Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney talks zk proofs in 25-year-old unearthed footage


Early Bitcoin (BTC) pioneer Hal Finney shared his vision for zero-knowledge proofs more than 25 years ago, a full decade before the launch of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. 

The video, purportedly from the Crypto ‘98 conference held on Aug. 26, 1998, in Santa Barbara, shows Finney discussing in detail, the concept of zero-knowledge proofs — a cryptographic technology that gained immense popularity decades later.

Finney explains how one could hypothetically perform a zero-knowledge proof on a SHA-1 hash, describing the possibility of sending a cryptographically encrypted claim without revealing any of the details contained within the same claim.

“I want to prove to you that I know a message that hashes to a given hash value using the SHA-1 hash. I don’t want to reveal anything about the message to you. It’s a zero-knowledge proof, and I’ve written a program to do this that I’ll tell you about,” explained Finney.

A zero-knowledge (ZK) proof is a cryptographic protocol that enables one user (the prover) to convince another (the verifier) that a particular claim is true without disclosing any details about the claim itself.

At the time of Finney’s speech, zero-knowledge proofs were considered to be a possibility, but due to hardware limitations at the time were widely regarded, as Finney puts it: “inefficient or impractical.”

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Decades later, the crypto industry is now abuzz with discussions and debates on how best to implement zero-knowledge proofs, with the main use of the technology being leveraged to scale the Ethereum network.

Finney is a storied pioneer of the cryptocurrency industry. He was a computer scientist who made some of the earliest contributors to privacy-enhancing technology, including the first fully anonymous re-mailer, a tool that protected user identity when sending emails. Additionally, Finney created the first reusable Proof of Work system, which preceded Bitcoin by nearly five years. 

In 2009, Finney was the very first recipient of Bitcoin, after he was transferred 10 BTC by the cryptocurrency’s pseudonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto, and was known to have worked closely with Nakamoto in Bitcoin’s earliest days. 

Some have speculated that Finney could be Satoshi Nakamoto himself, though he has denied the theory.

Finney was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease known as ALS, the complications of which would later claim his life in 2014. Finney was cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona.

The video could be one of the first times that some people has been able to hear Finney’s voice, suggested TrustMachines on X.

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