Some new magic/handwavium device provides free electricity. How does my character make (good) money out of that without letting people/the authorities know about the device?
My story explores some angles regarding the transition to a post-scarcity society. It is set in current times (2023 at writing, or perhaps up to 5 or even 10 years into the future, no more).
My main character is a hobby tinkerer (somewhat skilled and practical, but no extraordinary knowledge or talent). He has this [insert video site] channel where he builds "free energy" devices from obscure internet plans, showing that they don't work, and debunking and mocking the whole perpetual motion idea again and again (snicker). The channel is not hugely successful, and he hasn't quit his day job.
His latest device, to his infinite (hehe) surprise, actually produces electricity out of thin air. Not very much, a few Watts, he ran some lights off of it, and after building more of these devices, he canceled his home's electricity connection. Soon his heating gas/oil follows. After more thought and preparation (rain collection, purification, condensation), he cuts his municipal water supply too.
Being an avid consumer of science fiction, he soon figures that this device could well mean the start of a life of having everything you want (or at least, need) for free. But at this point he still needs to work his job and channel to get money to buy food...
So he acquires some cryptocurrency mining equipment. By now his savings are depleted, mining is slow and becomes increasingly difficult, [insert cryptocurrency] is falling in value, ... He is making money, but very slowly, it takes time to collect enough money to grow his operation. If he could just ramp up enough to not have to share his results with the mining pool and still get a regular income stream... Or, you know, set up his own pool for other miners.
To boot, the future of proof of work cryptocurrencies is unsure, being called a bubble by some; Ethereum for example has recently transitioned to proof of stake with a 99% electricity saving. What other means could he use to turn that free electricity into money? He has the following considerations:
- He does not even know on which principle the device works. Is it magic, or some undiscovered natural phenomenon? Is it really infinite? And harmless? (After all, people once thought fossil fuels were an inexhaustible energy source, just extract them from the earth. And the atmosphere is an infinite sink where combustion waste products could be dumped...) More scientific study needed. And scientists, especially ones that will keep quiet, are expensive.
- He does not want to become the same laughing stock that he once made of other "crackpots" on his channel.
- He does not want Big Electricity/Illuminati (the puns keep writing themselves) to buy up his patents, and/or "accident" him, like that guy that invented the car engine that ran on water.
- If his operation gets too big, it will generate some heat or noise signature that will be discovered by authorities sooner or later.
- If he makes and sells "electricity generators", nosey customers or competitors will soon crack them open to discover their working principle. I know that if someone wants to sell such a thing, but it takes no inputs, I'd steer well clear of shelling out good money for it.
- If he sets up an electricity utility, he will need to comply with all sorts of regulations and be open to scrutiny.
- Look, it is nice to have material wealth and be better off... It's even better if you don't have to answer to a boss any more. (Although he will soon need to think about how to hide from the Tax collectors...) For most of us I believe it is preferrable to have something and be happy, than to own nothing and be happy.