On Whistleblowing

Linzhi ASICs
8 min readSep 21, 2019


We know more than what we have talked about so far.
We know but we cannot prove.

There are two types of knowledge: A priori and a posteriori knowledge.

Our knowledge about the attack on Ethereum is a posteriori knowledge, so we don’t need to ask anyone, and we don’t need proof ourselves.
We know.
A posteriori are empirical facts unknowable by reason alone.

Since we don’t want to ally with the attackers, and we have no proof that would satisfy an audience that is tired in a world of fake news and FUD, what we decided to do is to try to open up eyes about what might be going on — plausibilities, motivations, personal and corporate backgrounds.
We do this for 9 months now, it binds a significant amount of our resources.
That is all we can do.

Bob Rao’s Audit

We are disappointed that so few independent Ethereum developers seem to read and think about Bob Rao’s excellent audit.


From our view, Bob Rao’s audit confirms that ProgPoW will not achieve its goal of closing the efficiency gap between ASICs and GPUs, which adds to a list of people that have come to the same conclusion.

  1. Howard Chu

2. ether4life

“This results in a 4x advantage in terms of energy efficiency over a GPU for ProgPoW” — ether4life

(An anonymous Ethereum freedom fighter. We tried to track down who this person is, unsuccessfully. Please come forward privately if you read this.)

3. Tim Olson


“they are using more chip, which means more up-front cost (capex), but there will be a lot more power too (opex)” — Tim Olson

4. Linzhi

Against all this, EIP 1057 states right in its abstract

ProgPoW is … designed to close the efficiency gap available to specialized ASICs.

It has now been sufficiently established that EIP 1057 fails to reach its main stated design goal.

That alone is enough to reject EIP 1057 on technical grounds. Why should Ethereum adopt a technology that doesn’t do what it says it will do?
It is enough to reject EIP 1057 without further input or agreement from its authors.

One must assume the EIP 1057 authors to respond to arguments with new arguments, but as engineers we should be able to think independently through the facts and come to our own judgment, and reject what we understand to be false.

We don’t need to speculate about business motives, mining fairness and other PoW algo change related risks.

Linzhi and Hudson Jameson

We surely made many mistakes in our whistleblowing journey. We may have construed connections with our bias. We followed dead-end leads. We used over-emotional language.

There was also a positive side: New friends, finally understood the power of FUD and that FUD must be rejected the same way we reject hate speech.
Learned a lot about bias

We can say nothing but positive things about Hudson. Hudson is the greatest guy that could chair the all core devs. Hudson leads with integrity in an environment of horrendous intensity, like an ongoing F1 race.
If Hudson thinks Linzhi is not to be trusted, we can accept that. We will try to earn his respect the same way we try to earn respect from anyone.

We communicate with Hudson for 9 months now. None of us has ever met him. Our communication was 90% public, 99% one-directional (from us to him), plus some attempts to start an email conversation, basically repeating the same things we said publicly and maybe a few more speculative (to him) thoughts. I believe Hudson never replied.

He was and is faced with a very difficult situation: A team of malicious actors is attacking Ethereum, and the format of publicly recorded all-core-dev calls with a 100% engineer ratio is the perfect entry point for the attackers.
He wants to be neutral because Ethereum wants to be a neutral platform, but a team of collaborators cannot be neutral when faced with a predator, see Rick Falkvinge’s thoughts on that in the next section.

To maintain our own integrity, I will reply to Hudson’s tweets about Linzhi here, rather than taking it to Twitter.

A: We are protecting our investment into an Ethash miner via the fight for the viability of the entire platform. The two motivations are inseparable for us.

A: At some point neutrality and decision-making are mutually exclusive. If you are neutral forever you are setting up the perfect environment where a hidden agenda will succeed. Doacracy cannot work, in a doacracy the bank robber will just claim to be the CEO of the bank and get away with the robbery. Please point out what you believe our lies were so that we can reconsider the messaging or correct mistakes. We maintain a list of all substantive contributions to the debate at https://linzhi.io

A: There was no other known person that offered themselves as a recipient of whistleblowing-like information. We tried to contact people at the Ethereum Foundation, I believe noone ever replied. Big credits go to you for coming to our Telegram after seeing the Coindesk article. If you feel we pressured you unduly, I apologize. Same as before, please find the time to point out what you believe was flatly untrue so we can reconsider and correct. Thanks!

A: Our Telegram chat from this time is archived, with permission from Hudson, in https://linzhi.io/docs/20190108-Telegram-Transcript.pdf .
We were emotional, and the attackers were in our Telegram in full force. Today we have banned any and all accounts we believe to be associated with the attackers, and it’s much nicer again.
You are still in the group Hudson, if you have ASIC related questions — just ask.

A: That is true. Before the core developer meeting January 4th we had not been in contact with core developers. Exactly as the Coindesk article says, we were shocked by the move of only working with one hardware company. That’s when we started to reach out.

Thanks Hudson for everything you do for Ethereum! You are trying hard to maintain neutrality and we would be the last ones to criticize you for that.

Predators and Collaborators

The ProgPoW team among Ethereum developers, is a predator among collaborators.

These predators hide among collaborators. They try to exhibit signs that make the collaborators see the predators as a collaborator, and then, when the time is right, they prey. It is not possible to imagine what these people are capable of. You cannot warn people who have not experienced a predator about what is likely to happen. Their behavior is simply inconceivable among people who are conditioned to collaborate. They do not feel embarrassment at lies. This is one defining factor. They are incapable of feeling embarrassment in the face of making outrageous lies.
When they are giving out outrageous lies, what they are feeling is something akin to a fisherman trying a new bait on their hook. No more.
People who see the signs can’t warn others, because they will be met by disbelief.

A collage floating around the Internet by people trying to warn others about the official ProgPoW author.

Chipmakers and Collusion

In the context of PoW, it is important that a chipmaker treats all customers equally. To us crypto engineers this is obvious, but to chipmakers that is a new thing. A chipmaker may initially not understand the intricacies of “global hashrate and difficulty”, and what that means in terms of cutting deals with large clients that come forward to propose a deal.

If a chipmaker shares optimizations, specialized or unsellable chips, offers delayed payments or revenue sharing to individual mining clients, they are colluding against their other customers.

The best answer to this problem in our opinion is to demand transparency and to foster competition. Currently there are 4 viable chipmakers competing in the Ethash mining market: Nvidia, AMD, Bitmain, Innosilicon.
With the collusion risk clearly understood, one must avoid any action that rewards monopolization efforts by a chipmaker, and instead try to motivate new entrants such as Linzhi to enter the market.
We think it’s good news that in addition to Linzhi there are multiple other teams trying to design competitive Ethash chips or FPGA solutions.

We wrote about the risks of the collaboration between Nvidia and Core Scientific in January, and encourage interested readers to revisit that.

Dark Empire and Fix

Anonymous and decentralized value networks attract many people.
If you would be running a successful business line around stock fraud and money laundering, for example, you would see the chance to substantially reduce your operational risks.
Crypto mining (PoW and PoS) means cash-in, crypto-out. Cash losses become trading profits. You would want a media organization to orchestrate price swings you know about in advance.

Bob Summerwill started an important debate around anonymity of users versus anonymity of developers, and certificates of origin.

The anonymity of users in our value networks is what we want to uphold, but we must be realistic and cold-blooded, maybe even cynical, about who some of those anonymous users will be and how we can avoid that they infiltrate the culture and community of the builders of the network.

Because if they do, it’s all over.

Linzhi Team, Shenzhen, 2019-Sep-21
Telegram: t.me/LinzhiCorp

About Linzhi: If you have questions about ASICs, please feel free to come to our Telegram group LinzhiCorp and ask whatever is on your mind.
If you are a known community member or developer with good reputation, casually feel invited to come to our office and factory in Shenzhen.

Linzhi believes that bridging the hardware-software gap is critical for crypto to succeed.
We don’t want crypto to be confined to a world of papers and github commits. PoW was a key innovation to connect the world of software with the world of energy and time. Hardware wallets, gas turbos, accelerators for signing, proving, verifying, sorting and other things are on the horizon.

We will continue to contribute to the Ethereum platform as a chipmaker.