Op-Ed: “Obituary” for Hal Finney

When we hear about the early development of Bitcoin we usually think of Satoshi Nakamoto. But the truth is that no one really knows who Nakamoto is but we do know who Hal Finney is and how much he meant to the development of Bitcoin.

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Op-Ed: “Obituary” for Hal Finney

When we hear about the early development of Bitcoin we usually think of Satoshi Nakamoto. But the truth is that no one really knows who Nakamoto is but we do know who Hal Finney is and how much he meant to the development of Bitcoin.

Hal Finney, Bitcoin icon, passed away at 9am on Thursday morning. Mr. Finney is known as one of the original coders for Bitcoin and it was his debugging skills that allowed Nakamoto to complete the first transactions with his algorithm.

Finney was devoted to exploring the boundaries of our world through technology and that seems to hold true even after his death. Both Finney and his wife Fran committed themselves more than two decades ago to have their bodies frozen after death with plans to reanimate them in the future. Finney died of complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and his hopes are pinned on both a cure for ALS and a successful reanimation.

After his passing, as per his instructions, his body was immediately sent to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Upon arrival technicians prepared his corpse for cryogenic storage by draining his exchanging his bodily floods for a substance called M-22. This solution is primarily composed of three chemicals: Dimethyl Sulfoxide or DMSO (24.765%), formaldehyde (17.836%) and Ethylene glycol (17.401%), while only 2% is composed of x-100 and c-100 “ice blockers,” which is supposedly the function of the chemical to prevent crystallization of the cell walls. The use of formaldehyde is interesting because this chemical is used in embalming because it irreversibly fixes tissue and/or cells that connect the primary amine groups in protein or DNA molecules. This might make reanimation challenging to say the least. While DMSO is sometimes used as an oxidant its more common uses are as a solvent or skin penetrant.

No one has ever been reanimated using this process or any similar process but this has not deterred the Finneys or their beliefs. Hal Finney never allowed naysayers to deter him from his dreams. Finney was one of the original Cypher Punks from the 1990’s and wrote the first successful “remailer” that allowed users to send anonymous emails without fear of being traced and this code led to the development of things like Tor and the Deep Web. In 2008 he read Satoshi’s white paper and immediately became interested in the potential of cryptocurrencies. After exchanging emails for some time, Satoshi gifted some bitcoins to Finney in 2009 making him one of the first people to use and even possess the cryptocurrency.

Max More, Alcor’s Director and a personal friend of the Finney family said that his body be slowly lowered in temperature over a several day period until it reached -320 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point it would be placed in an aluminum pod inside a 10-foot tall tank filled with 450 liters of liquid nitrogen and would remain there until reanimation was possible. More seemed confident that he would see his friend again someday and the technology that is literally keeping Finney “on ice.”

- Max More

Fran Finney also seems confident that the world has not seen the last of her husband. She said that she understands that people believe different things and that they respect that. But she also has such faith in her husband that she does not feel the need to convince anyone else.

“Hal respects other people’s beliefs, and he doesn’t like to argue. But it doesn’t matter to him what other people believe. He has enough confidence in how he figures things out for himself. He’s always believed he could find the truth, and he doesn’t need to convince anyone.”

Finney was an active member of the Extropians, a philosophy built on the works of Dr. Max More in his “Principles of Extrophy”. The group teaches that mankind can reach its full potential, eventually leading to greatly expanded lifespan, by using science and technology as the tools and transhumanism as the protocol.

Hal Finney’s innovative talents will be sorely missed by the Bitcoin community but more than that so will Hal Finney’s unquenchable belief in the individual freedoms that science and technology can bring us. It has been leaders such as Hal Finney that made Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies a possibility in the first place. People like Hal Finney believed when the rest of us had not even caught up enough to understand.

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