EXCLUSIVE: Gridcoin founder talks revolution in mining


The most damning complaint against bitcoin is the wasted electricity and computational power its spawned. Globally, bitcoin miners consume more than 130,000 megawatt hours a day. That’s enough to power 13,000 U.S. homes for a year! Greenhouse gas emission from bitcoin mining alone is up to 0.03 percent of the global total – roughly the same output as Cyprus (source). It’s a serious problem that’s only getting worse.

Enter 40-something Rob Halford who lives outside Phoenix, Arizona. His vision? A coin that diverts the bulk of that electricity away from meaningless cryptographic hashes into solving serious scientific problems such as finding a cure for AIDs, doing cancer research or creating better weather models.

“I watched bitcoin prices rise from $0.01 to $500 a coin and could not believe how much heat was wasted collectively,” Halford says in an exclusive interview with one crypto website. “One morning, I thought there just had to be a way to use the crypto clock cycles to do something useful instead of finding a solved suffix. So of course, it led me to the idea of tapping in to complete BOINC tasks as a proof of work. That inspired me to write Gridcoin.”

Gridcoin launched on Oct. 16, 2013 with the aim of shifting computational power primarily to BOINC (the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) projects. That makes mining operations a secondary priority. In essence, that means that miners who perform scientific research on their computers get much larger gridcoin rewards than miners who don’t.

The idea is catching on. A month ago, gridcoin contributors were ranked No. 4,055 on BOINC’s worldwide team contributor list. Today, gridcoin contributors are ranked 96th in the world and counting.

“I would like Gridcoin to pick up all of litecoin’s miners so that we can move to the #1 world BOINC position, and I would also like to create a foundation so that we can achieve even more humanitarian goals, such as philanthropy and solving the world’s hunger problem,” Halford says. “Although indirectly related, I view our humanitarian department as both responsible for engineering new food sources (World Community Grid), and redirecting alternative energy savings to food production for starving countries.”

Halford works by day as a programmer for a database company. He also runs a small side business with “a couple of programmers.” On top of that, he’s spending roughly 40 hours a week coding for gridcoin. He originally had three contributors but is now down to one additional Android programmer. His immediate goals include developing a pool system for Gridcoin (which is slightly different than standard pools as gridcoin is integrated with BOINC) and improving gridcoin’s Scrypt Sleep algorithm.

“I wrote programs to do Black-Scholes calculations a few years back, so I have always been interested in quant algorithms and alternative energy,” he says. “I also feel a strong relationship exists between energy and world problems such as food shortages.”

Gridcoin is a start toward addressing those issues, and Halford see it as competition for bitcoin in a way.

“Yes,” he says. “(It does compete with bitcoin) in the respect that non-asic coins will eventually become consolidated with ASIC devices, and eventually bitcoin will be consolidated into the same standard as well.”

The concept of consolidation has him looking into protocols as well.

“Ripple, Mastercoin and Ethereum; I think they all have pros and a lot of potential – obviously one of the cons for various new protocols is they are still unproven, but I love the idea of standardizing the altcoin protocol,” he says. “We don’t really need 100 separate blockchains, 100 sets of decentralized storage, and IT can support and improve a standard spec much better than 100 individual coin codebases leading to huge advancements in quality and user experience and reliability. So I’m excited about the new protocols and hope that one of them sticks. Eventually, I will work with one of the protocol devs and ask if I can contribute by adding the SQL ledger idea (gridcoin allows users to do SQL queries in its query analyzer) or potentially use it for gridcoin.

“I personally think we will help redesign a new crypto spec that will replace the current blockchain and that new system will foster a consolidation for all cryptos into a single payment system, and I hope gridcoin is not only pioneering the effort but is included in consolidation of this single payment system.”

One of the first things that attracted Halford to digital currencies is its alternative model for IPOs. They contrast with banking IPOs and level the playing field.

“I feel that when an investor starts with a coin worth .0001 cents, that person has 1000:1 leverage – in my opinion well deserved when investing in something risky. In contrast in the stock market, the large banks and underwriters dump all the risk on the investors.

“I view bitcoin’s $7 billion market cap as approximately 1/10th of the potential market sector value, and I think the $70 billion cryptocurrency market will be shared among all the best coins.”

He’s confident that gridcoin will be among those best of breed coins, and I hope he’s right. Gridcoin represents a huge step toward solving one of bitcoin’s biggest problems. It’s a model that could revolutionize the altcoin space, and change the world in the process. Learn more at Gridcoin.us

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