Chia Is a Supposedly Green Cryptocurrency, But Is It All That?
Being friendlier to the environment compared to Bitcoin was supposed to be one of Chia’s main selling points. But given how it gives a similar strain on the environment in the sense of upping the consumption of hard disks, the question remains: Is it truly as green as its makers claim to be?
The Problem with Bitcoin Mining
The problem with Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies, as the critics put it, lies in mining, the process used for disseminating the tokens. As people do so in an attempt to stockpile as much of it as possible, their mining rigs consume a ton of electricity, thus creating carbon emissions that get released into the environment.
Nicely explained by learncrypto.com, crypto mining is like guessing numbers in a lottery. But instead of trying to guess the correct numbers on your own, the computers do it instead. In other words, anyone who wants to participate only needs a computer or a smart device and they’re good to go. The more powerful the hardware, the more crypto coins come your way. Plugin another device, and your earning potential increases.
But there’s a giant elephant in the room – the process wastes power for essentially nothing.
Enter Chia, the Supposedly Greener Alternative
Bram Cohen, otherwise known as the creator of the BitTorrent file distribution protocol, wanted to come up with a greener alternative to the problem by developing an environmentally friendly cryptocurrency.
Chia, the so-called “green bitcoin”, adopts all of its key characteristics, but instead of consuming computing power for mining, it requires hard disk space. Since the idea was to make it accessible to an average household, Chia mining does not require a specced out machine just to stand a chance of earning something.
The way it works is that every so often, the network broadcasts a challenge, and every farming rig writes a plot to the hard drive. The one closest to the answer is declared the winner. The more hard disk space you have available, the greater the chances of nailing it. Naturally, this led to a giant shopping spree as people wanted to get their hands on as many hard drives as possible, upping the prices in the process and causing shortages.
A Different Kind of Pollutant
Chia mining got to the point of raising hard disk prices threefold and even caused the SSD manufacturers not to honor the warranties. In normal circumstances, a typical SSD would last for more than a decade. But put it to work by mining Chia, and you could burn through one in as little as six weeks. You can imagine how much waste this produces in terms of computer components.
Moreover, it turns out that Chia plotting is not that light on electricity consumption either, as the process takes a heavy toll on the CPU when performing arbitrary calculations. Although you could technically pull it off on the Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer that is low on resources, running multiple CPU threads proved to be more efficient. It goes without saying; when profit is the name of the game, people tend to do what it takes to secure it. And therein lies the problem of Chia.
The final resting ground for SSDs we burn through in an instant.
When Theory Does Not Meet Practice
Although Chia started out with good intentions (to reduce the carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining), it ultimately failed to account for human psychology and how people would go at each other’s throats to turn a profit.
This, in turn, created hard drive shortages, making it hard for people to access this vital computer component even for productive, non-crypto-related purposes. And although no one questions the originality of Chia’s innovative concept and design, there’s a thought that lingers on everyone’s mind… could things have been done differently?
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