Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014)
Hal Finney, the renowned cryptographer, coder, and bitcoin pioneer, died at the age of 58 after five years battling ALS.
He will be remembered for a remarkable career that included working as the number-two developer on the groundbreaking encryption software PGP in the early 1990s, creating one of the first “remailers” that presaged the anonymity software Tor, and—more than a decade later—becoming one of the first programmers to work on bitcoin’s open source code; in 2009, he received the very first bitcoin transaction from Satoshi Nakamoto – Andy Greenberg
Hal Finney was an unusually intelligent and thoughtful student, who at times carried around an impressively large copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and seemed to have adopted its lessons about libertarian free thinking. Friends recall him quietly sitting in the back of a physics class, only to approach the teacher afterwards to correct an error or suggest a better way of articulating a problem. At math team competitions, Finney would ring in with an answer to most questions before they’d been fully asked. In 1974, his senior year, he was voted “most brains” by his peers – Andy Greenberg
Mr. Finney downloaded version 0.1.0 – and it crashed, which surprised Nakamoto who’d been testing the system himself and hadn’t had any crashes. But he managed to reproduce the bug, and the faulty code that caused it. “It was absolutely the last piece of code to go in,” he wrote. “I’m really dismayed to have this botch up the release after all that stress testing.” It’s one of the few displays of emotion from him in the emails.
They went back forth, through version 0.1.2, and 0.1.3. There were more crashes, more debugging, more rewriting and retooling of the code over and over again.
“It was getting so there were so many zombie nodes, I was having a hard time getting a reply to any of my messages,” Nakamoto wrote to Mr. Finney in one email, while he was simply trying to establish reliable connections between two different users of the system, the other being Mr. Finney – Paul Vigna
As an amusing thought experiment, imagine that Bitcoin is successful and becomes the dominant payment system in use throughout the world. Then the total value of the currency should be equal to the total value of all the wealth in the world. Current estimates of total worldwide household wealth that I have found range from $100 trillion to $300 trillion. With 20 million coins, that gives each coin a value of about $10 million.
So the possibility of generating coins today with a few cents of compute time may be quite a good bet, with a payoff of something like 100 million to 1! Even if the odds of Bitcoin succeeding to this degree are slim, are they really 100 million to one against? Something to think about… – Hal Finney, 11th January 2009
* Hal is a rare genius who never had to trade his emotional intelligence to get his intellectual gifts. He is a fine human being, an inspiration for his attitude toward life. I wish I could be like him. – Phil Zimmerman, PGP
* Hal was the most focussed, most grounded of our generation. His posts were a joy. May future generations benefit – Ian Grigg
* Reusable proofs of work, PGP development, very useful comments, among many other contributions — we will miss you Hal Finney – Nick Szabo
* I am most proud of my work on PGP. Although I would not be surprised if my small contributions to Bitcoin, particularly my optimization of the elliptic curve math, may be the lasting contribution of my work – Hal Finney
* I’m comfortable with my legacy. – Hal Finney
Bitcoin is the Solution to the Military Industrial Complex
The past 100 years has seen the advent and spread of the disease with the highest death count of all time: the military industrial complex. The most evil, murderous, relentless force the world has ever seen is the partnership between defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, and R&D developers with the state.
This dynamic duo of death relies on a continuous process of mass production, taxation, inflation funded borrowing, bullshit crises overseas, nationalistic idiocy, and mass killings in the name of “democracy” or “anti-terrorism” – the systematization of mass theft and mass death. The problem is one of institutions that are fundamentally flawed with perverse incentives and perverse powers. That means the only solution is to work around the system.
The project that is leading this cause of bypassing the system is Bitcoin.
If people support the troops, pay their taxes, follow the law, use American dollars, the power structure is kept running. The so-called upright citizen is the Man’s best friend, while also being the Man’s best slave. As long as the “upright citizen” keeps treading the hamster wheel of state capitalism, the military industrial complex thrives – Cory Massimino
The Fallacy that Merchant Adoption Drives the Price Down
Merchants who do not hold bitcoins at all cannot directly affect the price of Bitcoin at all. Someone who buys bitcoins one minute and sells them a minute later cannot have a large effect on the market. This is essentially what the merchant is doing—he buys bitcoins from the customer in exchange for goods, and then sells them shortly thereafter at an exchange. Therefore it is only the effect that the merchant has on other people that can actually change the price of Bitcoin.
One of these people is the seller of bitcoins, i.e., the one who decides to buy goods from the merchant. Does he decide to replenish his balance of bitcoins from Circle or not? If he does, then there is no selling pressure on the market, even in the very short term. If not, then he is the one causing the selling pressure, not the merchant.
We still don’t know how much selling pressure is actually caused here, because we do not know what the seller would have done if there had been no merchant to buy from. He may well have sold his bitcoins for dollars anyway. Thus, I see no reason that there should be any consistent rule on how much effect merchants are having on the people who buy from them.
The MAD fallacy lies in considering only a single possible effect of merchant adoption—that it might convince bitcoin holders to sell bitcoins they otherwise would not have sold—to the exclusion of other possible effects which should be expected to be roughly as important. – Daniel Krawisz
Inside one of the World’s Largest Bitcoin Mines
A week after I visited the last bitcoin mine in northeast China, I was able to arrange a trip to a larger, even more secretive operation. These exclusive photos provide a glimpse inside one of China’s largest bitcoin mines
This entire facility has several petahashes of mining power, accounting for perhaps 5% of the entire bitcoin network – Bitsmith
COMPANIES / PROJECTS
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup
Zero to One is based on what Silicon Valley digerati knowingly refer to as “CS183”—the catalogue designation for the undergraduate computer science course Thiel taught during Stanford’s spring 2012 trimester. Thiel’s lectures became an online sensation after Stanford law student Blake Masters, then 25, began posting—originally without permission—reconstructions of each one on his Tumblr blog. Masters’ blog has since received close to 2.4 million page views from 560,000 unique visitors.
“The course notes have had a huge impact,” venture capitalist Marc Andreessen tells me. “Every entrepreneur we meet has read those back to back.” Andreessen co-wrote the code for the first modern web browser and co-founded the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz – Roger Parloff
German Court Bans Uber
They’ll ignore this “ban” just like they did the injunction in Virginia and the other one. Uber is an app that runs over the net. They are not responsible for what German drivers do with their phones. The worst that can happen is the board are banned from entering Germany. Cry me a river, they’ll miss Oktoberfest!
SOMEONE has to be the first to stand up and say NO to the disgusting violent filth of the State, and it’s evil clients.
The first one will be gunned down or incarcerated, that is why nobody dares to do it – Rothbardian
Uber already ignores bans, so do the millions torrenting and sharing files for DECADES. The Sate is NOT OMNIPOTENT. – Beautyon
Tesla mentioned that they’re going to build this giant ‘gigafactory’ and in view of the current technology in which greater than 50% of the electric battery is comprised of graphite, do you think that there are any companies out there that could supply natural graphite to Tesla for its Gigafactory? – James West
Yes. I have a little bit of an interest in one that I think has the largest deposit of graphite in the world, and it’s run by an extremely knowledgeable group of people, and I know, that if graphite has a future, which it does, and graphene, then this company (Mason Graphite, LLG:CN) is going to do extremely well.
And I do know, from what the scientists tell me, that graphene has a huge future, whether it’s in automobiles – in everything. The scientists say – this is not Jim Rogers talking – the scientists say, graphene is going to be as important to the world as the internet. It’s going to be as important to the world as electricity. Now, I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know, but I do know a couple of guys won the Nobel Prize recently because they came up with graphene, so people who are more knowledgeable than me think that graphene, and therefore graphite, has a staggering future – Jim Rogers
Hal Finney: PGP
In 1991, he began doing volunteer work for a new software project known as Pretty Good Privacy, or P.G.P., and immediately became one of the central players in developing the program. P.G.P. aimed to make it possible for people everywhere to encrypt electronic communication in a way that could not be read by anyone other than the intended recipient. The program used relatively new innovations in encryption that are still thought to be invulnerable to code breakers.
Mr. Finney wrote in 1992 that cryptographic technology appealed to him because he worried about the ability of corporations and governments to snoop on citizens. “The work we are doing here, broadly speaking, is dedicated to this goal of making Big Brother obsolete,” he wrote to an online group of fellow privacy activists – Nathaniel Popper
Few outside the computer scientists’ community will know the name David Chaum, yet he has a claim to be one of the great visionaries of contemporary science.
This visionary thinker now rarely gives interviews, but he has spoken exclusively to Horizon about his early work and his anxieties about the world we live in today – Mike Radford
Hal Finney & David Chaum
It wasn’t until 1991 that Finney discovered the movement of anti-authoritarian encryption gurus who would define much of the rest of his career: the Cypherpunks. Centered around the Cypherpunk email list, the group advocated encryption tools as a means to shift power from the government and to individuals.
Like many cypherpunks, Finney was inspired by the work of David Chaum, another Los Angelino cryptographer who had proposed theoretical systems that would use encryption tools to enable anonymous communications and even untraceable financial transactions. Chaum had developed the first-ever virtual currency known as DigiCash, with some of the anonymous and decentralized properties of Bitcoin, though it never gained widespread adoption.
“It seemed so obvious to me,” Finney would write on the Cypherpunks Mailing List in 1992. “Here we are faced with the problems of loss of privacy, creeping computerization, massive databases, more centralization – and Chaum offers a completely different direction to go in, one which puts power into the hands of individuals rather than governments and corporations. The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them.”
Finney never gave up on Chaum’s ideas of digital, pseudonymous currency. “With digital cash and smart cards, you should be able to engage in…transactions with no organization or institution able to violate your privacy or steal your money,” he wrote on the mail list in 1993. “You can protect yourself, rather than having to trust others. This puts more power into the hands of the consumer.”
A few years later, Finney would even develop a “proof-of-work” system that closely resembled the one Bitcoin would later use, requiring that participants of the system solve complex computer problems to create a barrier to entry and keep out those who would corrupt the system – Andy Greenberg
Who in good conscience wants to go their entire working lives supporting a government that wastes tax dollars on bombs, drones, spying on citizens, and bankrupting unborn generations? It’s no wonder why the number of Americans renouncing their citizenship is increasing exponentially… and will likely continue to do so.
Renouncing US citizenship was free of charge until a couple of years ago. Then, overnight, the State Department imposed a $450 fee.
Yesterday they increased it once again– to $2,350. That’s a 422% increase.
In its explanation, the State Department whined that the costs of processing renunciations had simply become too high. It’s curious that a government which denies inflation even exists would complain about the consequences of it – Simon Black
You have to fill out a form if you want to renounce your citizenship—which, by the way, you can only get from a foreign embassy or consulate. Those forms used to be free. Now they’re about $500 apiece. So think about that. If they can charge you $500 for that form, they could charge $5,000, they could charge $5,000,000. They could basically make it impossible for you to leave. And they’re trying to make it more difficult ever since Eduardo Saverin from Facebook went to Singapore.
Now the government is trying to come up with all sorts of ways to punish Americans who try to give up their citizenship, and this really is the sign of a nation in decay. Fifty years ago, nobody would want to give up American citizenship. They would cherish it. The fact that so many people are paying tremendous amounts of money to get this albatross off their neck shows you how much times have changed, that an American passport is not an asset to be cherished but a liability that people are willing to pay to get rid of – Peter Schiff, March 12th 2014
Spearheaded by the co-founders of Bitcoin Indonesia, the nation’s largest bitcoin exchange, the group came one step closer to its goal with the launch this month of a Bali-based booking agency called Bitcoin Tour. The new travel agency claims clients can receive discounts of up to 75 percent if they exchange their digital currency for hotel reservations at “almost all star-rated hotels” in Indonesia. Travelers can also exchange bitcoins for train and plane tickets on all major Indonesian carriers.
Bitcoin Tour is part of the broader Bitislands project, which boasts a center for Bitcoin exchange along the main drag of Kuta, Bali’s answer to the Jersey Shore. Bitislands has a team of volunteers who spread information about the cryptocurrency to businesses throughout the tourist centers of Legian, Seminyak and Ubud.
30 businesses on the island accept Bitcoin at the point of transaction. Bali now boasts more establishments that accept Bitcoin than neighboring Java (including Jakarta), despite having a population that’s 35-times smaller.
One of the newest additions to the Bitcoin bandwagon is Hubud, a co-working space in the expat hub of Ubud.
“Our decision was quite simple: We have a very nomadic community that values having a transnational currency to be able to pay with for almost no transaction cost,” cofounder Steve Munroe explains.
Hubud began accepting bitcoin in July and has had 20 transactions to date for memberships, travel excursions and other services. The space hosts weekly Bitcoin meetups, two of its members just launched Coin Academy, and another is working on a bitcoin payment processing app. Munroe says Hubud is now exploring the options of a bitcoin ATM and a bitcoin exchange desk – Mark Johanson
Your mind is software. Program it. Your body is a shell. Change it. Death is a disease. Cure it. Extinction is approaching. Fight it – Blake Masters
Mexican Woman becomes Oldest Person who Ever Lived at 127
Leandra Becerra Lumbreras was said to have been born on August 31, 1887 – the year Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee. The birthday girl’s secret to a long life is eating well, sleeping for days on end and never getting married, according to her family – Matt Roper
Peter Thiel: Life Extension
After launching his venture capital firm, Founders Fund, in 2005, Thiel was ready in 2006 to kick off the Thiel Foundation, through which he channels his heuristic charitable giving. It gives away about $13 million to $15 million a year.
An early beneficiary was Aubrey de Grey, the highly controversial biogeronotologist who founded the SENS Research Foundation, which stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. De Grey is trying to develop regenerative therapies that can postpone aging—possibly indefinitely. In an email, De Grey confirms to me that he still believes, as he was once quoted saying, that the first human who will live to be 1,000 is probably already alive today.
Thiel’s support for anti-aging research is perhaps the most extreme manifestation of his being a “definite optimist”—a person who, as Thiel defines the term in Zero to One, believes “the future will be better than the present if he plans and works to make it better.” Thiel contrasts such a person to an indefinite optimist, someone who thinks “the future will be better, but … doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans.” Thiel abhors the latter outlook, which he feels predominates in America – Roger Parloff
Hal Finney: Futurist
While working on P.G.P., Mr. Finney was a regular participant in a number of futurist mailing lists, the most famous of which gave birth to the Cypherpunk movement, dedicated to privacy-enhancing cryptography.
As a young man, Mr. Finney developed an interest in preserving life through cryonic freezing until better, life-enhancing technologies were invented, said a college roommate, Yin Shih. In 1992, Mr. Finney visited the Alcor facility with his wife to determine whether he wanted to sign up his family to be preserved in Alcor’s “containment vessels.”
“In my personal opinion, anyone born today has a better than 50-50 chance of living effectively forever,” he wrote at the time – Nathaniel Popper
Some bitcoin enthusiasts have used their cryptocurrency to travel around the world. Others have spent it on a trip to space. But the very earliest user of bitcoin (after its inventor Satoshi Nakamoto himself) has now spent his crypto coins on the most ambitious mission yet: to visit the future.
Now Finney has become an early adopter of a far more science fictional technology: human cryopreservation, the process of freezing human bodies so that they can be revived decades or even centuries later.
Around the time of his diagnosis, Finney said he found that his cryonics plan gave him some comfort, too. “It was actually extremely reassuring as the reality of the diagnosis sunk in,” he wrote in 2009. “I was surprised, because I’ve always considered cryonics a long shot. But it turns out that in this kind of situation, it helps tremendously to have reasons for hope, and cryonics provides another avenue for a possibly favorable outcome.”
No human, to be clear, has ever been revived from a state of cryonic freezing. Many scientists consider the idea impossible. But Finney’s wife Fran says that doubters never stopped her husband from exploring a technology that intrigued him.
“Hal respects other people’s beliefs, and he doesn’t like to argue. But it doesn’t matter to him what other people believe,” says Fran, who alternatingly spoke about her husband in the present and past tense. “He has enough confidence in how he figures things out for himself. He’s always believed he could find the truth, and he doesn’t need to convince anyone.”
He’s always been optimistic about the future,” says Fran. “Every new advance, he embraced it, every new technology. Hal relished life, and he made the most of everything.”
Fran Finney says that her husband had no illusions about the certainty of his resurrection. But until his final moments, he put his faith in the progress of technology. “He never said to me, ‘I will come back.’ But he told me, ‘I hope to be back,’” Fran says. “Hal liked the present. But he looked towards the future. He wanted to be there. And this is his way to get there.” – Andy Greenberg
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