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Let’s Keep Ethereum ASIC-Proof!

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As you probably know by now, there have been a lot of talk about Bitmain releasing their first ASIC for Ethereum. This is quite shocking for us because:

  • Ethereum is meant to be an ASIC-resistant coin. Not that it’s ASIC-proof, it’s just it should be very hard to make an Ethereum ASIC that would be more efficient than a GPU
  • Ethereum PoS switch should be happening soon, which is why it’s weird that Bitmain would want to invest into making an ASIC for this coin

That being said, we are slowly crossing the line of rumors and getting to a point where we’re prone to believe that Bitmain’s Ethereum ASICs will come out soon. In fact, some people even believe that those ASICs already exist and that Bitmain has been using them for the past months (hence, the Ethereum mining difficulty insane increase)

According to certain news, the upcoming ASIC outputs 1.5 GH/s with “low power consumption”. With a current ETH network hashrate of ~260.000 GH/s, a few batches of those units might have a significant impact on the network difficulty (I am not positive on the exact numbers, though)

Ethereum community isn’t indifferent to this news. In fact, people are now debating on whether Ethereum algo should be altered to render already existing ASICs incompatible with the coin. As for today, the majority of people do support this idea and they are talking about the best ways to make it happen.

Modify Block Mining to Be ASIC Resistant #958

In order to make this debate a little bit more organized, pipermirriam have made a GitHub poll asking whether Ethereum should be hard forked in order to render Ethereum ASICs obsolete.

He has also stated that he does not have the required expertise to perform the fork on his own, which is why any help on the hows is appreciated.

As for today, most of the votes are positive. People understand that letting ASICs taking over the hashrate of Ethereum will bring several consequences, most of which aren’t pleasant.

One of them is that by rendering GPU mining unprofitable, Ethereum mining will be centralized to one single company – Bitmain. Yeah, many of the ASICs will be owned by individuals, though the manufacturer of those is still one company. This means that any government regulations applied to the company will affect all of the Ethereum miners. There are many ways how ASICs affect the centralization of a cryptocurrency and Monero developers did a great job on explaining some of them. Here is the link to their post.

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Another downside comes more from a selfish position. Ethereum GPU mining community will disappear once ASICs will be implemented. Go find a Bitcoin GPU mining community today. Yeah, there are still a lot of GPU minable coins out there, though there is a reason why so many of us mine Ethereum as the primary coin.

Do get me right, I am okay with the idea of sacrificing some of my profits for a bigger good (say, if the introduction of ASICs would make Ethereum more decentralized and safer). However, I do not see how ASICs could possibly improve this coin.

Here’s How You Can Help

If you think that Ethereum should remain free from ASICs then here’s what you can do. The poll on Github is not just a Facebook fanpage “how many likes can we get?” kind of post. You are probably aware that GitHub is the place where cryptocurrency developers work on their projects. The more upvotes the poll gets, the more chance there is for a solution to be presented.

I totally agree with Cryptomined that our votes do matter.

So here is what I invite you to do:

  • If you don’t have a GitHub account you are welcome to create one
  • Go to this link and click on the Thumbs Up
  • Join the discussion if you’ve got some valuable insight, data or a possible solution and share this link with your friends, especially those of them who are familiar with programming and cryptos

Common Questions Answered

If you are like me, you probably have a ton of questions about this whole situation. This link I gave you earlier includes an open discussion filled with a lot of useful information.

On my side, I took my time to research about the topic. Here’s some info you might find useful to answer some of the most common questions:

Why Bother if PoS Will Render ASICs Unusable Anyway?
Most of the community members have come to the consensus that while PoS switch will certainly fix this issue, no one knows when it will happen. In fact, no one knows for certain how exactly the switch will happen – only time will show what challenges we will be presented with. Also, rushing PoS just to solve this ASIC issue might bring certain unwanted side effects.
Is it Possible to Make Ethereum ASIC-Proof?

In theory, no algo can be 100% ASIC-proof. Even Ravencoin that has been designed with the purpose of being ASIC-proof isn’t really immune to those.

The idea here is to fork the coin systematically so ASIC manufacturers will be forced to release new hardware after every new fork. Since R&D of an ASIC takes about 4-5 months, forking the coin twice a year should get the job done.

Are Bitmain ASICs already mining?
This is one of the main questions that are being discussed in the community now. While having the right answer to it will not change things radically, it might explain the recent increase in ETH difficulty and better see the impact a fork might have on the mining community. For instance, if Bitmain has been truly mining ETH for the past months, we will see a noticeable decrease in difficulty once the fork happens.

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Spoiler: There is still no definitive answer on whether Bitmain is already mining ETH with ASICs. That being said, there are certain arguments you might want to know about. I will share some of the most relevant things we know so far:

  • According to a CNBC report, analyst Christopher Rolland has confirmed the existence of an already functioning prototype of an Ethereum ASIC. According to his words, he has seen the device with his own eyes. This Techcrunch article has got more details about it.
  • A reddit user TuringPerfect has made some really interesting points on why he believes that Bitmain is already mining Ethereum with their ASICs. I will resume them here and I also invite you to read the original post.

He has noticed that lately, Bitmain has been focusing on manufacturing ASICs for ASIC-hostile algorithms. SIA coin, Monero and now Ethereum… for some reason Bitmain released on public new miners for those coins not long after the devs have clearly stated that they don’t want any ASICS. (I am saying “coins” since people going for a CryptoNight ASIC usually have Monero in mind and some goes for the two other ones)

This makes zero sense – why would Bitmain release ASICs that are potentially bricks? Why not focusing on coins like Decred that are safer to make ASICs for? The only reasonable explanation to this is that Bitmain has been mining all of those three algos for a while now and they’ve decided to sell their equipment once they’ve realized that devs are about to render those ASICs unusable for mining (Both Monero and Sia announcing a hard fork, etc.)

Maybe not all of those machines were mining, though it is very possible that they have been lying in the depot for months before they’ve got announced.

In Conclusion

I assume we all agree that ASIC mining is not helping with the decentralization of a coin. It’s also no rocket science that with the implementation of Ethereum ASICs, ETH will become a coin mineable only by people who can invest quite a solid amount of money.

If you want to help save Ethereum from ASICs, please consider leaving your upvote on the GitHub poll now.

Oh and if we achieve to fork Ethereum before Bitmain manages to sell their units, the company will be the only one losing money. Otherwise, anyone who has bought the ASIC will lose money while Bitmain will have a positive bottom line.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.

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