When I tell people I’m running a validator for a blockchain dedicated to ecological regeneration, sometimes I get comments like “I thought Regen Network was about ecological regeneration – so what does cryptocurrency have to do with it? And why so many computers? I hear Bitcoin is destroying the Earth! I bet you’re gonna destroy the Earth too! What are you gonna validate then???”
I’m looking for ways to explain to my family and friends why validators matter in the context of the Regen Network system, and how we’re not going to eat the planet (like Bitcoin). Perhaps this has been obvious to some folks. I jumped in trusting that the system makes sense , and now in practice I’m starting to understand. I wonder if other folks have other ways of understanding, or details to correct or clarify my understanding.
Regen Network as a system seeks to lower the cost of data collecting and verification, and increase trust in that collected data. Regen Network also offers a platform to make agreements related to that data, and those agreements need to be stored in a trustworthy way. Since the data and agreements are not (nor cannot be) all stored on paper, computers are a viable option.
This means someone has to operate the computer, and everyone else has to trust that the computer is operating correctly and honestly, and trust the person operating the computer. Trusting a single person or organization to run the system would probably lead to corruption – the temptation and ability to secretly falisfy the data and agreements would be too great.
So, we can create a diverse, distributed group of teams who each operate a node that can generate transactions, and copies and verifies the data of the entire network. This makes falsifying the data much more difficult, and offers lots of redundancy for the network. Sounds like a great solution! Each computer operated by a team is called a “validator”, and sometimes the team is also called a “validator”.
So, what will motivate these teams to operate their computers in support of the network? Good will and good vibes won’t be enough. Economic incentive will be much more effective in our current society. Making the incentive in a nation-state-based currency would create a barrier to participation from places where that currency isn’t used. Also, it might make pricing more rigid. Therefore, an option is to create a cryptocurrency, or, more technically correct, a “token”. In order to avoid people filling the network with spam data and transactions, this same token is also used to charge small fees for each transaction (putting data on the network is one type of transaction). Those fees go to the teams operating computers, and also to a common pool to fund further development of the network.
And, since we live in a universe where limits exist, we can decide how many teams are necessary to make a trustworthy network that’s still economically viable. Two or three teams would be too few – corruption is still pretty easy. Fifty teams was chosen as the starting number for Regen Network, because it seems like enough to make corruption very difficult, while offering enough tokens to each team to make it worth their time (validator economic viability). If the income is too low, people won’t put in the time or money to run a secure, consistent validator. If the income is higher than necessary, that means that fees could be lowered to make the actual utility of the network more accessible – in this case, the actual utility is the storage of ecological data and contracts.
The number of teams will almost definitely increase over time. But, since the income that the network generates for the validators is finite, and each validator needs to receive enough income to operate well, we cannot increase the number of validators too high, or the quality of the network will fall. This guarantees that Regen Network (and other networks built on Cosmos SDK) will never “eat the world” like Bitcoin.
Let’s make some estimates:
Right now, there are 50 validators receiving income, and another 30 in operation that aren’t receiving income, but might be able to at some point. I estimate that of those 80 validators, maybe 30 run their own hardware and the other 50 run on virtual machines in the cloud. Since running a validator on Regen Network doesn’t (yet) require a very powerful computer, there are probably multiple virtual machines running on each physical computer in a data center. Someone else surely has more accurate numbers – for now, my partially-informed estimate is that there are 50 physical machines being used to run all 80 validators, including their backup, monitoring, signing and sentry nodes. The network doesn’t require special powerful computers like Bitcoin or Ethereum (I don’t know about Ethereum v2 efficiency nor adoption rate). Taking some average server energy usage calculations from a Rack Solutions blog post, they suggest that each server averages 0.24 kW, times 24 hours in a day = 5.76 kWh/day. Times 50 servers = 288 kWh/day for the entire network. Times 365 days in a year = 105,120 kWh/year. The US Energy Information Administration says the average U.S. household consumption is 11,000 kWh/year. That means Regen Network consumes about as much electricity as 10 US households. Of course, these are rough numbers, but they clearly demonstrate that Regen Network is nowhere near the energy consumption of Bitcoin, which is estimated at 128,000,000 kWh/year (and climbing), or 11,637 average US households. Regen Network energy consumption is expected to increase, but not that much. Even if Regen Network grew to consume 10 times more energy than I’m estimating here, that’s still only 100 US households (also, hopefully US average household energy use will decline).
So, no, Regen Network does not and will not incentivize a tidal wave of resource consumption.
Back to the question I asked myself: How do validators contribute to ecological regeneration?
Running a blockchain with a network of validators enables Regen Network to offer a trustworthy place for data and contract storage (and smart contract execution, but that’s another story), so that financial agreements can be made about ecological data.
Question for another thread: What are the possibilities and dangers of making financial agreements about ecological data? What role do/can such agreements play in the planetary system?
For this thread, I’m curious how other validators think about their role in ecological regeneration, and how people in other parts of Regen Network understand their roles and the role of validators.