Bitcoin Community’s Scorn – Mike Hearn

Posted in: Archive
February 2, 2016 12:47 PM UTC

For an industry recently shaken by the grasps of censorship on the most popular Bitcoin forums on the internet, where thousands of people interested in the tech turn to learn, the scorn for Mike Hearn has been telling.

Hearn, who wrote in a Medium post he was leaving Bitcoin, has been trending in the Bitcoin industry for a fortnight now. So what did Hearn say? In his post, “The Resolution of the Bitcoin Experiment,” Hearn made numerous assertions, such as:

But despite knowing that Bitcoin could fail all along, the now inescapable conclusion that it has failed still saddens me greatly. The fundamentals are broken and whatever happens to the price in the short term, the long-term trend should probably be downwards. I will no longer be taking part in Bitcoin development and have sold all my coins.

Why has Bitcoin failed? It has failed because the community has failed. What was meant to be a new, decentralized form of money that lacked “systemically important institutions” and “too big to fail” has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people. Worse still, the network is on the brink of technical collapse. The mechanisms that should have prevented this outcome have broken down, and as a result, there’s no longer much reason to think Bitcoin can actually be better than the existing financial system.

Hearn was far from the only individual in the space to come to this conclusion. The project Ethereum was created due to similar concerns.

“We at the Ethereum project came to similar conclusions regarding various issues awhile ago and faced the same sort of denial, censorship and agenda-driven strategizing,” the Ethereum team commented on Hearn’s piece.

That Hearn’s post shook the Bitcoin industry in such a way is a testament to the headline driven, follower-filled ways of the industry. A chorus of non-developers took to bringing Mike Hearn down in the wake of his Medium post, which was followed by an in-depth New York Times piece. Hearn wished to get across an unfiltered version of events, knowing the NYT piece would soon be printed. This is lost in criticism of Hearn.

Many people suggest Hearn was/is a part of a bank-run conspiracy to destroy Bitcoin. This, of course, ignores the reality that Bitcoin is a small drop in an ocean of financial markets. The fintech sector is more than ten times larger than Bitcoin and could itself  commercially adopt (and is doing so) the innovations of Bitcoin and blockchain tech to circumvent Bitcoin’s use by mainstream banks, which is already what’s unfolding with projects like R3, MintPay and others.

Some people suggested that there is some sort of banker conspiracy, because after I privately concluded Bitcoin wasn’t working I took a job with a startup that’s looking at how to apply distributed ledger technology in the existing financial system (R3 CEV). This isn’t a secret: there were stories in the press about it in November. It was also mentioned in the New York Times article. I didn’t mention this in my post because R3 is not a Bitcoin company, or even a cryptocurrency company, and there is no “BankCoin” or “R3Coin”. So this is really nothing to do with them and conspiracy theories are just a waste of time when there are more serious issues to consider.

Todd McDonald addressed this on the official R3 blog:

The resulting kerfuffle has led to a few quite detailed (and somewhatenjoyable) conspiracy theories on The Internets, mainly saying that R3 instructed Mike as part of some coordinated ‘attack’ on Bitcoin. If only we had such control over a brilliant mind like Mike. He is a programmer after all …

… How can the whole thing not make you tired, no matter what ‘side’ you are on? And as I have mentioned before, this concept of one side or one approach ‘winning’ over another, or that there even is a contest, baffles me. Success for R3 (or any of the handful of companies in this space) does not need to come at the expense of Bitcoin. It is more likely that traction for either camp would be a massive positive for the other. Put simply: I personally own (a small amount) of bitcoin AND also think that Bitcoin holds little merit for large, regulated financial institutions as it is currently constructed. In the words of William Goldman, “nobody knows anything” but it doesn’t stop us all from giving it a go.

Nobody even stops to consider that, just perhaps, Hearn was burnt-out working on Bitcoin. Burnt-out also by the high-drama of the Bitcoin industry which, instead of being driven by mature successful businessmen, contains a rabble of users.

The overall tragedy, of course, is that Bitcoiners turned on one of their own, totally removed and unconcerned with the obvious stress Hearn has likely been under in his years on the Bitcoin project.  Instead of approaching the issue with compassion and positivity, and minimizing it, the Bitcoin industry showed its proclivity towards hate and vitriol. The “Bitcoin Community”, at least that which is represented on online forums, has demonstrated it has no problem turning on its own and eating up bombastic headlines as if they’re juicy, fresh bacon. As Hearn struggles to make clear over a chorus of haters:

“So to be redundantly clear: I wrote my article because I knew the story in the NYT was coming (and had told my colleagues about it) but wasn’t sure what it’d say, so I wanted a chance to put things in my own words,” Hearn wrote. “I wasn’t asked to write, or paid to, nor can I financially benefit from doing so in any way. The timing was chosen by the NYT.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely that of the author and do not represent those of, nor should the be attributed to

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Last modified: May 21, 2020 10:34 AM UTC

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