Green hackers around the world, let’s destroy Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the worst waste of resources and energy in human history. It is solely used for financial speculation, with no genuine utility. This is a call to ethical hackers: through targeted and repeated computer attacks, we could undermine the confidence of speculators and burst this irrational and destructive financial bubble.

The price of Bitcoin recently reached new highs: more than $ 30,000 for 1 bitcoin. The electricity consumption of this cryptocurrency follows the same trend [1] The blockchain constantly consumes as much electricity as Chile (77.78 terawatt-hours per year) and has the same carbon footprint as New Zealand (36 million tons of CO2 per year) [2], [3]. Each Bitcoin transaction consumes as much as 700,000 bank card transactions.

It’s a feature, not a bug

This insane consumption is not a defect, in the sense of an anomaly that could be improved in future versions. It is rather a structural design, at the core of Bitcoin, which guarantees the security of the system.

Bitcoin bases its trust on the proof of work (POW). Like for gold miners, the “miners” who find bitcoins provide proof that they have used energy by solving a very complex mathematical problem. Whenever a technological leap improves the efficiency of the computation, the network automatically adapts itself by increasing the difficulty of the problems to solve. Therefore, on average, a block is mined every 10 minutes in the world, no matter how powerful is the network.

Thus, at any time, the energy used is equivalent to the value of the mined bitcoins, and therefore proportional to the market capitalization of the bitcoin. If the price collapsed, the complexity of the problems would decrease and the energy consumed by the grid would collapse accordingly.

Alternative cryptocurrencies

Not all cryptocurrencies have this problem.

This article is not a general criticism of cryptocurrencies or the very principle of blockchain. The concept of blockchain is a real algorithmic gem, with many possibilities for decentralizing trust.

Sadly, the proof of work (POW) principle makes Bitcoin not physically nor ecologically sustainable. Any cryptocurrency based on this principle suffers from the same problem.

Alternative cryptocurrencies are exploring other and much less energy-consuming trust mechanisms (proof of stake: POS, proof of authority: POA, web of trust: WOT, etc.): Ethereum is moving to POS, Ğ1 uses POA. Some emerging cryptos are specifically addressing this issue: like nano or chia.

Bitcoin is just a huge, useless casino

This insane consumption could be acceptable if bitcoin provided a real service to humanity, at a lower environmental cost.

This is not the case. Bitcoin has been around for over 10 years now, and it boils down to one huge casino. Bitcoin is used exclusively for speculation and only marginally for real economy. This system suffers several technical limitations which prevent it to be used as a regular currency :

  • Hard limit to 7 transactions per second, for the whole world (!!).
  • All transactions are public.
  • The price of this currency is too volatile for anyone to invest anything else than an excess capital, for gambling.

There have been some attempts to build overlays to Bitcoin (like the Lightning Network) to solve some of these problems: All have failed to break through for now.

Incompatible with modern ecological emergencies

This would not be such an issue if humanity (and the whole biosphere) were not threatened in the medium term by major environmental crises: global warming, the finite mineral resources, the collapse of species (6th mass extinction). Under these circumstances, such a waste of resources and energy is absolutely intolerable.

Some actors in the mining industry are playing the green-washing card. They claim to power their mining farms entirely with renewable energies. We are not fooled: renewable energies are intermittent. During the night, with no wind, the farms still perform the mining, using the electricity mix provided by the local network.

Although less carbon-intensive than other energy sources, renewable energies still have an impact. They consume a large quantity of materials (concrete, metals) whose extraction itself is polluting.

The only ecological energy is the one we do not use. Whatever power plants power the mining farms, that energy couldn’t be more misused than for mining a virtual currency.

How to destroy Bitcoin

The value of bitcoin, like any other currency, is a myth that only stands by the trust of the community. As soon as that trust is broken, the bubble will explode.

We can undermine this trust by disseminating and popularizing this statement: Bitcoin is physically and structurally unsustainable. It is doomed to collapse in the short or medium term. This system cannot scale up and cannot under any circumstances be used massively as a real and useful currency.

The destruction of Bitcoin can (and must) also be accelerated by large-scale computer attacks, which would permanently undermine the confidence of speculators.

The blockchain itself is impossible to corrupt. However, it is possible to attack its centralized, vulnerable interfaces, or to saturate the network (DDOS) with streams of fake transactions:

  • Miners are organized in as centralized pools and are therefore vulnerable to computer attacks
  • Interfaces and marketplaces, which store the bitcoin wallets, are also vulnerable.
  • The bitcoin networks only handle 400,000 transactions per day and is sized accordingly. It is possible to generate 10 to 100 times more fake transactions, syntactically correct but coming from empty wallets, or presenting multiple expenses of the same bitcoin, or back and forth between funded wallets, but without paying fees. These transactions will never be validated by the network but could easily saturate it and make it inoperable.

Other potential attacks are detailed here : Hypothetical Attacks on Cryptocurrencies [4], How To Destroy Bitcoin: Game Theory and Attacks (video) [5], A Survey on Security and Privacy Issues of Bitcoin (pdf) [6]

It is not even necessary that a computer attack actually take place, but that speculators fear it. If a group of hackers (real or fake) announced an impending attack, the price of Bitcoin would likely collapse.

Conclusion: hack it, share it

If you’re not a green hacker, and you’re not doing it for the planet, you can also do it for the money: by speculating downward on the price of bitcoin before launching attacks.

Finally, if you have no technical skills and you are convinced by this demonstration: simply share this article as widely as you can. This might be the most ecological action of your entire life.