Volunteer distributed computing is important

Cryptocurrencies have enjoyed much the focus over the last couple years – and especially over the last 12 months – with regard to distributed computing. When I first started “putting spare hardware to work”, my initial focus was not on cryptocurrencies, but volunteer distributed computing. I did get involved in Ethereum mining for a short while, but backed out of it in February due to it no longer really being worth it, and migrated the processing back over to volunteer distributed computing.

With many of the projects, however, it can be difficult to actually see whether a difference is being made. Many projects on the Berkeley network – BOINC – show that your computing is making a difference. Two projects in particular have shown me such results: GPUGrid and PrimeGrid.

In the user profile for GPUGrid is a small widget to the right called “Contribution to scientific publications”. And recently I discovered a credit:

I’ll spare the jargon from the paper and summarize with this. The research in question focused on the CXCL12 monomer. If you look that up on Wikipedia, and go to the sections on clinical significance, you’ll see two things of note: Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. The research in the paper centered more specifically around molecular simulations with that monomer as part of “fragment-based drug discovery“.

Where will that research go? I have no idea. But this is just one example of some of what is coming about due to distributed computing.

Along with GPUGrid, I also contribute to Folding@Home, with a pair of GTX 1060s that were previously used for Ethereum mining now contributing to that distributed computing network. Unfortunately there is no way to know to what research I’ve contributed through them.

But imagine what good could come if even a small portion of the computing power that goes toward cryptocurrency mining were instead turned toward Folding@Home or GPUGrid…