Why is it so hard for people to understand that the electricity devoted to mining is not "wasted." It is being purposely, and effectively, used to secure the network and make it more resolute against attack.
One could argue that it's not a good use of electricity, to secure a currency like this, but it's certainly not a "waste."
How many resources are wasted by the status quo banking system, the security, the servers, the offices, the salaries, the consumption that entire industry requires... ?
I was just discussing with a friend about a generic way of computing (mainly genetic programming) and how it can be applied to Bitcoin. It's a two birds with one stone situation. On the other hand, I think when and if we have the technology, Bitcoin can be extended to support it. There is no need to implement alternative distributed currencies all the time.
Also to support your argument, another perspective to look at mining is, as we will soon see with Namecoin, hashing power can be shared between several different distributed notary services with different purposes and all will enjoy the same amount of security. It can be the de facto standard of all these systems that the world needs. I'm also thinking about a way to do this without polluting the Bitcoin blockchain, which is not a too hard thing to do. All in all, it seems to me like building a monument of security using computing power rather than a waste of electricity.
Wasted as compared to other currency systems.
Care to extend?