Imagine that tomorrow you wake up and discover that you’ve been taken for all you’re worth by an anonymous hacker. The thief has managed to steal everything that belonged to you and a good deal of others—$56 million worth of a new virtual currency that you’ve invested in, to be exact. You have a month to decide what to do.
This might seem like an impossible situation, the kind of pressure cooker that breeds hasty decisions, but it’s exactly the dilemma that faced the developers and users of a new cryptocurrency and coding platform called Ethereum.
In June, millions of dollars were stolen from a crowd-directed investment fund called the DAO and siphoned into a smaller version referred to as a “child DAO.” The only way to get it back was with a hard fork that slipped a refund mechanism into the DAO and all its offshoots. This meant a change to Ethereum’s code that split the currency into two versions, which users had to choose between by either updating their software or not. It was a risky proposal that threatened to permanently cleave Ethereum, and it had its share of vocal dissenters who saw the change as manipulating