Do aliens like bitcoin?

As the price of bitcoin has continued its bull run this week, cryptocurrencies have indeed been linked to aliens or, more specifically, our inability to find them.

The bitcoin alien paradox, inspired by Enrico Fermi, comes from SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program, where the chief scientist is complaining that the group can’t acquire graphics processing units because of demand from cryptocurrency mining operations.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” Dr. Dan Werthimer explained to the BBC while pointing the finger directly at the cryptomining community. “That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?”

GPUs are used by cryptominers to solve mathematical equations as a way of validating transactions on the blockchain. As media hype surrounding cryptocurrencies exploded last year, so too did those seeking to make money through mining. That has spurred exponential growth in demand for GPUs, which has resulted in massive price increases and shortages, as GPU makers have been unable to keep up with demand.

SETI uses GPUs to process spectrum data from sky scans. “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?” Dr. Werthimer added. “That takes a lot of computing power.”

There are other likely connections between the study of aliens and cryptocurrencies as well. The Fermi Paradox, which is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, could also be applied to cryptocurrencies: in this case, the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence of any serious use for most cryptocurrencies versus the value placed in many of them by market speculators.

Photo: NBC

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