Computational Science Through GRC is the Way of the Future - Not Repetitive POW Hashing
Recently, people have been worrying on Reddit and Steemit if BOINC (the distributed compute platform of Berkeley fame) can keep up with the 'demand' imposed on it by Gridcoin (the cryptocurrency rewarding scientific research). As a PhD student, I find the whole concern a little funny, but if you'd humour me I'd love to explain why this will never happen.
As research moves into the modern age, the computation requirements for the bleeding edge of most fields require exponentially more compute power. This will continue to be the case, meaning the compute requirements of progress will get bigger and bigger. If Gridcoin could ever truly provide a platform where any researcher can get any models run in a short timeframe, that would literally mark a new age in the history of humanity.
To put this in perspective, lets take a look at a minuscule corner of biomedical research. If you undergo open heart surgery, your body will be in a bit of a mess when you are recovering in the ICU. One of the complications is that you effectively become a temporary diabetic, unable to regulate your own blood sugar properly.
Blood sugar too high? You die.
Blood sugar too low? You also die.
For my biomedicine honours project, 4 of us spent a whole year developing a new insulin dosing regime for these patients. Developing a regime like this is very complex, as it takes a lot of inputs about the patient and needs to return customised dosing regimes for each individual using the same algorithm. You can probably image it is hard to tailor something to fit every person, but the process goes something like this:
We review past experiments and the literature, and combine that with our own knowledge and intuition to come up with a new regime.
We apply the regime to literally thousands of virtual patients. These virtual patients have all the characteristics of a real human, as they are individualised based off real people that have come through the local ICU in the past. These simulations take a LOT of computational power.
The results are reviewed, then we rinse and repeat ad infinitum. We were actually the 11th year of students to work on this specific project, and there are still students making improvements today.
Now, imagine if at the start of that study I was informed that I could get any amount of compute power I could possibly want, through the BOINC platform. We would have skipped step 1 altogether, and just made a BOINC project try every possible regime, every dosing frequency, every drug delivery method and combination thereof, and then tested the outcome on thousands of virtual patients. At the end of that set of simulations, we would have the perfect insulin dosing regime for patients after open heart surgery. The project would end then and there.
This is why I am frustrated to no end to see the amount of compute going to waste mining BTC and other POW coins. People want to improve the human condition, but don't want to help researchers get there.
There will never, ever be a point where BOINC cannot keep up with Gridcoin demand, until we have brute force cured every disease, cracked every encryption, mapped the entire known universe, etc. I'm dead serious.
If you are still not convinced, allow me to show you something else on a different track:
Do you see that tiny speck in the right-hand sunbeam? That is the Earth. This photo was taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990, at a record distance of 6 billion kilometers. We are specks of dust on a speck of dust. Even ignoring all other forms of science that need compute power, we need an unfathomable amount more computing power to even begin to understand the universe we live in - something that will be vital for the longterm survival of humanity.
Please, do the research community a favour, and use your compute power for something that actually makes a difference.
Pale Blue Dot, NASA
As usual @dutch, thanks for keeping the science in #Gridcoin.
And thank Gridcoin for keeping the science in crypto. Someone has to keep it real. =)
The simple truth is - a stash of bitcoins won't prevent you from suffering from the same diseases as your ancestors. We need computational science if we really want to improve our quality of life. Being rich won't be enough in the long run. PoW hashing got crypto started and it was a breakthrough, but we gotta move on soon.
Nailed it. Blockchain was a giant leap forward, but POW cryptocurrencies are not going to carry us forward any further.
That is exactly right.
Thank you for the post! as Bioinformaticion I experience that need everyday. Unlimited (or at least more than we have today) compute power will help us find new drugs and cures (via chemoinformatics) and make the process much easier, efficient and cheaper, which will make drugs and other treatments more accessible for everybody. Imagine how many lives will be saved just by that!
And I'm really happy I've seen that post, you have great content, and it's super relevant for me! I'm following you :-)
I appreciate the feedback - thank you!
Great to hear you feel the same way! I wish more people took this view and used their computers to help humanity. Maybe the need for compute is just not well understood outside the field.
Love the "Pale Blue Dot" picture. This is the kind of perspective people need to have when tackling our biggest problems as a species. We're all in this together, all of humanity :)
Well put. Carl Sagan reflected on that picture in the early 90s during a public lecture. I think his words emphasise the perspective you mentioned:
Carl Sagan is a boss! haha
Yes there is so much that we don't know and that we never will know simply due to the vastness of the universe. But I think it is important, as you mention, to focus on those things that will impact society the most and continue to keep an eye on the focal points, which will hopefully help to lead us in the right direction in moving forward.... very interesting post here, definitely enjoyed reading
That is both comforting and unsettling at the same time - very true.
Do the researchers pay for the computing power with Gridcoin?
Some do, but it is not required. The Gridcoin blockchain rewards the workforce of each project for free at some base level. If the researchers want to attract even more compute power, they have the option to 'rain' GRC onto their workforce through the Gridcoin wallet.
So is it similar to how the Steem blockchain pays content creators and curators but Steem users can also directly tip the content creators in order to attract even more quality content?
That is a really, really good analogy! Never thought of it that way, but the parallel is perfect.
No, the people mining (those running BOINC) are rewarded. The researchers (those who run the BOINC projects) only have to pay for server costs, not the miners.
What kind of servers?
Data storage or data processing?
The servers that handout the Work Units (the work that the researchers want being done). Each BOINC client communicates with the project servers to get these work units. So they send the raw data and receive the processed data. The processed data is also verified by other BOINC users. So no data processing is required on the server side.
I'll link some resources for any other questions you may have:
If something isn't on there don't be afraid to ask!
Hope this helps start your BOINC/Gridcoin journey!
Thanks for the introduction, as a scientist and a crypto lover grid sounds hot 4 sure :)
As usual @dutch you put things forward in a succinct and informative manner.
The public's realisation that PoW coins, in the long run only benefit the rich, the power companies and contribute to climate change will happen as more people become aware of the potential implications.
It's heartening to know we already have the solution with #Gridcoin and BOINC as a symbiotic ethical and green way to earn a cryptocurrency.
The potential benefits to humanity are 'mind boggling' as the number of computational projects that require data solutions grow exponentially.
The majority of these projects are in the field of medical science, mathematics, social science and space science so the future of #Gridcoin and its community looks bright.
Courtesy of @joshoeah
Courtesy of @joshoeah
I like the idea of grc, pretty good way to be a part of something big in crypto
I completely support GRC mining in the name of science. I was urged to stop for a while but now everything seems to be normal already.
great article and advertisement to do the right thing!
as always @dutch !
Endişeedecek birşey yok
thanks for the information
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