conspiracy theories, of course. I recently had a friend explain to me how cyrptocurrencies were part of a massive global consipracy to more quickly exhaust the planet’s supply of fossil fuels in order to force a transition to renewable energy. While that one is likely best saved for the tin foil hat pile, it is true that the demand for resouces fueled by cryptocurrency mining has had some unforeseen consequences. For one, prominent astronomers involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence are claiming that cryptocurrencies are seriously hindering the search for alien life, according to a new report published by the BBC. Will the cryptocurrency phenomenon prevent us from ever locating our cosmic neighbors?

Several astronomers and scientists told BBC News that the cryptocurrency craze is affecting how they are able to conduct their research. SETI astronomer Dan Werthimer says that the demand for certain computer components has soared in recent months thanks to the buying frenzy sparked by cyrptocurrency miners, limiting the amount of available technology for use in the search for aliens:

We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em. We’ve got the money, we’ve contacted the vendors, and they say, ‘We just don’t have them.’ 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.

Scanning the cosmos for unnatural or anomalous signals requires massive amounts of computing resources, and unfortunately so does mining for fake digital money. And we all know which one takes precedence, right?

Looks pretty sustainable to me.

Sure, looks pretty sustainable to me.

Greed. Greed ruins everything. Science always takes a back seat to the love of money. We could all enjoy a pretty nice place here on Earth, but the greed of a select few means most of us have to toil in the gutter for whatever scraps are left over. Of course, those are admittedly pretty nice scraps for some of us – but for far from all of us. Can anything be done, though? History teaches us that societal inequality might be a constant among human civilizations – at least until we invent replicators in the 24th century. While cryptocurrencies might have been invented with democracy in mind, they’re proving that greed will be greed in whatever new form it takes. Sorry, science.