Bitcoin is a wonderful technology and is probably a few years ahead of its time. One of its greatest strengths is it is built within the Internet, where it is safe, theoretically, from nefarious third-party takeovers from private interests or governments. One question that has never been posed is what happens to Bitcoin if we break the Internet itself? What happens to us all? We may be looking for that answer sooner than we ever thought we would, according to the latest research on our global communications network.
The Internet is not Infinite, and it can Collapse
Bitcoin may be “The Future of Money“, and have many hundreds of future applications that extend beyond economics and e-commerce, but it is still the son of the Internet. The Internet, created in its current form in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, is vast and immensely popular, but it is still based on fiber-optics. These fiber-optics are becoming limited in the loads the current infrastructure can handle. The latest data shows some startling information on how intense the power of the Internet has become, and what it can mean going forward.
The Internet has come a long way in speed capability just within the last decade. A common 2MB maximum connection for broadband back in 2005 can now reach up to 100MB in speed today, depending on your location and service provider. The problem is current fibre optic technology has reached its physical limits for data and light usage. Fibre optic cables are like electrical hairs in look and design. Extremely thin and flexible, they transmit data as light energy, which is converted back to information upon reaching its destination. At this rate, the amount of light energy will consume the United Kingdom’s national resources by 2035.
‘We are starting to reach the point in the research lab where we can’t get any more data into a single optical fibre,” Professor Ellis, of Aston University in Birmingham, told the UK’s Daily Mail. “The intensity is the same as if you were standing right up against the sun. The deployment to market is about six to eight years behind the research lab, so within eight years that will be it, we can’t get any more data in. Demand is increasingly catching up. It is growing again and again, and it is harder and harder to keep ahead. We have done very well for many years to keep ahead. But we are getting to that point where we can’t keep going forever. Unless we come forward with really radical ideas, we are going to see costs dramatically increase.”
Yes, companies can lay more fibre optic cable, but that could increase costs dramatically, and will take time the demand worldwide may not allow. The Internet, really the demand for speed and power within the Internet, is growing so fast globally the fibre optic technology is falling behind, and by 2023, it may reach critical mass. At that point, options become shutting the Internet down temporarily, paying double what you pay now, or storing Internet information on “server farms” to take loads of the greater network. None of those are desirable options, but may be necessary until a greater data transfer technology can become available on a global scale.
“The internet uses the same energy as the airline industry – about two per cent of a developed country’s entire energy consumption,’ says Professor Ellis. “That is just for the data transfer. If you then add the computers, the phones, the television, then it is up to eight percent of the country’s energy consumption. That is quite a huge problem. If we have multiple fibers to keep up, we are going to run out of energy in about 15 years. The public needs to decide whether they want to use their precious wind turbine electricity on electric cars or more internet. We need to start this discussion now.”
To give you some perspective on how fast the power of the Internet is growing, and consuming energy, the Internet accounts for up to 16% of the United Kingdom’s electrical energy. Currently, this consumption rate is doubling every four years. Do the math, and you’ll see that London has a problem, and the technical issue will be similar throughout the world. Technological industry leaders will convene at the Royal Society of London summit meeting titled “Communication Networks Beyond the Capacity Crunch”. It will be held on May 11th to discuss this problem, its severity, and to brainstorm towards future solutions.
Would you prefer to have the Internet go down for an hour a day or have your Internet information kept on a “server farm” somewhere? What sacrifices would you prefer to keep the Internet running optimally? Share above and comment below.