Gus Hurwitz on Bitcoin Mining

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Lead Stories – ICLE Director of Law & Economics Programs Gus Hurwitz was quoted by the website Lead Stories in a piece fact-checking claims in a recent video by Bitcoin-mining company Riot Platforms about the crypto-currency’s carbon footprint. You can read full story here.

Justin (Gus) Hurwitz, a University of Nebraska College of Law professor and director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, told Lead Stories in an April 12, 2023, email that “it’s a bit tricky to know how to assess this video.” He continued:

“I hope it’s a satirical response to the NY Times story that it is shared as a response to. That story has been interpreted to suggest that bitcoin mining facilities produce smoggy skies immediately around the mining facilities. In this respect, the video makes a fair, tongue-in-cheek, point. Bitcoin mining uses computers, which are powered by electricity and do not themselves produce CO2 directly. In this sense, they are just as zero-emission as an electric vehicle. As a response to an allegation that a bitcoin mining facility would turn the skies around it smoggy, the video makes a fair point. …

My basic take on the video is that I hope it’s satire and sarcasm. I can’t believe that the company that produced it has such a flawed understanding of how computers work — and the fact that it was shared in response to the NY Times story suggests that it was, in fact, a sarcastic response to that story. Of course, this is one of the challenges of the Internet: the video can be shared and viewed on its own, without that context. The video, seen without that context, certainly seems epically stupid. (To use a term of art.)”