Ever since I was a little boy, I have been very interested in science and technology. I have also always felt pleasure from seeing things improve, I am an optimist. With all the computer gadgets, cell phones, TV sets, satellite navigation systems, and cars filled with high-tech, I must have felt like I was living in a tech utopia, right? Not so much. Here in Europe, we are actually living in the complete opposite of a tech utopia. We are living in a pessimistic and indeterminate society, where the future isn’t that great and we have no idea what to do. The class notes from Peter Thiel’s “CS183: Startup” will help you to understand this.
I can even give you some examples of why things are pretty bad: Nixon’s War on Cancer started in 1971. Have we cured cancer yet? No. AIDS? No. Common flu? No. Are cars safe? No. Do we have a continuous human presence on the Moon and Mars? No, we haven’t even ever visited Mars, and Moon was last visited by humans in 1972. Can we get electricity generated by a nuclear fusion reactor from the wall socket? No. Do common cars fly? No; people won’t even take the idea seriously, ask anyone about it and see the reactions. Do we have a huge array of radio telescopes, “Project Cyclops” to search for ExtraTerrestrial civilizations? No. Is there nutritious food and clean drinking water accessible for everyone? No. Is the literacy rate 100% everywhere? No.
In the year 2000, I started to use a screensaver called SETI@home. It was a program that used spare CPU cycles to do some scientific calculations on home PCs. SETI@home means “The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence at home”. After some time no ETIs were found but the team who created the original SETI@home software created a distributed computing platform called BOINC or “Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing”. With BOINC, people are able to both participate and create distributed computing projects like SETI@home. Millions of people have downloaded the BOINC client software and attached it to BOINC projects.
Talking to brick walls
A couple of years ago, while finding it difficult to find a job as a Master of Science in Physics (again a proof that we are living in a pessimistic and indeterminate society), I got an idea of a transnational lottery game to (crowd)fund various science projects and incentive awards. I tried my best to discuss the idea with people but in vain. I even came up with a name for the lottery game, “MarsMillions”, a play with the name of EuroMillions transnational lottery game in Europe, and also showing my suggestion that the first thing to fund with MarsMillions should be a manned mission to Mars. Lottery games are heavily regulated, and in Finland, only a monopoly owned by the Finnish government is able to host lottery games. It’s not an easy job to make a new lottery game.
Coming up with the impossible
Then I heard about Bitcoins and various other cryptocurrencies, and I got interested in the idea that people can literally make money with home computers legally. That was the moment I combined the ideas of BOINC (distributed computing), MarsMillions (crowd-donations), and cryptocurrencies (mineability and non-regulation), and, ta-daa, the idea of “Bitcoin Utopia” was born.
Inspiration from MOOC
In the summer of 2013, I participated in Coursera’s Stanford University course “Startup Engineering“, which kept me motivated about Bitcoin Utopia. I watched the lecture videos and tried to do as many of the exercises as I possibly could. I created test campaigns for my BOINC server to try out the idea that it is possible to raise donations by mining cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin Utopia was able to raise donations for X PRIZE Foundation, Mars One, SETI@home, and Bulgarian Mars Society. Bitcoin Utopia did also quite well in Startup Leaderboard.
I got this pin from XPRIZE Foundation after the crowd-donation of Bitcoin Utopia. Thanks to all the miners in BU! pic.twitter.com/uWPWzylkJS
— Henri Heinonen (@HenriHeinonen) August 26, 2013
What next? Sponsoring incentive awards
Now I’m trying to find organizations with incentive awards Bitcoin Utopia could sponsor by raising donations for them. Do you know any? Maybe you can help by filling out this A.I. X PRIZE suggestion form. I already did.
Let’s try some optimism for change.