Population Control – Chapter 14 (part 2)
This is a translation of a Japanese novel. You can read the Raw here.
This is a work of fiction, with depictions of violence such as death of many people at a time. It is not suitable for readers under 15.
Chapter 14 (part 2) is here!
This part took me a while because of how complex things get. I try to make everything as clear as possible, but if you’re confused by something, meet me in the comments.
Anyway, here’s the Chapter, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Chapter 14: Wizard Allegations
“Kageyama, can we talk for a bit? It’s about an important business matter.”
While I was in the conference room, working on the layout of the mining farm with the construction department, I was called to the president’s room.
You’d think it would be fancy, but mister Oba’s room is just an office and a reception area. One of the few distinctions to be noted from the offices of the other personnel is that he has regular walls instead of acrylic walls.
His curtains look pretty good, too. They only let a soft light inside through the window, giving the whole room a luxurious feel.
Way to go, mister president. You’ve got a good sense of style.
“Why did you call, mister Oba? Is there something wrong? We were working on the final touches of the mining farm over there.
Oh, by the way, while I’m here, I’d like to get your approval on something. Would you be alright with us mining Ethereum instead of bitcoin?”
Since he interrupted my work by calling me here, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to get his consent.
“What? You’re not going for bitcoin? When you think of mining, you immediately think of bitcoin. You think the locals will understand what Etherum is? I don’t know about that.”
“That may be so, but we have to consider the ‘Difficulty’ parameter, in other words, the difficulty of finding a hash below a certain level in any given mining block. The more popular the currency, the more the ‘Difficulty’ has to increase, and the harder it becomes to mine it on any given computer.
Even if we buy the very latest equipment, the more we’ll mine, the more the ‘Difficulty’ parameter will increase. At this point, I feel like bitcoin is already stuck in a circle, like dirty laundry spinning in a broken washing-machine. But if we shift to a PoS like Ethereum, we can avoid that problem to an extent. Right now, the way to make profit is to mine Ethereum, turn it into bitcoin, and then turn that bitcoin into profit.”
“I see. So are we going to need to continuously invest in equipment and keep switching between altcoins?”
Bitcoin is the most famous virtual currency there is, but it’s far from being the only one; there are others, which we refer to as altcoins. Etherum is considered to be among the best, but there are thousands of them.
In short, what the president is suggesting is that we switch our mining from one altcoin to the other, depending on which one seems the most profitable at any given time.
“If we do that, we won’t be able to use currency-specific ASIC chips, in which case, we might as well mine using the GPU of any random computer we find in the junk.
This could reduce our profits by one or even two digits.
Besides, we have to think our electricity consumption. For now, I’ve been making plans for our power generation facilities, but I don’t know if I like the direction we’ve taken…”
The more I investigate, the more I feel like like the company picked a bad timing to enter the cryptocurrency market. I personally believe that, as soon as the mining farm is completed, we should switch to developing it into a paid cloud mining farm service. In other words, we’d get paid to mine for others. I feel like there is some profit to be made on the backs of people who dream big, have money to throw around, and aren’t well informed on the subject.
“Kageyama. The Japanese government has been working on a power-supply master plan here in Nigeria for years now, in the form of foreign aid. You do realize that we can’t afford to step out of bounds and catch the government’s eyes, right?”
So far, only 60% of Nigeria has access to electric power. It’s said that 90 million people out of the 200 million composing its population cannot use electricity. Lagos is fine on that front, but I definitely wouldn’t say it’s getting a stable supply. Power outages are a dime a dozen here.
Because of this, people are allowed to have their own, private generators in Nigeria. Wealthy companies and foreign businesses are all equipped with diesel generators in their offices.
But it seems like this has been gradually widening the gap between the poor and the rich, between those who still have access to power when the public supply stops working, and those who are forced to stagnate whenever there is a power failure.
“Yeah, don’t worry, I’m not going to dedicate the power facilities to anything other than private use. I’m keeping our circumstances in mind as I plan things out.”
Mister Oba’s face showed some relief.
After that, he took out a bunch of business cards from his pocket. These were the business cards of the higher-ups of some major IT companies’ local subsidiaries. Some of these were American companies, others were from different countries.
“I’ve been talking to these people a lot. Right now, they’re hiring cheap labor here in Nigeria to do image annotation work for them, the goal being to ultimately use the data in an AI system.”
If you want a computer to recognize pictures, you first have to prepare various images and feed it a large amount of data like “On this image, there is a car, on that image, there is a man, on this one, there is a road sign”.
This is called image annotation.
The neural networks built through that process serve to teach modern image recognition AIs to recognize images.
Since this type of work requires a big workforce, it’s a good call to do it in a place where labor costs are low.
Still, there is a problem with that. If you show the picture of a camel in a country where there are no camels, to someone who doesn’t know what a camel is, the only data you’ll get from him is “This is a weird giraffe”, which makes this a pretty frustrating business.
“But here is the catch. To start this business, they have to use high-spec computers, and their power consumption is starting to go over what they’re supplied. Although they did order some diesel generators to deal with the issue, that’s far from sufficient.”
Of course it’s not sufficient. High-end PCs, even the not so expensive ones, require 700 watts an hour if you want them to run at full throttle. The latest General-purpose GPU servers consume 3500 Watts each, and those companies are gonna need to line up a lot of these if they want to run a business.
Granted, some of the large models of diesel power generators from Japan can be amazing. They can range between 30kVA to 500kVA. But considering the fuel and noise problems that come with them, it’s not a realistic solution.
“And so, they said they’d be willing to buy some of the power we have in excess. I’m thinking 6 yen per kWh would be good.”
Hmm, 6 yen… So they want American prices…
By the way, the price of electricity back in Japan is 13 yen per kWh for businesses.
“We generate 8.4 Megwatt hour per working day. How much did they say they want?”
“If I add up the four companies I’ve had talks with, the total is 20 Megawatt hour.”
“Isn’t that way above what we have? If we could sell at that price, it would make us 3.6 million yen each month, more than 30.000 dollars, but…”
“So it’s impossible after all, huh…”
Mister Oba seemed a bit ashamed about bringing a bad business plan on the table.
“No, actually, our solar park only occupies about 2 hectares of our land. Besides, if we put solar panels over the roof of the mining farm we’re building near Ijebu Igbo, then that should do the trick.
Speaking of which, why don’t we build two 200×200 warehouses, and then generate electricity on the rooftops? We could both rent them and use them to stock up the stuff we’ve been keeping at the harbor’s warehouses.
We could even add power conditioners and storage batteries inside the warehouses to make the electricity easier to manage.
Since we get 1 Megawatt an hour for 2 hectares, this will make us 4 Megawatts per hour. Assuming the panels would work for 8 hours a day, we’d be generating 32 megawatts a day.
If we contact other Japanese companies, then maybe they’ll buy some of that, too. Like the Honda factory in the Ogun state, for example.
What do you think?”
“Can we afford to build such massive warehouses?”
“If we turn the rooftops into solar parks, we can cover 8 whole hectares. At 6 yen the kWh, it will make us 70 million yen each year. We’ll have made up for our losses in less than 4 years. We’re in a a building phase anyway, so if we can make space in the harbor’s warehouses while we’re at it, that will make things even easier.”
Mister Oba’s face lightened up. The Mibu company were through great pains to import marchandise from Japan, but then the buyer in Nigeria went bankrupt. Now, all that merchandise is taking space in some warehouses that the company is renting at a harbor.
Mega solar plants hardly ever have any technical difficulties as long as they’re maintained properly. The difficult part with solar farms is finding ways to use the power, and contracting buyers.
Since this won’t be a problem is this particular case, we might as well get two birds with one stone.
And the longer it will take for Nigeria to get their own nuclear power plants through their deal with Russia, the longer we’ll make profits. It’s a flawless plan… Right?
Just like that, I temporarily became the director of the power development department on top of being director of the Mining farm development department.
Before I knew it, we reached the end of November. But man is it hot in Lagos these days.
Alert: If you like the novel, please share your thoughts on NU https://www.novelupdates.com/series/population-control/ and don’t hesitate to recommend it on other sci-fi novels you like. Pretty please… I know it’s not ecchi or cute and whatnot so it’s hard to get good ratings or any ratings at all, but it’s still a veeery hard project. Pretty pretty please.
Translator’s note: Well, if someone got a scientific paper about bitcoin or electricity, I can apparently translate that now lol.
Had to do a loooot of research for this one, and I was just translating stuff, I can’t imagine what the author had to go through to write this stuff. Damn.
You can talk to him on discord btw, he speaks English and he’s great.
Would probably be your only occasion to ever talk to a popular Japanese author directly.
By the way, would any of you be interested in a French translation of the novel? It would be by me, so it would be a direct translation from Japanese to french, not English to French. I don’t intend to do that right now, but I kinda want to know if there is an audience for it.