He huffed and he puffed and he mined a very small amount of cryptocurrency.
Image: Max Dovey
Cryptocurrencies have a huge energy problem, but fortunately there is no shortage of creative ways to generate magic internet money while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Some mining rigs—the specialized computers that solve complex math problems to earn cryptocurrencies—rely on wind power. Others are literally built in the back of a Tesla. Still others take a cue from The Matrix and harvest human body heat to mine cryptocurrency.
Then there’s Breath, a mining rig that generates the cryptocurrency Monero based on how fast you’re sucking in air.
Developed by Max Dovey, an artist and researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures, Breath repurposes a medical tool called a spirometer that measures how much air is inhaled and exhaled by your lungs. This data is then fed to a small computer mining on the Monero blockchain.
While a user’s breath doesn’t actually power the computer, it does determine the computer’s hashrate, which ultimately determines how much Monero the computer can mine. According to Breath’s website, 1 puff per second equates to the computer performing 1,000 hashing operations per second. This may sound like a lot, but it’s just a drop in the ocean of the Monero network’s total hashrate: Around 500 million hashes per second.
So far the project, which Dovey began last year, has earned a little under $1. But according to Dovey, it was never about making money.
“Turning the act of breathing into an active miner on the blockchain network encourages us to consider more sustainable and psychological methods to maintain blockchains,” Dovey wrote in his artist statement.
As cryptocurrencies look to eat up an ever bigger portion of world energy use, you could say project like Dovey’s come as a…breath of fresh air.