Could Bitcoin mining be used to power scientific innovation? That is the question posed by chief AI scientist of the blockchain startup Matrix, Yangdong Deng. According to Deng, the Bitcoin network or others like it could be altered so that the expenditure of computational resources is not merely used on generating cryptocurrency, but also in powering research such as artificial intelligence development.

Yangdong Deng cited a report that estimates the total global computational power of the world is 8.23×10²² floating point operations per second, and that bitcoin is currently consuming 1.2×10²³ operations, as measured in FLOPS.

According to Deng, the amount of computing power necessary to run a brain network simulation is about 10^18 flops. And that a “human metabolic network simulation“ is 10^25 flops.

What we don’t know is if the Bitcoin network could be altered in such a way that it’s computing power could be used for secondary purposes. If this is possible, then this could prove to be a very important innovation for future scientific development.

CureCoin, Folding Coin, and Doge F@H

Let’s consider the case of CureCoin. The CureCoin project is one that uses cryptocurrency rewards in order to encourage participants to run the Stanford University Folding @ Home program. This program is a decentralized processor of gene folding, which is something that is very difficult to do on a large scale. Participants in the CureCoin network receive daily payouts based on the amount of points they earned from folding.

A separate group of volunteers participate in a similar program using Dogecoin as a reward. And yet a third project uses their own coin called FoldingCoin. Medical use cases aside, another project that offers cryptocurrency rewards for computing power is the ever popular Gridcoin.

Given the relative success of projects like CureCoin, which are now worth as much as $0.75 each and a total market cap of $17 million, it may be possible that either a new blockchain or a new distributed computing platform that provides rewards in a different cryptocurrency could be used. It is conceivable that a program similar to Stanford’s Folding @ Home could be developed and participants could be rewarded in a different but already popular cryptocurrency such as bitcoin.

As for Matrix specifically and Yangdong Deng, they are looking to include AI into Bitcoin mining through a system called MCMC or Markov chain Monte Carlo. According to Matrix, the computation functions of MCMC are similar enough to bitcoin that they can perhaps be interoperable one day.

Cryptocurrency mining has shown its power to attract large numbers of people to devote massive amounts of computing power. It would seem inevitable that more projects like CureCoin or Deng’s AI project will come to life.