As the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to expand into various sectors of the economy, the need for computational resources to power these systems is becoming increasingly pressing. The cost of training large neural models is already exorbitant, and it will only become more expensive as AI evolves towards higher levels of artificial general intelligence. To address this challenge, a growing number of cryptocurrency miners are exploring the potential of leveraging their compute infrastructure for AI and high-performance computing (HPC) applications.

Mining as a Lucrative Business, But with Rapidly Shifting Landscape

Bitcoin mining remains a profitable business, but the landscape for mining other cryptocurrencies is rapidly shifting. The Ethereum network’s transition from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake last year, for instance, significantly impacted Ether mining. As a result, more crypto mining organizations are looking to explore other uses for their facilities, such as HPC and AI.

Challenges in Setting Up Mining Farms

While the computing hardware needed for HPC or AI processing may differ from what’s optimal for crypto mining, setting up a mining farm requires significant investment in physical infrastructure such as power, cooling, and security. This investment is similar whether one is hosting RAM-light GPUs suitable for ETH mining or RAM-heavy GPUs suitable for AI model learning.

Leading the Way: Mining Firms Expanding into HPC and AI

Mining firm Hut 8 has been leveraging its mining-dedicated compute facilities for HPC and machine learning, while Hive Blockchain has been filling its servers with processor cards that can be used for cloud computing, AI applications, and scientific modelling of fluid dynamics.

The Potential Difficulty of Controlling a Globally Distributed AI Network Powered by Crypto Mining Rigs

As more mining organizations begin to explore the potential of leveraging their facilities for AI and HPC, it may become more difficult for governments to control a globally distributed AI network powered by crypto mining rigs. This presents a new set of challenges for policymakers, as they seek to strike a balance between promoting innovation and ensuring that these technologies are used ethically and responsibly.