In the bitcoin economy, time really is money. Every 10 minutes or so, mining machines compete with each other to solve a math problem to win 12.5 bitcoins, a reward set by the bitcoin software. The work is akin to trying out billions of combinations of numbers on a safe. The miner who gets the right combination the fastest unlocks the safe. The more machines you have, the greater your chances of earning coins.

The whole economy around bitcoins (”the stateless digital currency whose total market value has more than quadrupled this year to $70 billion”) mesmerises me. It is as if a whole parallel universe exists – a universe where not just the currency, but the rules and the rulers transcend the limits of the real world. It stumps me though to think that whoever is capable of owning huge wearhouses, being called mines now, that host nearly unlimited processing power will soon govern this universe. And the most prestigious job available would be to tend to the machines generating this power.

Machines at the mine break all the time, given there are 25,000 devices. It’s a game of whack-a-mole: After one is fixed, another broken machine crops up. “I just try my best to check as many as possible,” said Hou, who tends to the machines daily from 8:30am to 6:30pm.


All day and night, using laptops, they monitor the status of the machines, and go into “the field”—the eight buildings that house them—to check on malfunctioning ones.

As a side note, I read this and feel automation is banging on the doors to dismantle the life of these so called miners. This parallel universe will not be run as it is today. Disruption is waiting to happen when everything of a world goes digital.