One of the biggest criticisms of Web3 and Blockchain is the massive amount of energy that the industry has been using since it began in 2009. Let’s have a look at why that was the case, how things are changing and why Unchained Music is on the green side of the equation.
First up - how this big energy use began. Mining.
All things that humans value and trade (commodities such as gold) have two things in common.
One - the thing is difficult to create or extract.
Two - there is a limited supply of the thing.
There is only a limited amount of gold on the planet. And it is difficult to obtain - often requiring huge efforts to get out of the ground. Gold also has unique properties - it is very resistant to blemish/rust (unlike many other metals), and is used in a lot of electronics due to this.
Gold is also, of course, used in jewellery.
And so - there is a cost and difficulty to getting gold, people find it useful, and there is a limited amount of it in the world. All of this makes gold valuable.
Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin understood these principles of value. He created what many bitcoin enthusiasts believe to be the digital version of gold.
And, like gold, bitcoin is obtained through “mining”. This is also known as Proof of Work (PoW).
But instead of using industrial machinery to extract this new digital “gold” from the ground, Nakamoto invented a new type of mining, based on cryptography.
To put it simply, bitcoin is locked behind cryptographic puzzles which get harder to solve over time. These puzzles require computer hardware to solve (usually GPUs - graphics cards most often used for gaming or video editing).
For each “block” that is released (when the puzzle is completed), bitcoin is released. This goes to those “mining” the bitcoin (those who successfully solved the puzzle).
As more bitcoin is released, the puzzles get harder, requiring more and more computer hardware to solve.
And here we find the problem. More hardware = more energy use.
In the beginning, this wasn’t such a big deal. But in 2022, due to the nature of its Proof of Work mechanism, bitcoin’s electricity usage per year is more than the entire annual electricity consumption of Norway.
And so, it’s easy to see why bitcoin has seen heavy criticism from environmentally minded folks across the world.
Due to Bitcoins reliance on huge amounts of computer hardware to generate its coins, it uses massive amounts of energy. But not all of Web3 is like this.
Ethereum and Polygon are two different blockchains. Unlike Bitcoin, which has a single use as digital “gold” that can be send from on person to another, Ethereum and Polygon can be seen more like different information highways - kind of like independent internets.
Both of these highways (blockchains) run on their own currency (Ethereum and Matic) - this currency is used when each transaction or “task” is completed (more on this later).
The difference between these blockchains, and the standard internet, is that they are decentralised - they are not owned by a single person or government, but by the collective community. This makes them (as a whole network) resilient to censorship, hacking and negative regulation.
And so, not only currencies (of which there are many) exist on these blockchains, but entire programs, projects and communities.
One of these companies and communities is Unchained Music.
Ethereum and Polygon are different blockchains to bitcoin, that can be seen more like their own internets. These chains are the technology on the backend of Unchained Music.
As we learned earlier, the main energy draw in blockchain technology comes from its reliance on Mining / Proof of Work. And so, let’s talk about the greener alternative - Proof of Stake.
A blockchain relies on a whole string of nodes (think of these like checkpoints) to keep the network secure and running.
Rather than using GPU hardware to solve cryptographic puzzles and to secure the network (finer details about this here), Proof of Stake relies on the nodes holding an asset such as Ethereum as collateral for securing the network. This is the Stake.
In return for their work, nodes receive transaction fees. This work is distributed throughout the network in a decentralised manner.
However, if the node fails at their job, (or attempts a malicious attack) they lose their stake.
And so, there is a strong incentive with Proof of Stake to:
And these incentives to not require large hardware rigs to run - making them ~99.5% more energy efficient than Mining/Proof of Work.
You can read finer details about Proof of Stake here.
Proof of Stake is a different mechanism for blockchain that doesn’t require mining or huge hardware setups. The essential thing to know is that Proof of Stake uses 99.5% less energy than Proof of Work (Mining).
Unchained Music uses both Ethereum and Polygon within our web3 backend.
Both Ethereum and Polygon have recognised the huge energy draw from the crypto sphere. And both have working solutions to the problem.
As of September 2022, Ethereum has just completed “The Merge” - this is a transition from the network’s older, mining based Proof of Work system, to a far greener Proof of Stake system. This, by their estimation will reduce energy use from the Ethereum network by 99.5%.
Polygon ( the primary backend technology for the web3 side of Unchained Music) takes this a step further with a $20 million pledge for sustainability and regeneration. This will be implemented throughout carbon credit purchasing programs and community initiatives to address the climate crisis. Polygon's green manifesto can be read here.
Alongside our support for Polygons green manifesto, Unchained Music is supporting a community led DAO - Grandmother Grove, which uses DeFi technology to plant trees. As of September 2022, Grandmother Grove has enabled the planting of more than 12k trees worldwide.
Unchained Music’s backend web3 technology is committed to massive energy reduction, and a $20 million pledge for sustainability and regeneration to combat the climate crisis. This is more than carbon neutral, this is an active effort to offset impact created by the crypto space.
It’s clear that the massive energy use in the cryptosphere has been a problem, and it’s a problem that the community is in general well aware of.
But the problem isn’t across the entire web3 space. There are huge ecosystems within web3 that are actively being a part of the solution, spending tens of millions of dollars to not only offset their carbon footprint, but reverse it.
One of these ecosystems is Polygon - the primary blockchain used in the Web3 backend of Unchained Music.
We understand that many of our community share our concerns with environmental destruction and the climate crisis. So rest easy knowing that as a part of our community, you are also a part of the solution.