The promoter of the Robin Hood Group, which once stole 10% of all circulating ETH under the nose of a black hat hacker, wants to change the way we think about charity.
Former chemical engineer Griff Green (36) traded his savings for precious metals with which he traveled the world for years before settling in Ecuador as a Bitcoin missionary. He waged a white hat hacking war against the infamous black hat hacker from The DAO and organized cryptocurrency camps in Burning Man to publicize the crypto – while dressed as Santa Claus and riding a massive metal doge.
His next big mission with blockchain-based charities Giveth and Commons Stack is to turn the economy game into a game where donations are converted into investments … investments that can even result in the donor making a profit.
The morning of June 17, 2016 was a pivotal day in cryptocurrency – it was the day the DAO was hacked. The DAO was arguably the first large decentralized autonomous organization that in May 2016 had collected 14% of all ethers in circulation at that time from over 11,000 investors. It acted as an investor-driven risk fund where token holders could vote on investment proposals.
However, a malicious actor found an exploit that made it possible to gradually withdraw funds from the DAO’s accounts. Green quickly organized his white hat hacker collective, The Robin Hood Group, to launch a counter-offensive.
A week later, Green would be among the first nine graduates of the University of Nicosia’s digital currency masters program. He was hired by Slock.it, a company developing on Ethereum, as a community manager responsible for organizing and educating the DAO community.
Green jumped on a slack channel for the DAO’s investors, begging them not to panic when his team rushed to dump what was left of the project before the attackers could. He encouraged users to spam the network as much as possible to slow it down and increase gas charges, making it harder for the real hacker to do:
“The DAO is under attack. It takes 3-4 hours and it drains the Ethereum at high speed. This is not an exercise … we need to spam the network so we can launch a counterattack involving all of the brightest minds in the Ethereum world. “
At the same time, his team began repeating the hacker’s attacks on themselves and emptying the ETH DAO’s wallets before the hacker could take them over.
“We had 10% of all the ether.”
“We took a big risk,” Green admits that it’s legal to preventively steal tens of millions in ether so that the hacker can’t do it. The Ethereum chain was controversially forked after the hack to turn back the time before the hack, but Ethereum Classic still proved to be a valuable token. This meant that Green and the crew were effectively holding 10% of all ETC with the stolen funds.
Legal threats surfaced telling the group that the ETC should be distributed even though “we were just normal people, we didn’t have a company,” he says in retrospect. All members of the group jumped on planes and “flew to Switzerland to find out legal representation, and it was the first time we’d all met in person.” Eventually, the funds were returned via a DApp that Green’s team had encoded.
About a year later, in November 2017, the team had similar success in saving $ 210 million from the Parity Multisig Wallet Hack. “We wanted to say to everyone, ‘Hey, you know what? We stole all of this money, but you can trust us because we’ve already returned all of the money to The DAO, ”recalls Green. But he explains that doing this was risky for the now public team because anyone could use Google to figure out where they – and therefore the private keys – could be found. That night, Green “slept on a mattress with a baseball bat in front of the door” for fear that someone might come to take the keys by force.
Hacking isn’t the only way Green has endangered himself in the name of his principles. When the autonomous region of Catalonia tried to vote for independence from Spain in 2017, Green went to a polling station to act as a human shield to protect the electoral process from “the police who beat people to steal ballots”. This experience convinced Green that decentralized governance in the blockchain can only function efficiently if users can run their nodes without having to rely on centralized internet providers. The result was DAppNode, which enables people around the world to set up peer-to-peer infrastructures.
From engineer to Ecuadorian evangelist
Green was born in Spokane, Washington, where he graduated from high school in the mid-2000s. He was interested in developing aircraft and missile ships, but decided not to engage in engineering after discovering that much of the industry was geared towards military applications. Instead, he studied chemical engineering at the University of Washington in 2003.
At the end of his studies in 2006, he did an internship at the biopharmaceutical company Amgen, where he “genetically manipulated the ovarian cells of the Chinese hamster to produce human proteins,” he recalls, describing a “creepy process” in one Laboratory filled with blood vessels. He later worked as a research assistant at his alma mater and converted algae into climate-neutral fuel.
He soon found himself hired as “organizing a really strange political movement in Seattle” called “Save Our Sonics” to get the local government to stop the Seattle SuperSonics’ NBA basketball team from moving to Oklahoma. His efforts ended in disappointment when the mayor “sold the team with the stroke of a pen” just as a judge was about to decide in favor of the team. This left the “impression on Green that political movements are surpassed and surpassed by corrupt elites”.
In 2007, Green joined SNC-Lavalin, a large construction and engineering firm, as a process engineer, where he had “an ethical dilemma” over the work requirement of creating a structure that would send highly acidic water into the ocean in a country with poor environmental regulations. He “tried to tweak the calculation a bit” to reduce pollution and give the ocean’s ecosystem a break. His suggestions were not accepted and “Now there is a pipe that I designed to pump shit into the ocean that really burdens me,” he says gloomily.
By the time the layoffs broke out in 2008, he had put his paychecks in gold and silver because he had recently started to “feel like the whole system was a corrupt conspiracy”. He bought a pop-top van that he drove to Burning Man, a counterculture event held every summer in the Nevada desert. Something about that experience inspired him to see the world and he embarked on an adventure that never ended – precious metals in tow.
He traveled around, volunteering in Ecuador and Colombia the first year, India and Southeast Asia the next, and returning home to Burning Man in August. Along the way, he learned about Bitcoin and bought some with gold worth $ 3,000.
In 2013 his BTC went “to $ 24,000 – I was used to living really cheap, like $ 3 a night in hostels with cold showers,” he recalls. Green saw potential and was so obsessed with Bitcoin that he said to his girlfriend, “You are great and all of you, but I like Bitcoin more and I am going to Ecuador and I will be the Andreas Antonopoulos of Ecuador. ”Related to the desire to bring cryptocurrency to the country he fell in love with on his travels.
“I was obsessed. My girlfriend got jealous – we literally broke up because she was jealous of Bitcoin. “
In Ecuador, Green walked around college and took random computer science classes to give presentations on Bitcoin and teach everyone how to build a wallet that he then finances with a small amount and asked each person to find three new people to send a fraction of their coins.
“I would knock on the classroom door unannounced and say, ‘Hey, I want to give everyone in this classroom a little bitcoin and explain it to them. ‘I would say five out of seven they let me in,’ Green recalls with a laugh. However, he soon saw that Ecuador wanted to ban Bitcoin and gave up his missionary post. “I had to go on bail,” he says.
The principle of giving
Green organizes DECENTRAL and DOGECENTRAL, two cryptocurrency camps at Burning Man, a radical 10-day festival based on 10 principles, including radical inclusion, talent, radical self-reliance and civic responsibility. With the camps, Green wants to “build a bridge between the Burning Man community and the crypto community so that ideas and culture can be exchanged”, which in his opinion “can somehow change the world”. The two communities, as socially critical movements, have much in common, but tend to oppose the extremes of economic philosophy.
Influenced by his experiences in both political activism and engineering, Green criticizes the “hypercapitalism” he sees in the cryptocurrency industry. “If all you know is capitalism, then you’re just going to make capitalism better, and I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right thing to do. But hey, look, there’s this gift economy!” He says, referring to the so-called “gift principle” at Burning Man, where money and any kind of trade or bartering are prohibited.
“The goal is to say, ‘Wow! Look at what economy really is – let’s take a step beyond capitalism and see how we can coordinate value creation. “
Green thinks of economies as games – you can play the game capitalistically to benefit yourself, or they can be played for the benefit of others. This desire to create an economic environment in which people are rewarded for the good of society inspired him to start the crypto donation platform Giveth at the end of 2016. “What if we integrate values and culture as part of the economic system?” He ponders.
Giveth currently acts as a “transparent and traceable donation platform” on which everyone can track how their donations are being spent. “I would say it’s like an Indiegogo for donations,” says Green. In the coming months, there are plans to release a governance token that will be given to all donors according to their donations on the platform. These governance tokens could work like a tax return where donors could get some money back for donations.
Commons Stack, a Giveth spin-off co-founded by Green, creates a “universal framework for not-for-profit economies” by enabling donors to invest effectively in charity. “If more people buy this token because they believe that this nonprofit economy will create value, you would actually make money as an early supporter – the way it works on the stock market,” explains Green. Of course, it is entirely possible that donors will never get all of their money back, but Green is confident that this is okay as “the other option is to lose 100%” of the funds donated.
“Every economy is a game. The rules of the game determine your score and your goal is to get a high score. When you play the American Economy Game, you are trying to get as much money as possible. But when you play the Help For Orphans game, you are trying to make as much money as possible by helping orphans. “