The Skull of Satoshi
Greenpeace USA launched an initiative called “Change the Code, Not the Climate,” aimed at transitioning Bitcoin’s consensus algorithm from proof-of-work (PoW) to a more environmentally friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism, and unveiled an artwork called “Skull of Satoshi” that is representative of its campaign. The artwork, designed by Canadian art activist Benjamin Von Wong, is made of electronic waste and has been criticised by die-hard Bitcoin supporters on social media. They were unanimous in their criticism of the campaign and ridiculed the idea of abandoning PoW.
They're demonizing nuclear energy now? Those are nuclear cooling towers that emit water vapor. pic.twitter.com/pJdhFgoeOC— magic internet moneyist (@notgrubles) March 23, 2023
Some commentators have even ironically embraced the installation, calling it “badass,” and others have used it as a new profile picture. The primary art element of the installation, the skull, represents the millions of computers used to validate Bitcoin transactions, known as mining. Greenpeace teamed up with Unirecycle to source electronic waste for the artwork. However, some crypto enthusiasts have mocked this aspect of the installation, stating that it appears Greenpeace was unable to source a single Bitcoin ASIC PCB for their propaganda. This artwork has gained popularity among the Bitcoin community and sparked discussions around Bitcoin’s impact on the environment. [
Skull Of Satoshi Artist Says He Was Wrong
Benjamin Von Wong, the artist who created the “Skull of Satoshi” installation, has stated that he was wrong in his original belief that Bitcoin mining, which uses the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm, was a “simple black-and-white issue.” The installation was unveiled last week as part of Greenpeace’s “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign, which seeks to highlight the “enormous climate impact” of Bitcoin mining. The campaign is supported by other environmental organizations and Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen.
I made the Skull believing that Bitcoin Mining was a simple black-and-white issue. I’ve spent my entire career trying to reduce real-world physical waste, and PoW felt intuitively wasteful.— Von Wong (@thevonwong) March 25, 2023
Of course, I was wrong.
Few things in the world are black and white. Dumb me. /4
Von Wong explained on Twitter that his installation was never meant to be anti-Bitcoin, but rather, it was an optimistic hope that Bitcoin could shift away from the needless burning of fossil fuels without losing all the other features that make Bitcoin safe, secure, and decentralized. He further stated that he now understands that Bitcoin’s environmental impact is not a simple issue, and he has spent the last few days speaking to various members of the Bitcoin community to better understand the nuance between progress and perfection.
Greenpeace has been advocating for Bitcoin to shift to a more environmentally friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism, which would mean changing the leading cryptocurrency’s underlying code. However, they now say they are not necessarily suggesting that Bitcoin should switch to some existing form of PoS. Rolf Skar, special projects manager at Greenpeace USA, told Decrypt that “Bitcoin is the laggard in this area and is sticking to decade-old technology while other newer cryptocurrencies are using different consensus mechanisms and cutting their carbon emissions.”
Some in the Bitcoin community are far less optimistic about transitioning Bitcoin to PoS, stating that every node in the Bitcoin network verifies the new block header to be smaller than the given number, defined by mining difficulty. If the rule is changed, all nodes that don’t want to update to a new software version will fall off the consensus, creating a hard fork situation, which is not backward-compatible and requires all node operators on the network to update to the latest software at a specified time.
There are indeed other platforms that make use of the PoS System. Solana is noted mostly as using the system before Ethereum changed to it late last year. Those in the Bitcoin community that are not so sure about Bitcoin turning into a PoS structure may indeed be looking at the success ( or apparent lack thereof) of those chains. Currently, all crypto is undergoing some form of change and as the technology continues to grow and evolve we can all expect more methods to be introduced. Bitcoin is having a bit of an evolution thanks to ordinals and the continuing fall of traditional banking systems such as Silicon Valley Bank.