Imagine if I created a system of currency based on knowledge of art history — call it, say, “ArtCoin.” ArtCoin could be a cryptocurrency, akin to bitcoin — except instead of being mined by computers performing complex calculations, ArtCoins would only be generated when the user answered a series of questions about historical figures in art history. A correct answer to “Who painted Starry Night?” or “Who designed Park Güell?” would both help advance the cryptocurrency’s ledger as well as provide the answerer with a small chance at being rewarded a new ArtCoin.
Probe within yourself as to why ArtCoin sounds conceptually silly. For it is really not too different from how cryptocurrency functions today; while most cryptocurrencies reward computational prowess, ArtCoin merely rewards art history knowledge. In general, cryptocurrencies, in their design, reward the crypto-miners who have mastered a very specific form of knowledge: computational knowledge, as opposed to art history knowledge in my hypothetical example.
If you’ve ever tried to set up a cryptocurrency mining operation on your home computer, you might have a sense of how inaccessible such an endeavor is to the layperson. In 2014, I tried to mine DogeCoin on my home computer on a lark; though I have a STEM degree and a decent knowledge of programming and computer design, I found the experience maddeningly complex, and eventually gave up.
Nowadays, you need a very fast computer (more likely a good graphics card) to even have a chance at mining anything more than chump change; you also need to have a knowledge of computer security in order to not get ripped off or have your bitcoin stolen, which is what happened to Bloomberg anchor Matt Miller on live TV. Because cryptocurrency mining operations run best on certain kinds of processors, it helps to have computer science as well as computer hardware knowledge — plus, you’ll need to consume a fair amount of electricity for the operation to be lucrative.