Ken Shirriff decided to mine bitcoins by hand, to illustrate what cryptocurrency math looks like in practice. As he notes, the calculations aren’t terribly complicated — but going by hand, it’s pretty slooow:

Doing one round of SHA-256 by hand took me 16 minutes, 45 seconds.

At this rate, hashing a full Bitcoin block (128 rounds) would take 1.49 days, for a hash rate of 0.67 hashes per day (although I would probably get faster with practice). In comparison, current Bitcoin mining hardware does several terahashes per second, about a quintillion times faster than my manual hashing.

Needless to say, manual Bitcoin mining is not at all practical. Ah, but what about the energy consumption?

Would bitcoins mined by hordes of humans be more energy-efficient than the current power-use trajectory, which is trending rapidly towards Dyson-sphere-construction? Nope.

Humans aren’t a very efficient way to do math en masse:

There’s not much physical exertion, so assuming a resting metabolic rate of 1500kcal/day, manual hashing works out to almost 10 megajoules/hash. A typical energy consumption for mining hardware is 1000 megahashes/joule. Read more from…

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