Left Behind by the Merge, but Still Fighting

The spectacular success of the Merge obscured the stories of those who were left behind, the Ethereum proof-of-work miners who lost their livelihoods. One miner is not letting the crypto community ignore them. That’s why Chandler Guo is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 1:24 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 6, 2022 at 5:33 p.m. UTC
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Sienna Park is CoinDesk's associate producer.

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After years in the making, the Ethereum blockchain completed The Merge on Sept. 15, a landmark transition from a proof-of-work (PoW) system to a more environmentally friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. One consequence? Ethereum’s mining industry, which research firm Messari said was worth nearly $19 billion in 2021, was left behind. Ethereum miner Chandler Guo predicted only 10% of PoW miners would likely survive following the historic upgrade. “Some people [miners] have free electricity and can [continue] to work on that,” Guo said, referring to the PoW fork. “The other 90%, bankrupt,” he told CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover” program back in September.

Calculating the number of miners is next to impossible, but from the 10,287 nodes, or computers, running on the day of the Merge, there were likely hundreds, if not thousands. Guo reminds us that whenever there are winners – and the Merge by all accounts is a huge positive for blockchain and crypto – there are also losers. He put a human, and compelling, face on this group of people who saw their livelihoods ruined, their income decimated and their egos bruised. Few would have realized there were people cast aside as collateral damage were it not for Guo, who kept fighting.

The week of the Merge, from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19, Ethereum miners sold over 16,000 ETH as they appeared to move to other chains, according to Blockchain data assembled by OKLink. The sell-off reduced the miners' combined balance to about 245,000 ETH, or roughly $390 million, during that period.

For months, Guo pushed to keep Ethereum as a PoW system, tweeting in July he would fork Ethereum “again,” after previously advocating for Ethereum Classic. “This time the fork, it’s much more difficult because I need to organize a lot of people [miners] to join this fork,” Guo told CoinDesk TV in August. But the fork didn't initially work out as many Ethereum miner proponents probably hoped it would, with the native ethereumPoW (ETHW) token dropping 70% on technical glitches after the Merge was completed. At the time, Guo rated the PoW fork debut a "mediocre" 5 out of 10, saying he expected that could change over time as more miners became involved. Since the Merge, the EthereumPoW ecosystem has “released the 2nd batch of the eco dapps and services” on Nov. 6, according to a tweet from @EthereumPoW.

Given the global push for decreasing carbon dioxide and reducing energy use, Guo’s efforts are not likely to succeed. There has been little support for his plan, especially as the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in November reminded us that we have less than 10 years to change course or face dire consequences no one wants to imagine, like the dying of planet Earth. But humans being complicated beings, the part of us that roots for the underdogs want Guo to pull off the improbable and find a happy ending for his story.

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