There has been some speculation over the years about whether the late software developer, Hal Finney, was actually Satoshi Nakamoto. Some people wonder if he had any connection to the 700,000 bitcoins mined back in the earliest days of the protocol. Finney was an Extropian, or a person who believes in the philosophy of futurism and life extension. In fact, the developer arranged to have himself cryopreserved in the hope that someday scientists might figure out a way to revive his brain and answer some of the questions surrounding Bitcoin’s early days.
Finney the Frozen Crypto-Genius
Back when the Bitcoin software was first launched, Finney — a well-known PGP Corp. developer and computer scientist — received the very first bitcoin transaction. He also helped Satoshi get the network up and running during Bitcoin’s first year. The programmer worked with the creator and other software developers up until he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Some people believe Finney may have been the creator of Bitcoin himself, by simply pretending to be Satoshi on the side.
— halfin (@halfin) January 11, 2009
For instance, back in 2014, Andy Greenberg, a well-known tech journalist for Wired, wrote a story on why he believed Finney may have been Nakamoto, or was at least a person with significant ties to the inventor of Bitcoin. Other people believe in the “Satoshi Nakamoto group theory,” as they claim that the extensive knowledge Finney had about the some of the earliest coins that were mined suggests that Satoshi was actually more than one individual. But more interestingly, in the future there is a chance scientists could discover bitcoin keys in Finney’s cryopreserved “brain wallet.”
The Solidification of Body and Mind
Finney and his wife Fran embraced the tenets of futurism and were known to follow the beliefs of Extropians. The philosophy of Extropy is an ideology that some people follow because they are confident society will continuously improve through advances in science and technology. Some individuals who follow this philosophy imagine that humans may eventually attain immortality by reviving their brains after death. According to Greenberg, Finney and his spouse both signed up to cryopreserve themselves long before he passed away.
On Aug. 28, 2014, not long after Finney passed away, his body was brought to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a well-known cryonics facility. His bodily fluids were drained and filled with a substance called M-22. The cryoprotectant mixture leads to a glasslike solidification process that has been used to preserve embryos, sperm and blastocysts for years.
According to Greenberg, Finney’s body was cooled to -320 F (-195.6 C) and then stored in an aluminum vat full of liquid nitrogen. After they completed the cryoprotective perfusion process, the Alcor Foundation stated that Finney would be kept in “long-term storage, where he (would be) cared for until the day when repair and revival may be possible.” Finney was Alcor’s 128th patient and his cryogenic process was paid for “through a combination of life insurance and bitcoins donated by admirers,” the firm has said.
Unlocking the ‘Brain Wallet’
Finney chose to preserve his mind because he believed that reviving a brain was merely a long-term engineering problem that simply had yet to be solved, just like fixing code. With cryogenics, there is the possibility that the crypto-genius could come back decades from now and reveal some of the secrets of the Bitcoin network’s nascent code. Finney’s brain could hold clues about the fortune of Satoshi and the earliest bitcoins that were mined. Futurists and believers in the philosophy of cryopreservation may be considered faith-based zealots, but cryogenics relies on the fact that technology gets better over time.
Through the scientific process of cryopreservation, future generations may be able to unlock Finney’s “brain wallet.” The Alcor Foundation and cryogenic scientists say that long-term memories are encoded in the brain and can endure a great deal of “physical and chemical changes” over time. The cryonics facility has said that the team uses a well-known biological research process that has indicated that memories may be retained following the process of cryopreservation. Alcor’s research also suggests that the facility’s biological experiments have indicated a type of odorant imprinting, which is a form of long-term memory in the human brain.
Bitcoin enthusiasts have long joked about the cryopreservation of Finney and the possibility that frozen bitcoin keys have been locked in a solidified state in his brain. But in truth, we simply don’t know if Finney’s choice to utilize cryonics after his death will ever unlock any of the most enduring mysteries of Bitcoin. It is safe to say, however, that the hunt for the enigmatic Satoshi has contributed to a number of unfathomable theories.
What do you think about Hal Finney and his decision to use cryogenics to preserve his mind? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comment section below.
Images via Pixabay, Shutterstock, and Makespace.
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