But the company firmly believes that artificial intelligence is worthwhile — and it's now playing a starring role in bringing this technology to the masses.
Nvidia has declared that cryptocurrencies add nothing useful to society — despite the fact that its graphic cards play a key role in mining.
Speaking to The Guardian, the chipmaker's chief technology officer argued that artificial intelligence is a much more effective use of processing power. Michael Kagan said:
"All this crypto stuff, it needed parallel processing, and [Nvidia] is the best, so people just programmed it to use for this purpose. They bought a lot of stuff, and then eventually it collapsed, because it doesn't bring anything useful for society. AI does."
Back in May 2021, heightened demand from crypto miners led to a shortage of graphic cards that were designed for gamers. That prompted Nvidia to limit the hash rate on some models, meaning it would be less attractive for minting new Ether.
Since then, the tech giant has released GPUs that are specifically for mining crypto — but the Ethereum blockchain has now switched from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake.
Nvidia has been an unexpected beneficiary of the boom in AI, not least because 10,000 of its graphic cards were used in the supercomputer that trained ChatGPT. Kagan added:
"I never believed that [crypto] is something that will do something good for humanity. You know, people do crazy things, but they buy your stuff, you sell them stuff. But you don't redirect the company to support whatever it is."
The Guardian notes that Microsoft has since snapped up thousands of GPUs that Nvidia has specifically designed to propel AI forward.
Revenues from crypto miners plummeted during the bear market for Nvidia — and in recent financial results, the company has made clear that it prefers to focus on AI and gaming rather than the digital assets space.
Mining has come in for a lot of criticism from environmental campaigners over its electricity use, with New York recently imposing a two-year moratorium on Proof-of-Work mining.
And that's coincided with a number of top mining firms being plunged into financial difficulty — coinciding with last year's dramatic drop in Bitcoin prices.
You could argue that AI has overtaken crypto as the latest buzzword — and it's no coincidence that countless AI-focused tokens have popped up in recent months.
Last month, estimates suggested that ChatGPT had attracted 100 million monthly active users in January — just two months after launch.
If correct, this would make it the fastest-growing consumer application in history — far outpacing Bitcoin, NFTs and Web3.