The greatest indicator that blockchains are a transformative technology and will overcome whatever obstacles come their way, is how it holds the imagination of the people working on it. Developers around the world working on blockchain technology sacrifice their livelihood and even put their lives at risk for it.
Not only is Vitalik giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars with no strings attached, but there are hundreds of developers making financial sacrifices to work on Ethereum and other blockchains, without getting 1000 ETH from Vitalik.
More extreme cases are those of developers putting themselves in physical danger for their dedication to the work. The developers who created ProgPow (Programmatic Proof-of-Work), a new proof-of-work mining algorithm for Ethereum, go by the name IfDefElse: Ms. If, Mr. Def and Mr. Else. Only Ms. If isn’t anonymous—her real name is Kristy-Leigh Minehan (@OhGodAGirl on Twitter). There is good reason for them to be anonymous; they're stepping on the toes of big vested interests. But Ms. Minehan says, “I’m prepared. I always knew that if I tied myself to ProgPow in an upfront way like I have, then there would come a time when we’d have to face this.”
“They started a media slander campaign against me,” says Minehan. “No one wants to go through what I’m going through now.” She has been harassed on social media to the point that, she thinks a physical attack is possible: “I truly believe that it will come to a point where it will result in physical attacks as well.”
ProgPow is a proof-of-work algorithm that constantly readjusts some parameters in the algorithm to change the mining function. GPUs can quickly adapt to these changes on the fly, but ASICs cannot. This will keep Ethereum mined by GPUs and out of the centralized control of ASIC manufacturers. GPUs provide a level playing field for anyone to get into mining, and has always been a prime criterion of the Ethereum mining algorithm. Currently, Ethereum is overwhelmingly mined with GPUs since ASICS don't have much of an advantage. However with ongoing developments in ASIC design, it's feared there will be an ASIC soon that can put all GPUs out of business. ProgPow is the antidote to that future possibility. Naturally, ASIC miners don't want to be stopped and are hostile to any such software impediments.
In explaining why she works on ProgPow, Minehan says, "sometimes engineers just like making things because it’s really fun."
Dr. Lederer has over 15 years of technical experience in computer system design and programming. He has been teaching about blockchain and Ethereum for 3 years and recently co-authored Blockchain: A Practical Guide to Developing Business, Law, and Technology Solutions. Prior to working on blockchain technology, he worked at The Wall Street Journal, Morgan Stanley and BAE Systems, where he held a DoD TS (top secret) clearance to develop a novel mobile ad-hoc network for the US Air Force.