Is Proof Of Stake Less Resource Intensive Than PoW?

So, Mike – a Mango reader –  emailed me with this question a few days ago:

 Hey Shawn, I enjoyed your explanation on Sharding. Thank you. But now I’m  trying to understand what makes Proof Of Stake less resource intensive than Proof Of Work? Doesn’t the verification process need to take place the same way?

This is actually a really good question, Mike! It shows that your understanding is growing deeper. Your asking the right questions!

Yes, PoW and PoS conduct the validation/verification of transactions similarly. As such, Proof Of Stake  consumes just as much resources to verifiy transactions as Proof Of Work does.

However, it’s important to note that the “verification of transactions” is not what makes Proof Of Work resource intensive. It is the Cryptographic Puzzle  – required to be solved by all miners –  that consumes a large majority of the resources.

The PoW Puzzle – The Real Resource Hog

Many of us tend to believe that it's the validation of transactions consumes the resources. In truth, the majority of the resources is consumed while solving the Cryptographic Puzzle - which has nothing to do with the validation/verification of transactions.

In fact, Proof Of Work and other consensus methods are more concerned with the ordering of transactions than the "validation" of transactions. The ordering of transactions is resolved by getting miners to solve the Cryptographic Puzzle.

Miners solve the cryptographic puzzle in order to win the “right” to place their block next on the chain. And it’s the solving for the "cryptographic puzzle" that is computationally intensive - not the verifications transactions.  

In fact, Verifying the transactions is trivial compared to solving the cryptographic puzzle. Proof Of Stake eliminates the need for miners to solve the Cryptographic Puzzle – and hence eliminates the intense resource computation required.​

The PoW “Lottery” vs PoS “Lottery”

A couple of weeks ago, I explained Proof Of Work’s Puzzle using the Reverse Lottery Analogy.

In brief, Proof Of Work uses the Cryptographic Puzzle to setup a lottery. The winner of the lottery gets to place the next block in the blockchain – and everyone else agrees on it.  To win the lottery, miners have to churn numbers after numbers repeatedly until they generate the winning number. This process is extremely resource intensive.

The PoW Lottery System: Think of it this way –  the miners in this lottery know the winning number but they can’t forcefully print the number. Numbers on their ticket are printed randomly. So all they can do is keep printing tickets until they print the winning number.  The ‘printer’, however, consumes a lot of electricity – and hence the process can get really resource intensive.

The PoS Lottery System: Ethereum’s Proof Of Stake, however, doesn’t use a Reverse Lottery System. Instead, they use a normal lottery. In this lottery, each Ether token represents a lottery ticket. “Miners” (in Ethereum’s case we call them Validators)  simply place their Ether tokens in the lottery jar. We then simply shake the jar and pick the winner. The more tokens you have in the jar, the higher your chance of getting picked. (This is similar to having more hashpower in Proof Of Work)

And Voila! – we eliminate the intensive resource consumption.

Concluding Thoughts

Keep in mind – this is article is not claiming that Proof of Stake is better than Proof Of Work. Making a claim like that would show disregard for the multitude of use-cases for Blockchain and DLTs.  There are pros and cons for both consensus methods – and there will always be tradeoffs. In fact, the intense resources consumed by PoW can be stated as a positive aspect when pertaining to Immutability.  Here's a simple & well written article on Immutability in PoW that I recommend reading.

At MangoResearch, our community seeks to understand and educate ourselves – and not engage in futile debates.

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About the author

Shawn Dexter

Shawn is a blockchain & distributed ledger technology enthusiast with a strong background in Computer Science, Product Management and Entrepreneurship.

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