Harvesting people for energy. iStock.
A Dutch organization used electricity generated from heat energy of human beings to mine for cryptocurrencies.
Using human beings as an electricity source may sound like science fiction out of the Matrix movies or an episode of Black Mirror, but it may actually be a solution to the environmental problems caused by cryptocurrency mining.
In addition to their association to crime, drugs, and scams, cryptocurrencies have long been blamed for harming the planet. The energy-intensive process required for cryptomining, critcs claim, can't be beneficial for reducing global warming. Various approaches have been devised to fix the problem, including trying to optimize energy consumption and shift to mining using renewable energy.
But a new creative, and somewhat cringey, solution might store the answer. A Dutch organization called the 'Institute of Human Obsolescence' (IoHo) performed a trial using the electricity from heat energy generated by human beings at rest to feed the cryptomining process.
IoHo created a body-suit that uses thermoelectric generators to “harvest the temperature differential between the human body and ambient and convert it into usable electricity. The electricity generated is then fed to a computer that produces cryptocurrency.”
"From the electricity extracted of excess heat, the body-suit runs a computer producing cryptocurrency."
IoHo, founded by an artist named Manuel Beltrán, held four different operations, "extracting biological labour" from 37 "volunteers/ workers/ human-batteries." In total they carried out the trial for 212 hours, with workers on shifts of one, two, or three hours. The experiment produced a measly 127.2 watts of power, an average of 0.6 watts/hour per person.
An average Antminer S9, for example, of a popular mining ASIC, can mine about half a Satoshi per watt. With an average of 0.6 watts/hour per person, you would need to harvest the energy from about 46,000 people lying still 24/7 for a whole month in order to produce a single BTC. With one BTC equal to just under $4k as of press time, that would mean each person would produce power worth about one USD a year.
Looking at the same math from a different angle, since each person can be harvested 0.6 watts/hour on average, you would need about 2,000 people to feed one Antminer. But since a single human body at rest commonly produces around 100 watts of excess heat, that means the efficiency of IoHo equipment was under 1 percent. The efficiency of the human-harvesting method could potentially be improved, say by using better equipment, or harvesting people while exercising instead of at rest. With higher efficiency, a gym filled with a few dozen people exercising could potentially feed a single mining ASIC with the required energy.
The group says it has successfully mined six types of cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum and Litecoin, but aims to focus on "recently created cryptocurrencies that have more potential to grow in value."
Perhaps there is still a chance for green cryptomining. Perhaps one day we’ll be reporting on exchanges adding a BTU/BTC trading pair.