In November, 2013, the Global bitcoin network passed 64 exaflops. This is 256 times the computer power of the top 500 supercomputers in the world. Total bitcoin valuation is currently over $8 billion. The exaflops are not floating point and are mainly dedicated specially designed ASICS.
Bitcoin.sipa.be tracks bitcoin computing and other metrics.
In May, 2013, Bitcoin became the world’s largest distributed computing project, eight times more powerful than the world’s top 500 supercomputers combined. That is a huge amount of computing power that could be used for other projects like research into genetics, or searching for extraterrestrial life, or modeling weather and the climate, or a huge number of other endeavors. Mining digital currency entails a huge opportunity cost, just as mining gold and silver for money did.
Bitcoin mining works by setting a computer to chew on long and arduous “hash” problems that can’t be streamlined and don’t require floating point operations at all; the whole point is to tie up computer time and make the Bitcoin discovery process time-consuming and difficult. Dedicated mining hardware, which is becoming more popular in the Bitcoin mining community, is intentionally terrible at floating point calculations. making it more difficult to do this kind of direct comparison with general purpose computers.