Rumors Circulate After ETH Devs Suddenly Decide a Proof of Work Change


It took months of discussion, a lengthy token-holders vote, numerous dev calls and much debate to agree on an issuance reduction from 3 eth to 2 eth.

It took just a 30 minutes long discussion for Hudson Jameson to say, without even asking first who agrees or not, that:

“We are going to tentatively go ahead with ProgPoW and by tentatively what we mean is we’re going ahead with it unless there’s a major problem found within the testing or things of that nature.”

They are now seemingly planning another fork just for this Proof of Work (PoW) algorithmic change ostensibly designed to get rid of asics.

What little discussion there was on asics, however, suggested they have only 2x efficiency. That’s presumably because the current algorithm, ethhash, is designed to be memory intensive in order to prevent asics. ProgPoW apparently just increases that memory intensive aspect.

That seemingly comes at the expense of more difficult PoW hash verification on mobile devices. Péter Szilágyi says:

“I think last time I saw benchmarks contained no verification. I think the best numbers were that ProgPoW is about twice as slow. So nothing too insane but not pleasant either.”

Two individuals from the ProgPoW team were on the call. Instead of using their real names, they appeared as “Mr Else” and “Miss If.”

This apparent secrecy has led to whispers of Nvidia being behind the ProgPoW drive. Martin Köppelmann says:

“If you would learn (and I am not claiming that), that ProgPOW development was funded by nvidia or AMD – would that make a difference in your willingness to support it?”

Some 56% say yes in that poll, while 46% say no. Köppelmann doesn’t claim Nvidia or AMD are involved, but a person willing to name himself as Alexander Levin Jr does make such suggestion.

He says he is president of gpuShack and founder of ethosdistro, a Linux-based mining operating system that is currently running on 100,000+ rigs and 650,000+ GPUs. Levin states:

“ProgPoW’s proponent appears to have a consulting relationship with NVIDIA and NVIDIA-related AICs. This means that NVIDIA may be privy to future optimizations sooner, and more often.

Furthermore, ProgPoW’s proponents’ project Mineority seems to be focused on creating a platform for sourcing and providing cloud hosting specifically for NVIDIA GPUs.”

Mineority has ceased to function as far as we can see. This appears to have been an FPGA cloud mining provider, founded by Kristy-Leigh Minehan, which recently went under. According to a summary of what happened:

“Mineority fudged the numbers (due to ignorance, greed, or just plain stupidity), made promises, wrote a check too big to cash, HODL’ed a portion of their crypto as the market tanked, and are now essentially insolvent. Probably a lot of other greedy/shady s**t going on behind the scenes as well.

Kristy (ohgodagirl) jumps ship, and roughly a week later the entire company closes it’s doors and is basically wiped off the internet (discord and store are gone).”

Kristy-Leigh Minehan is the only known person from the ProgPoW team. She currently works as a Chief Technology Officer at Core Scientific, a new start-up that has recently raised $100 million.

In a video they show massive datacenters (featured image), housing rows and rows of GPUs, Asics and so on.

On Tuesday they announced Core Scientific has joined the NVIDIA Inception program, which brings together a wide range of technical know-how and capabilities needed for Core Scientific.

Minehan for her part has implied denial in a somewhat peculiar way, stating:

“All the conspiracy theories are flying around ProgPoW, including a mentally-unstable gentlemen writing a mini-novella about me, and how ProgPoW is the brainchild of my proposed employer and NVIDIA. All I can say is the upcoming movie is going to be epic.”

Presumably she means Levin who, unlike her, hasn’t fallen down to insults. Levin instead claims Minehan has previously stated in now deleted posts that she had a relationship with Nvidia. He offers as evidence a discussion between Peter Nelson, Senior ASIC Design Engineer at NVIDIA, and Minehan on an unrelated algorithmic improvement.

All of the above may have been left in a rumors folder if some of Levin’s claims did not check out. Like his statement that Minehan had presented at Coingeek’s conference. Far more important, however, is Levin’s statement that:

“In the past, using algorithms specifically for ‘ASIC-resistance’ has created unfair competitive advantages for first-movers because it increases the requirement for Research&Development. In the case of ProgPoW, the author is the first mover.”

That’s relevant because another miner, Linzhi, which had invested $4 million in developing an eth asics, now says: “we can accelerate ProgPOW by 3x to 8x.”

That’s disputed by Minehan, but the decision to move to ProgPoW does appear to be rushed. Especially when ethereum has a lot more issues of relevance to consider, like rent storage and pruning, which could allow for 10x or more capacity increase prior to sharding.

With resources now to be dedicated to this fork, including discussions of whether an 8x asics can be developed for ProgPoW even before the thing is out, other perhaps more important matters might be delayed.

In addition, the above is very much a story of miners arguing with each other for presumably some of them will gain from the change and some will lose.

Nvidia for its part is perhaps not directly involved, but some 10% of their GPU revenue/profits is related to eth mining. Making it a noticeable part of their business. While Nick Johnson, an eth dev, says to Levin:

“The fact that you make money specifically off software to help manage ASIC mining farms, and are arguing against a fork that would brick ASICs, is *absolutely* a conflict of interest.”

Levin therefore presumably clearly has an interest in this matter, but that’s precisely the point. All these different interests may well start arguing publicly in a way that perhaps overshadows far more important matters.

Without it being shown that asics are not designable for ProgPoW, as Linzhi claims, then one has to ask what exactly is the point of the exercise?

Monero was 51% attacked after they had an asics fork. GPU mining, moreover, is very much just as centralized in massive mining farms. Core Scientific for example, shows electric power stations as well as a location next to a hydraulic power station to provide their huge mining farm with cheap electricity.

Some basement kid with 2 or 3 GPUs isn’t going to be very competitive, especially considering ethereum clearly has FPGAs and so on.

Not that we care much really whether ethereum does change its Proof of Work, but the matter needs considerably more discussion, including whether they won’t run out of algos if they change it everytime a new asics shows up, or whether they’re not favoring monopoly like corporations and so on.

Plus in light of this clearly being controversial, there needs to be a token-holders vote so that we roughly know where most ethereans stand. Rather than having it all suddenly decided in a call few knew about where they didn’t even bother to discuss how exactly they’re going to manage all these forks they keep bringing up as planned.



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Great article, a few notes:

I have made 100x more money supporting GPUS than I have ASICS. Respectfully requesting correction that I have some agenda.

Kristy Leigh Anne Minehan is “Miss If”: the face, lead developer, and original proponent of progPOW.