Bitcoin and gas, the Kazakh risk

Skyrocketing Energy and the Internet Obscured. The production of cryptocurrencies is also paralyzed: the market collapses Gianni Riotta 09 January 2022

Kemel Tokayev, veteran of the "Great Patriotic War", acronym in the old Soviet Union of the Second World War, father of the current president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who died in 1986 at the age of 63, was a crime writer, considered by critics to be Sciascia, or the Simenon, of his great country, alone equal to a quarter of the European territory. Yet, in the thriller plots full of twists and turns, not even Tokayev Senior would have imagined the saga that has been animating the nation for weeks in Central Asia.

The ferocious repression unleashed by Tokayev son against the population, «Shoot on sight! Eliminate dissidents! ", In revolt against the expensive bills for the increase in the price of gas and oil, with hundreds of deaths, thousands of arrests and torture in the cells of the former Russian KGB, set up by Tokayaev's predecessor, the post-Soviet leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, culminated in the shutdown of the Internet, to prevent the rebels from informing and communicating with each other. The measure, tested by various regimes, according to the Committee to Protect Journalist, the most ferocious censors are Eritrea, China, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, but has an unexpected effect, soon spread from the capital Nur-Sultan, to the main city Almaty. , to the industrial peripheries close to the deposits of precious minerals, from uranium, of which the country controls a 40% share of the world market, to the rare earths indispensable for new technologies. In fact, the production of bitcoin, computer-generated cryptocurrencies, also unexpectedly stops, thanks to teams of analysts who combine infinite ad hoc algorithms.

The bitcoin mints in Kazakhstan, such as, founded by the entrepreneur Didar Bekbau, consist of gigantic warehouses, where precision computers, day and night, work in "mining", in the jargon of cryptocurrencies "digging in the mine", the data needed by bitcoins, while powerful air conditioning devices roar to cool the machines, at risk of overheating. Rich in coal, Kazakhstan boasted low energy tariffs, to attract investors and companies, soon occupying a fifth of the virtual minting of cryptocurrencies and a record of "hashrate", a measure of the productivity of digital minting. The China of President Xi Jinping, another stronghold of bitcoin "mines", since last spring has tightened the brakes on virtual finance and dozens of companies have transferred digital mints to Kazakhstan. Just to find, the economic notists wrote, from the Financial Times to Fortune, as early as last fall, many problems. The frightening amount of energy absorbed by the forges of cryptocurrency pushes the “grid”, the Kazakh electricity grid, to a halt, increasing its prices and unleashing the population.

From September 2021 to January 2022, daily blackouts paralyze bitcoin miners, while at the same time preventing them from heating and cooking at home and working in the workshop and shop. Thus, in October, Murat Shurebekov, Deputy Minister of Energy named after a famous warrior from Tolstoy's novellas, divides, on Tokayev's order, the bitcoin companies into "White" and "Gray", those regularly registered with the government and illegal ones. Except that, and here Tokayev father, the crime writer, would have had material for his novels, "legal" in Nur-Sultan and Almaty means able to pay bribes to the local kleptocracy, still in the hands of the clan of former president Nazarbayev and its powerful genres. Those who corrupt ministers and deputy ministers continue to transform the dirty, old coal of the first industrial revolution into ephemeral bitcoin. Those who save see machines and software stop suddenly. The bitcoin market has fallen by 10%, between physical and non-computer mines, bribes, pressure from Putin's Russia sending leatherheads to suppress the revolt, as in the days of the USSR, arrest of the former intelligence chief, Karim Massimov, loyal to Nazarbayev, while Western nerd analysts discover how "physical" the "virtual" is.

A legion of commentators, grown up after the web revolution, find it hard to take note of the materiality of the network, the millions of cubic meters of concrete, steel, glass that guarantee the servers, the millions of kilometers of cables that make them capillary, the quantity of energy - Minister Roberto Cingolani has tried several times to raise awareness in our public opinion - that the web requires, the space race, with communication satellites, GPS, monitoring. Just the day before yesterday, the former head of the British armed forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, warned, in a speech, how Vladimir Putin has ready a sabotage plan against NATO, with his fleet of submarines which, without using weapons traditional, is limited to severing the network of submerged cables at sea, "to stop the international communication network". The web, born in 1966 - today we tend to forget it, in the soft propaganda of platforms - as the military infrastructure of the Pentagon, Arpanet, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, is fragile, exposed to attacks by criminals, lobbies and the military and must therefore be regulated and protected. Central banks, long distracted by the cryptocurrency boom, partly out of snobbery, partly out of cultural delay, receive a brutal wake-up call from Kazakhstan, because the network is not an instrument of peace, unfortunately, but a future strategic and economic battlefield. .

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