We are kicking off the first post of the Crypto Countdown series by exploring a pretty cool project called Golem.
Golem is a global, open source, decentralised supercomputer that anyone can access.
This all sounds very interesting, but let’s break down some of the key terms.
What is a super computer?
A supercomputer is a computer that performs at extremely high speeds relative to all other computers. Back in the 1990s if you had introduced a 2018 Macbook Pro, it would have been seen as an immensely powerful supercomputer. Traditionally, supercomputers are used to process very large amounts of data or huge amounts of calculations — such as scientific or engineering applications.
What is open source?
Open source denotes software of which the original code is made freely available and may be shared and altered. It’s like writing an essay and publishing it for anyone to use, comment on or change.
Decentralised or distributed
A common theme in the blockchain space is the idea of decentralising resources, ideas and even people. This means spreading assets across the world, making them readily available to anyone and out of the control of one party. Centralised vs decentralised is rather like studying exclusively at university (centralised learning) vs studying at university, online, through your friends and from books (decentralised learning).
What is the goal of Golem?
We are all familiar with the teeth-grinding annoyance of working with a slow computer or phone. Freezing when you open too many tabs, or restarting just after you’ve perfected your Instagram editing. Imagine this at a large scale, when a computer crashes after processing huge calculations for 2 hours or after editing huge amounts of HD video clips. The simple solution would be to buy a bigger, better or faster device — or borrow extra power from the likes of Amazon, Google or Microsoft. However, Golem has an alternative solution:
Golem wants to give people access to an extremely powerful computer from anywhere in the world. This supercomputer is made up of lots of resources without needing one-specific physical location.
How does it work?
Most people are not using their devices at all times — when you sleep, take a shower or go out and about, you are typically not asking your computer to do anything demanding. In those moments, your computer is a resource of unused power. Golem wants to make the most of your idle computer and contribute all of its unused power to create a global supercomputer. An interesting but, as of yet, unanswered question:
Is it worth your while giving your computing power to the Golem network?
In the same way that each time you drive a car, it loses value, we don’t yet know the impact that always keeping your computer ‘on and busy’ will have on its lifespan. Yes, you may be getting paid, but if this means your computer, designed to last 5 years, is growling its way into an early grave after 18 months, it may not be a worthy tradeoff.
However, sweeping that question aside, Golem allows people, anywhere in the world, to benefit from the power of your computer (and many others) when they most need it. Rather like being set an extremely complex task that your own brain cannot cope with, you would do much better to combine the brain power of people around the world. As innovation advances, we will need to solve more and more tasks without being restricted by the limitations of our own, individual, resources.
Golem is designed to be fast. Using their network, you don’t have to worry about the complication of finding that extra brain power for your computer. The network finds the best computer(s) to help you with your task and pays them for the computer power that they contribute. Depending on the complexity of what you are trying to do, Golem may draw this extra power from one or two computers, or hundreds from all across the world.
What are the key features?
A global supercomputer: easy access to a supercomputer that is made from collecting spare power from computers all around the world.
A sharing economy: Golem creates a marketplace where you can provide computer power to, or borrow computer power from, strangers. Golem ensures that you do not need to know, nor trust, the person borrowing or providing computing power.
Payment system: Golem charges users who are borrowing power and rewards individuals that provide computing power. Everyone in the Golem network pays, and is paid, with Golem’s own cryptocurrency.
How will we interact with Golem in the future?
Currently, companies and individuals purchase from existing providers, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft that run thousands of dedicated computers (or servers) as a source of computing power. In the future, you can imagine relying less on these “server farms” and using computing power from random people around the world.
As an individual you will be able to both contribute and borrow computing power and become part of the Golem network. Thus, you can either pay for computing power, or you can be paid for providing it. It’s a pretty cool way of getting compensated when you aren’t using your laptop, whilst simultaneously helping a stranger somewhere in the world!
It’s odd to think that as you go to bed one evening, a student half-way across the globe could be using some of your computing power and analysing DNA data, a broker performing complex modelling calculations or an animator creating some awesome graphics for your favourite TV series.
Note 1: there are some minimum computing power requirements in order to contribute to the network, but hopefully this post gives a flavour of how Golem aims to democratise access to supercomputing power!
Note 2: contributing power is guaranteed to be secure thanks to Golem’s “isolated environment”- but feel free to research this if you want to know more.