Morality of buying used PC hardware from cryptocurrency miners?


#1

Mind helping me out? I suspect there’s a chance I’m being scrupulous, though it’s also perfectly possible I have valid doubts.

Suppose I buy some used PC hardware that was used for cryptocurrency mining. This is obviously not a clear, open endorsement of the practice of cryptocurrency mining, of which I am wary but lack sufficient data to form a judgment about.

Someone who used the hardware for mining may or may not use the proceeds of the sale to buy new hardware for more mining, at some point in the future. Buying that used hardware from him has the effect of helping him recover the costs of his mining investment, which is not in itself evil (heck, it might be good actually), but it may also contribute to making mining a viable and sustainable thing for people, in effect constituting some form of material support for the phenomenon.

Cryptocurrency mining itself may be regarded as questionable for a number of reasons (links to speculation, pyramid schemes, passive income through resource investment coupled with minimal actual work beyond maintaining the resources in good order, susceptibility to money laundering due to some greater difficulty with government oversight), but it doesn’t seem to be inherently evil. It makes me instinctively feel distrustful and suspicious, but this is not even what I would call a reasonable, or reasoned suspicion with adequate objective basis and proof.

If so, then its intentions would decide the morality or lack of it, and people’s intentions shouldn’t be presumed to be evil. Hence I shouldn’t presume a self-professed former miner to be a probable current or future miner, or to mine for the wrong reasons, or whatever, in terms of judging him or the goods he wants to sell. On the other hand, I should be somewhat careful to not be a material, let alone formal collaborator with evil, which could make it a safer option to not buy that hardware from him.

In case you aren’t too familiar with cryptocurrencie such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin ‘miners’ allow their computers to be used to make calculations that provide security for the network. They provide ‘proof of work’ and they receive Bitcoins in payment. The miners’ ‘work’ means putting together, maintaining and operating the computers that do the actual work. Providing security is obviously useful work with some value, but obviously nobody does it altruistically with the security in mind, people just do it to be paid. And the network security makes it more secure to buy and sell the cryptocurrency, which is basically a form of ForEx speculation. Other cryptocurrencies actually involve allowing your computer to be used for a good purpose, e.g. as a mercenary machine to support calculations made by scientists for their research. Cryptocurrencies are used as currency and are accepted as a form of payment even by universities (for tuition) or tax offices in some countries (you can use them to pay tax). Opinions of scholars and authorities are divided, both on the merits and the ethics of the whole thing. Obviously the usual moral caveats about working the finance system to one’s advantage apply here.


#2

Am I being obsessive about avoiding association with remotely potential evil and should I just go ahead and buy the hardware without qualms, or do you think my doubts are legit and by buying a used PC part off of a former miner I would potentially be sinning by suporting an evil enterprise?

And sorry to be ‘outsourcing’ my thinking, apparently, but I’m just not in a state of mind to solve complex problems right now — too many personal and work issues on my head right now. I can’t go with a gut feeling because I don’t have a gut feeling either way. Don’t want my conscience to be a prejudiced knee-jerk reaction prompting me to avoid legitimate sellers of goods in order to stay ‘kosher’. But don’t want to end up justifying myself supporting an evil thing just to buy a product for a cheaper price.


#3

There’s nothing wrong with cryptocurrency. Be at peace.


#4

First off I can think of no reason why cryptocurrency mining would be immoral. Second buying something that was used immorally isn’t evil. As an example if someone bought a former strip club and turned it into anything else that would be good. The previous owner of the building does get compensated and might use that money immorally. But the buyer isn’t responsible for that.


#5

Thank you, folks. For years I’ve been unable to know where to draw the ‘not my problem’ line morally. I always end up taking the causation chains and links too far.

For the record, I still wouldn’t buy anything legitimate from a strip club, e.g. a drink, out of preference to not materially support the establishment in any way, though I would buy food from them if I was starving. This is something my conscience is telling me I must follow, without being able to claim it’s not my problem where my money goes. But in a case like this I may be taking it too far. The problem is, I can’t tell whether I’m being morally sensitive and opting for the better path, or just being a prude.


#6

You mentioned the possibility of scruples and said it’s possible you’re just being obsessive. It certainly seems to be the case, given the length of your explanation of all of this. You would be well advised to speak to a priest and possibly a mental health professional if you struggle with scruples or obsessive thoughts. Asking questions online will only get you a plethora of contradictory responses and will further drive your seeking of reassurance.

You are in my prayers

-Fr ACEGC


#7

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