Conversations with Linzhi
Please Note: None of the opinions expressed here are in any way representative of the Ethereum Foundation. I am speaking on behalf of myself only.
In September 2019 I sent a couple of tweets that indicated that I personally feel that the ASIC manufacturer Linzhi has both pressured me and told lies around the topic of Programatic Proof-of-Work (ProgPoW). They responded that they would like to see evidence of such pressure or lies. Here I will outline some of our conversations and statements from Linzhi that lead me to believe they were pressuring and lying.
I first had contact with Linzhi in January 2019 after a Coindesk article came out that that referenced Linzhi's "Call for Ethereum Developers to for ASIC Guidelines". I was unaware of Linzhi reaching out to any developers in the Ethereum ecosystem, let alone core developers, so I asked via a tweet if I could talk to them.
I got in touch with them through their Telegram channel. Due to the fact that they indicated they thought "no one would listen to us" I was immediately skeptical as I described in the tweet below.
Telegram Channel Conversation with Linzhi and KristY
The majority of the conversations I had with Linzhi over Telegram occured the same day I joined their channel. I have uploaded the chat log from January 11th in the Chat Logs folder. In short, they said a variety of things that indicated they had a personal vendetta and unprofessional discourse with Kristy-Leigh Minehan who was also in their chat. Kristy is the only non-anonymous member of IfDefElse which is a group of developers who coded ProgPoW. Here are some snippets of the conversation that made me skeptical that Linzhi were acting in a professional manner.
If you don't want to read the entire chat log snippet scroll beyond it for a tl;dr.
Links mentioned in the chat:
tl;dr of Chat
I asked Linzhi multiple times to provide evidence to their accusations that NVidia is somehow involved in ProgPoW for their benefit. At one point Linzhi seemed to indicate that NVidia may be behind this video which is clearly a parody piece (see 00:52 in log). At the same time they referenced a tool that Kristy seemed to be involved in called OhGodAnETHlargementPill. I'm still not entirely sure what that is, but can correct this article if someone tells me. Linzhi's overall point during this chat log seems to be that ProgPoW is part of a larger operation of monopolizing GPU mining (see 1:06) that involves NVidia and that it is bad for the Ethereum community.
Here is the end of the chat snippet where Linzhi states that they can create a ProgPoW ASIC that is "3x-8x accelerate" and that "Kristy comes to us and says if we can make it she will buy".
Linzhi's Director of Operations Wolfgang Spraul made the 3x-8x claim in this Coindesk article which also states that Spraul said, “I can publicly confirm today that we intend to study the feasibility, and then build, ProgPoW ASICs".
Linzhi has been sending me emails since January. I have not included all of the emails because many of them do not have any interesting content or just repeat the same claims you can find in their blog posts and tweets and Telegram channel. The primary reason why I felt pressured by Linzhi and claim they are lying is the statements they made in this email referencing their conspiracy theories, including saying that "Vitalik kickstarted this effort without realizing (I would assume) that Nvidia would have no hesitation lying to him and is simply trying to control and co-opt mining." Here is the entire email. A PDF of the email is located here. The date of the email is 2/21/2019.
it's me again
I got used to no-answer by now but I assume the mails are read.
When we released a statement via coindesk, you did listen.
I looked up your first message:
Why hasn't Linzhi reached out to any core developers or the Ethereum Foundation before releasing your statement today? You can contact me and I can put you in touch with who you need to speak with depending. It seems you are not in tune with the Ethereum community or the anti-ProgPoW people if you assumed no one would listen and didn't even make an attempt. To be honest your statement seems like a marketing ploy.
I need you to put me in touch with the Ethereum Foundation Legal Counsel, please. Our entire "activism" around ProgPOW is completely misunderstood, I'm assuming out of incompetence and lack of interest, not with malicious intent. Everything is different from what the official story is: ProgPOW is a joint effort of 10-15 people at nvidia, amd and intel to fight chinese supremacy in crypto. Vitalik kickstarted this effort without realizing (I would assume) that Nvidia would have no hesitation lying to him and is simply trying to control and co-opt mining. Core Scientific has a special deal with Nvidia that will give them undue advantage over independent miners. Core Scientific's only customer to-date is the Coingeek/CSW/nChain group, which mostly deals with gambling, racketeering, money laundering, etc. None of this can be proven, and most may not be provable ever. That doesn't make it less of a "conspiracy theory" than simply saying all those bad things don't exist. Of course some of our story may be wrong! But at least we are trying to find the truth with as much scrutiny as possible, it seems many others don't care. We will continue to point out to individual ETH developers, as well as the Ethereum Foundation, what kind of partners they are doing business with, and we will continue to find out more, even already out of self-protection because we have to decide who to do business with and who not (we were offered up to 70 million USD yesterday for secret ProgPOW chips! We will never do business with the mafia) contact 1 of 2 10/31/2019, 10:07 AMFrom Bitcoin Cash events last year, it's pretty clear that you want to stop the intrusion of bad faith actors into your community as early as possible. You may want to talk to Amaury Sechet from Bitcoin Cash about this. Don't say later we "haven't reached out" or you "would have helped" when in fact that is not happening. You want to avoid that there is a big article in coindesk, bloomberg, etc first that talks about how Coingeek/CSW took over ETH...
Can you please put me in touch with [Hudson Edit: ETHEREUM FOUNDATION LEGAL COUNSEL NAME TAKEN AWAY] in Singapore? I tried to reach him but he doesn't reply... Cheers, Sonia
Weird Accusation About Extortion
Besides the accusation that Vitalik had anything to do with all of this, there were a few other odd claims from Linzhi.
One of them is the $2M extortion attempt tweet and retraction.
Even in their retraction they seem to imply they didn't even know who made the initial claim for extortion and needed to ask around.
Danno's Chat Logs
Danno is an Ethereum core developer working on the Besu Ethereum client. He has shared and given me permission to use his chat logs. Linzhi has also given their permission to use the chat logs. The full chat logs are in PDF and PNG format in this folder.
Here is a snippet where Linzhi makes multiple unfounded claims.
Here is a snippet where they continue to pressure Danno when he politely asks them to stay away from him.
I checked with Vitalik and he is not being sued by Calvin Ayre.
Bottom Line and My Perspective
Linzhi talks a lot about conspiracy's involving Kristy, ifdefelse, and ProgPoW. They talk about how Intel and NVidia have joined forces to use ProgPoW to "fight Chinese supremacy in crypto". They talk about Kristy offering to buy ASICs from them. Whenever I've asked for evidence of connections between Intel, NVidia, and others and ProgPoW I have not received answers. Even one email in support of their claims would help. The main evidence they put forward is the connection between Kristy's former employer, Core Scientific, and Craig Wright (Faketoshi)/Calvin Ayre which sounds more like bad business decisions than a connection to ProgPoW. Linzhi asked for contacts to the Ethereum Foundation legal team without explaining their intentions for the outreach, which is a common tactic to intemidate someone into responding.
Is Linzhi trying to protect their 4 million dollar investment in an ETHash miner? Probably. Are they liars? They have definitely thrown around accusations without substantiating them. Is Kristy trustworthy? Who knows. I've heard both sides argue about that. Does that mean ProgPoW should go into Ethereum? Not sure.
The best argument I've heard in favor of ProgPoW is the following: Right now we are aware of and identified the top mining pools in the Ethereum ecosystem. Ethermine and Sparkpool are the top pools and I have a good relationship with their CEOs. Both pool operators/companies have done a lot of good for Ethereum including contributing software, testing, chain explorers, node explorers, and advocacy through co-working spaces for Ethereum devs and meetups. The CEO of Ethermine/Bitfly even contributed to the ProgPoW audit. They have shown themselves to be good actors in the ecosystem and unlikely to collude to perform attacks on the network. Because of my personal relationship with both CEOs I am convinced they would not harm the ecosystem. That claim is purely a personal opinion and I can't prove they won't act negatively towards the network in the future, but I am convinced they won't. There is evidence of ASIC miners secretly mining on the Monero network before their hard fork which caused a massive drop in hashrate. Similar claims have been made about ZCash. Those ASIC miners on Monero did not reveal themselves as an entity so how do we know their possible intentions? Let's play out this scenerio: Ethereum allows secret ASICs to proliferate on the network competing with GPU mining pools. GPU mining pools will eventually lose hashrate to the ASICs and have to switch to other coins in order to stay profitable. As GPU mining pools leave and ASICs proportion of network hash rate continues to grow we have a situation where unknown actors are mining the network and may not want to lose their investment to PoS. What could happen, now sure entirely. There is a chance, however small, of secret ASIC miners double spending as PoS approaches or suddently switching to another ETHash pool during the transition and dropping hash rate which would endanger the security of the Eth 1.0 chain.
I want to stress that I am not sure how plausible the above scenerio is and I am not endorsing it as fact. Arguably, a lot of different things would have to come together over the next 2 years for secret ASICs to push out GPU pools, but it is not outside of the realm of possibility.
As it stands right now ProgPoW has been informally accepted by the Ethereum core devs and will likely be going into a future fork. There has been some community pushback around this decision, but it is hard to tell if the signals from the anti-ProgPoW group are a few loud voices or not. I hope that we will continue to work as a community to come to consensus on controversial issues like this and respect all parties involved in the discussions.