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While the rest of the exhibit was produced digitally and can effectively be downloaded in its entirety, the cryptocurrency-producing Antminer is the only element of the show that is fundamentally not digitally native, and whose specific setup cannot be reproduced. Throughout the year, Cooper will trace both how many coins the machine has produced, and how much energy it has used. There are profound limits to how much the traditional academic article or monograph can communicate.
Innovating the presentation of scholarship with tools like immersive video, conceptual audio, and photography can help illustrate socio-material affects and complexities that become obscured in traditional academic writing. Part of what this exhibit hopes to accomplish is to introduce new possibilities for conceptualizing and presenting our relationship to infrastructure, and to open up questions about how new ways of seeing can produce more just, equitable, and sustainable futures.
Opening Reception. About the Exhibit This year, the hunt for Bitcoin, Etherium, and other cryptocurrencies will use more electricity in Iceland than all of the inhabitants of the country combined. Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication. Center for Experimental Ethnography. Annenberg School. Research Area:. Digital Media and Social Networks. Global and Comparative Communication. Visual Communication. He travelled no more than three kilometres from the airport terminal to an abandoned airstrip built by allied forces in World War II.
This was in and the barren, windswept ground then seemed like an unlikely place for a financial district. Powerful computers, stacked inside long and grey warehouses, use more electricity than all Icelandic homes combined, according to a local energy firm. Raised in Bavaria, Germany , the 29 year old was a maths prodigy on a glowing academic track until he began collecting digital coins. Being a bitcoin entrepreneur is the only job Streng has ever held.
Hydroelectric dams sink untouched land under water and alter rivers and waterfalls. Geothermal power plants are built over natural hot spring areas, spoiling the unique landscape. Energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies.
Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world. In return, the miners claim a fraction of a coin not yet in circulation. In the case of bitcoin, a total of 21 million can be mined, with about 3. As more bitcoins enter circulation, more powerful computers are needed to keep up with the calculations — and that means more energy.
According to Dutch bitcoin analyst Alex de Vries, who operates a Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index on the website Digiconomist, bitcoin energy consumption is still on the rise globally, after receding late last year following a drop in value. The move is expected to load pressure on Iceland and other areas still welcoming the business. Streng compares cryptocurrencies with the early days of the internet — a phenomenon that is still evolving and will become more energy efficient. But the best position to be in at any gold rush, as business schools often tell students, is to sell the shovels and let others take risks.
The investment is volatile. Anonymity, experts say, is the only real advancement bitcoin has over other forms of payment.
Hydroelectric dams sink untouched land under water and alter rivers and waterfalls. Geothermal power plants are built over natural hot spring areas, spoiling the unique landscape. Energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies. Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.
In return, the miners claim a fraction of a coin not yet in circulation. In the case of bitcoin, a total of 21 million can be mined, with about 3. As more bitcoins enter circulation, more powerful computers are needed to keep up with the calculations — and that means more energy. According to Dutch bitcoin analyst Alex de Vries, who operates a Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index on the website Digiconomist, bitcoin energy consumption is still on the rise globally, after receding late last year following a drop in value.
The move is expected to load pressure on Iceland and other areas still welcoming the business. Streng compares cryptocurrencies with the early days of the internet — a phenomenon that is still evolving and will become more energy efficient. But the best position to be in at any gold rush, as business schools often tell students, is to sell the shovels and let others take risks. The investment is volatile. Anonymity, experts say, is the only real advancement bitcoin has over other forms of payment.
As a crypted currency it serves drug cartels, online scammers and other underground businesses. Their national currency is in hyperinflation. What is the alternative for people? That can be incredibly important in a lot of ways. Bitcoin is not creating jobs. But wherever there is money, crime is sure to follow. One night at his keyboard, in the summer of , Stefansson says he made a connection that would transform both him and his country.
X, told Stefansson that his plans were crap. X told Stefansson that he would give him 15 percent of the profits from as many Bitcoin computers as he could steal from data centers across Iceland. X would establish their own Bitcoin mine. To pull off the heist, Stefansson says, Mr.
X assembled a motley crew of Icelandic men in their 20s, all of whom happened to know each other. None of them had a significant police record. Finally, there was the boss of the operation—although who, exactly, that was remains a matter of dispute. While the courts have concluded that Stefansson organized the heist, he insists that he was directed by the shadowy Mr.
It was like an assignment. This is why I can call it my favorite case. By July , Stefansson had a Bitcoin wallet, burner phones, 10 tracker devices to attach to security vehicles, and rings of duct tape to silence any mouthy witnesses. He communicated with his team via Telegram, a service that enables encrypted, self-destructing messages. A prosecutor later insisted that the page was proof of an organized crime ring, possibly international in scope—a claim that cracked the guys up.
On the day I visited, several stern guards sat before giant split-screen security monitors, watching over every inch of the facilities, inside and out. But at the time of the Big Bitcoin Heist, no one was there. On the night of December 5, , as flurries of sleet and snow buffeted Iceland, Stefansson and his crew broke into the Algrim Consulting data center at Asbru.
They stole Bitcoin computers, along with power sources, graphics cards, and assorted supplies. Five days later, on December 10, the Borealis Data Center told police that someone had tried and failed to break into their facility at Asbru, attempting to disable the alarm by gluing the security sensors. The police seemed slow to investigate, and the burgled companies preferred that the crimes stay quiet.
Any talk of a heist would be bad for business. Stefansson and the rest of the gang might have stopped there. They already had enough computers to set up their own small Bitcoin mine and enjoy the proceeds. But making money in cryptocurrency requires size and speed: It takes a lot of computing power to solve and package data, and the only people who get paid are the ones who crack the complex equations first. In Bitcoin mining, every second counts. Then Stefansson got a call from someone he had studied computer science with at the university.
The warehouse at the local AVK Data Center suddenly needed more electricity—a lot more electricity—for something called Bitcoin. Stefansson drove from Akureyri and studied the small metal building in the middle of nowhere. The mine was only six days old. The lone police officer patrolling the area had gone home for the night. And a window way up high had conveniently been left open, to let the frigid air cool the red-hot computers.
This being Iceland, someone had even left a ladder nearby. Stefansson asked Matthias Karlsson to buy a vehicle, and the conscientious day care worker came through with a cheap blue van, purchased on the Icelandic version of eBay. Ten days after their first job, Stefansson and Viktor the Cutie drove to the data center, where Stefansson climbed the ladder, slipped through the open window, and landed, catlike, on the concrete floor.
In their excitement, they took the fastest route: the Whale Fjord Tunnel, a 3. In court, the Cutie tried to use his love of tattoos as an alibi: A tattoo artist testified that Viktor had spent the entire night in bed with her. What came back was… nothing.
No data. Not even a connection. This would never happen in Iceland! The owner called the police, who reviewed footage from a CCTV camera at a nearby hardware store. It clearly showed the used blue van Karlsson had bought. The police ran the plates and arrested Stefansson and Karlsson. In their gentle Icelandic style, they placed the suspects in dormitory-style cells in their hometowns, then brought them in for questioning. The walls are covered with images of the Northern Lights and the buds of Icelandic flowers poking up through the snowy tundra.
Ottensen was impressed with how nice the suspects seemed. He had no idea his information would lead to a burglary, and they used him. Questioned by police, Stefansson and Karlsson insisted that they had absolutely nothing to do with the burglary. But the Bitcoin thieves were far from finished. While being detained in the Borgarnes investigation, Karlsson lost his job as a day care worker.
Deep in debt, and with a child on the way, he blamed Stefansson. He was captured after he and his accomplices posted a photo on Instagram left. On the day after Christmas, cell phone records show, the gang drove together to the former naval base at Asbru to try their luck at hitting the Borealis Data Center a second time. This time they tried to climb through a window. The alarm sounded, and they fled. But the gang was learning as they went.
One night in late , a man named Ivar Gylfason received a strange phone call. Not long after, Gylfason was contacted by a relative of his ex-girlfriend. The gang had presented him with a plan for repayment: Get Ivar to spill security details about the Advania mine and the interest on your debt will be forgiven.
The relative offered Gylfason cash in exchange for information about the mine. When Gylfason declined, he was escorted into a dark Mazda outside his house. He recognized one of the men in the car—Sindri Stefansson—who sat alongside a man wearing a hoodie, and another who spoke in a gruff Eastern European accent.
If he did not comply, they told him, he would be hurt. Over the course of two or three moonlit meetings, Gylfason told the gang everything he knew about the Advania data center: the location of the security cameras, the specifics of the anti-theft systems, how security shifts were organized. He also provided the thieves with guard uniforms and the alarm code. On January 16, , the job commenced. Stefansson had been tracking the routine of the security guard who would be on duty that night.
But before he could make a move, the gang got a lucky break: The guard suddenly raced home, diverted by diarrhea, and never returned. With scarves covering their faces, Karlsson and his brother drove up and started loading the computers into their car.
At first, police had little to go on. The computers were gone, and there was no way to trace if they were being used to mine cryptocurrency. So he and his team turned to more old-fashioned forms of technology: Using telephone data, rental car records, bank accounts, and wiretaps, they were able to connect the gang with Ivar Gylfason, the security guard they had blackmailed.
Only two weeks after the heist, the arrests began. Gylfason, apprehended at his home, confessed to his role. That same day, police arrested Karlsson and his brother. They also descended on Stefansson, who had sold his home and was preparing to move to Spain with his wife and kids.
In a pocket of his jeans they found a crudely drawn map of the Advania data center. They also seized his iPhone, which was shipped to Holland to be unlocked. Rental car forms showed he had rented the second car used in the Advania theft. Stefansson was thrown in solitary for a month and grilled repeatedly by police, who pressured him to reveal the location of the stolen computers.
Officers from every police district in Iceland combed the island, searching for the computers. They fanned out in squad cars, boats, and helicopters. They followed leads as far away as China. They raided a Bitcoin mine owned by a Russian couple they suspected of being the thieves.
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But perhaps, its most beautiful aspect is its people. The sight of such a large amount of residents gathering peacefully with no pepper spray incidents to protest issues of financial manipulation, fraud and deceit from its leaders, is just another example of how the Icelandic people are actively, and peacefully, addressing change in their country. Icelandic politics are very interesting for an outsider to observe.
In , members of the party drafted a law that Edward Snowden be granted Icelandic citizenship. When you look at the recent failures of the financial status quo and the growing interest in movements like the Pirate Party, it seems that the country could be ripe for evaluating the implementation of a digital currency structure,.
In , the cryptocurrency Auroracoin was launched within Iceland as an alternative to Bitcoin and the Icelandic krona. Auroracoin was created as an alternative cryptocurrency to address the government restrictions of capital flight outside of the country and the prohibition of the foreign exchange of bitcoin from the country.
The success of this alternative to Bitcoin within Iceland has been subdued, even after an airdrop of 50 percent of the cryptocurrency to Icelandic citizens. Much of this has to do with the l ack of clarity about the legality of this digital currency within the country, which can be exchanged for bitcoins. Now with the release of the Panama Papers, recent protests and calls for change by Icelanders countrywide, the question becomes, why not just make Bitcoin legal?
Many in the country are recognizing the impact and opportunity of the internet, including the many who are profiting from the Bitcoin mining efforts taking place there. The country is not part of the EU and not beholden to an outside currency. The Icelandic government and its people have already shown that they're willing to make drastic changes to improve their economy.
Many criticize Bitcoin as a vehicle for money laundering and crime. The reality is that widespread adoption of Bitcoin could help to fight financial crime. This would also position the country as a leader in the implementation of Blockchain technology, which has many benefits for governmental activities, including improved record keeping.
This would help to stimulate high-tech growth in the country and bring in expertise from the rest of the world. Given the country's general mood to examine the status quo and institute positive fiscal change in the country, it may be advantageous for Iceland to at least consider creating an internal task force to examine the issue of Bitcoin and making it legal in the country.
Full Bio Follow Linkedin. Follow Twitter. Smari McCarthy, a member of the Icelandic parliament for the Pirate Party, tweeted: "Cryptocurrency mining requires almost no staff, very little in capital investments, and mostly leaves no taxes either.
He also clarified previous reports that quoted him as saying he was keen to tax Bitcoin mining firms. Always, always, always, my primary goal is to move society forward in fruitful ways. I definitely don't want to end up as the bad guy in the eyes of the cryptocurrency community. On the contrary, I want to work with you guys to strengthen this innovation.
It has previously been reported that the electricity demand of the world's total combined Bitcoin mining operations may now exceed the energy use of the Republic of Ireland, though this calculation may not be entirely accurate. But as crypto-currencies rise in popularity, mining operations certainly continue to use more and more resources - recent analysis of European energy use in by campaign group Sandbag noted that Bitcoin mining was contributing to additional power demand in the technology sector.
Reality Check: Bitcoin's energy use. He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act. Mr Sigurbergsson's calculations were first reported by the Associated Press. Iceland has a small population, of around , people.
Bitcoin mining refers to the work done by computers connected to the global Bitcoin network. Some have questioned how beneficial the rise of the crypto-currency mining will be to Iceland. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. View original tweet on Twitter. View comments.
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