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Research

ASIC resistance and the demands of decentralization

Quick Take

  • The creation of specialized mining hardware (ASIC miners) is a natural and expected development as the cryptocurrency space matures
  • Commodity hardware miners (such as GPUs) encourage Satoshi’s original vision of egalitarian mining but may increase the ease of 51% attacks due to widespread availability
  • ASIC miners encourage investment in specific cryptocurrency networks but tend to concentrate power in large commercial mining farms
  • Both commodity (GPU) and specialized (ASIC) miners can benefit or hinder the goal of decentralization

In the original Bitcoin white paper, Satoshi envisioned egalitarian mining with commodity hardware, what he described as “essentially one-CPU-one-vote.” At the time, miners could use regular CPUs to solve blocks, and Satoshi believed using common hardware was a good idea. In December of 2009, when user ‘SmokeTooMuch’ suggested on BitcoinTalk that developers create a GPU Bitcoin miner, Satoshi said,

The average total coins generated across the network per day stays the same.