(a feature documentary in progress, 2018-2021). Co-directed by Lukas Brasiskis and Narius Kairys
As early as in 2016, some Americans sold their apartments, took loans and headed to the Upstate New York known for its cheap electricity. They refurbished their old computers to install their crypto currency mining sites in small post-industrial towns. These sites gradually expanded and the computer hobbyists turned into a new generation of millionaires. However, pretty soon a group of wealthy corporations moved to the area to built large data centers set up for the sole task of mining bitcoins and so the consolidation of the crypto currency field has taken shape. Consequently, the profits have become harder to come by for individual miners since production and selling of the mining equipment has been centralized. These transformations of crypto mining remind the gold rush that took place in the end of the 19th century. A fictional parallel between the two temporarily separated processes is the first conceptual axis of our film. Combining the archival diaries of the gold miners with the interviews with today's crypto rushers, we intend to creatively re-introduce the phenomenum of the "gold rush" in a broader historical context.
The second axis of the film emphasizes the effect of the crypto currency mining on the social and ecological environments. Focusing on Plattsburgh and Massena, two small towns in the upstate NY that are located alongside the River of St. Lawrence, we portray contradictory reactions towards the bitcoin mining. Since bitcoin mining machines have to perform a phenomenally large number of computer calculations to track and verify transactions and solve complex puzzles, to obtain bitcoin rewards they need huge amounts of energy. Some reporters and scientists even argue that by 2021 crypto mining could consume "all of the world's energy”. (e.g., Chris Mooney, WP) After the awakening realization of the environmental and social effect of crypto currency mining, in the end of 2017 the first moratorium on the contemporary miners has been imposed. In Plattsburgh, the politicians have tried to stop the expansion of crypto currency mining sites due to which the price of electricity and waste of heat have reached enormous proportions. In Massena, however, local politicians have chosen to welcome the big and small bitcoin mining companies. This set a stage for a heated public debate about who should regulate the energy resources and what social policies have to be followed in the age of digital gold rush.
The film's goal is thus to make the spectator experience the complex relation between the human desires, technological progress and non-human worlds. How to present this situation while including the entire spectrum of human and non-human agents? This challenge in storytelling the film meets in its three-part structure characteristic of an innovative image-voice-over associations that reveal more than one layer of the meaning. The first part of the film looks at the situation from the perspective that exceeds the present moment, bringing to light everlasting human desires for immediate abundance, the second part focuses on the social repercussions and environmental outcomes of the crypto currency mining, and the third part speculatively and yet critically aims at revealing the perspective beyond human.