This is an incomplete FAQ (based on initial reactions on Twitter and elsewhere) that will be updated periodically.
- Is there reason to believe that manufacturing of OPoW miners will be more decentralized than ASIC manufacturing currently?
There are no guarantees in decentralized networks, but we think all evidence points to OPoW creating a more decentralized network.
a. Cost of entering OPoW hardware manufacturing will be much lower due to Silicon Photonics using old CMOS (~220 nm vs. ~7 nm for transistors).
b. Removing electricity prices from the mining equation means that miners do not have to concentrate in regions with cheap power or depend on the sanction of governments which control most energy sources.
2. What other costs would replace energy?
3. Sounds like an ICO. Is there AI, machine learning, and IoT involved too?
This is not an ICO, but we do try to work in as many buzzwords as possible :)
4. Are you saying that Bitmain is evil?
No. We are not making a judgment of that nature. What we are saying is that any cryptocurrency network that has a single point of failure is not decentralized, and is therefore a flawed store of value. Although Bitmain may have good intentions — crypto market growth is good for them after all — the fact that today’s PoW ecosystem tends towards high levels of centralization (Bitmain or otherwise) needs to be addressed.
On a day to day basis this centralization does not affect users negatively, but if governments or other parties want to abuse/disrupt the system, centralization makes it much easier. Carrying that kind of risk is not acceptable (or, at minimum, not preferable) if the network is going to hold Trillions of dollars in value. Bitmain will very likely be a competitor in OPoW hardware manufacturing if OPoW succeeds and we welcome that.
5. Why not just compute SHA256 optically? Accomplish the same goal without needing to switch POW.
Many have tried… there is a large economic incentive. Analog optical computing is pretty limited in the types of computations it can do efficiently. It’s much more feasible to design the PoW around those limitations.
6. Are there multiple producers of “Application Specific Photonic Integrated Circuits?”
There are fabs that offer MPW and full production run services all over the world. There are also companies selling commercial Silicon Photonic chips (mostly for communications at this point, but many startups working on application specific computation in non-crypto verticals such as neural networks).
7. What do you think of Chia Network’s ideas for an alternative to PoW?
We think it’s a great project. Proof of Space Time is fundamentally Proof of Hardware Depreciation, just like OPoW. One advantage we have is that their network would, perhaps, be easier to attack with a botnet or rented cloud hardware because storage is so general. Specialized hardware should mean significantly increased security.
8. On your slide about energy consumption why do you make no mention of private corporations providing low cost power. Why do you assume all low cost power is in the hands of government?
There may be some private companies selling electricity to miners but most utilities are run by or are heavily regulated by governments. Small arrays of off grid solar panels aren’t going to run a $1T network. Private power companies can easily be regulated/controlled if Bitcoin is proclaimed a threat/illegal etc.
9. What are your most critical technical challenges at this stage?
Our most critical technical challenge is making sure that the OPoW algorithm is both safe and gives optics a huge advantage. Easy/well understood/efficient Silicon Photonics components are only good at a limited set of analog operations. However, no-one has tried doing exactly what we are doing so we are finding that there might be clever ways to get around the limitations of Silicon Photonics for the OPoW application.
10. Is the OPoW algorithm limited to optical devices? If not, will there be miners on the system using digital hardware?
Although it may be desirable at some point in the future to make it completely impractical to perform the OPoW algorithm digitally, that is not our goal in the short term. Verification should be trivial and should not require an optical system. This means that miners with GPUs or ASICs and very cheap or free electricity could still participate profitably, albeit it may be more profitable for them to mine other coins based on digital-friendly PoW algorithms.
11. Will chinese manufacturers have an inherent advantage in Silicon Photonics manufacturing?
No, the most advanced silicon fabs such as TSMC, Intel, Samsung, GF are outside of China. Also, much of the research and fabrication community that is focused on Silicon Photonics is outside of China.
12. Where can I find out more?
Feel free to leave questions below and we will add to this FAQ above or go to the PoWx webpage:
www.PoWx.org (you can submit a “Contact us” form to get updates)
13. Interested in making technical or other contributions to the effort?