Editor’s note: This article links to blogs that may contain graphic or offensive content.
Where to begin with Mircea Popescu?
A Romanian by residency, provocateur by occupation and the “world’s greatest erotica writer” by proclamation, Popescu leaves behind a legacy strewn across so many blogs and forums it was difficult even during his life to separate the man from the myth. Let’s start then, with what we think we know.
Popescu, rumored to be one of the largest individual bitcoin holders – he has claimed to hold 1 million coins, though more conservative estimates place his holdings in the tens of thousands — is believed to have died at the age of 41, according to a story first surfacing in a Costa Rican news report this week.
While unconvincing on its own – the article mentions only his name – the news has since been affirmed by three different women with whom he was known to have had long-standing, reportedly consensual master-slave relationships. (More on that later).
But if much of the early Twitter rumblings have focused on the size of his rumored holdings (and questions about whether they will wind up for sale), the remainder of this article will focus on Popescu’s controversial legacy in Bitcoin.
One of the technology’s earliest and most ambitious entrepreneurs, Popescu is known for starting MPEx, a self-styled “Bitcoin securities exchange.” Founded in 2012, the website was once an early breeding ground for early Bitcoin IPOs, a practice that earned him the ire of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency whose power he took no shortage of joy in openly undermining.
From there, Popescu would gain notoriety for being among the first to combat scams in public, emerging as a vocal critic of Ripple (the company that launched XRP) as well as Bitcoin Savings & Trust, which was later revealed to have been a pyramid scheme.
The behaviors, then a novelty, would win him an early following and set the tone for what would become Popescu’s signature – an aggressive brand of unapologetic Bitcoin evangelism that made his influence enduring despite documented instances of sexism, bigotry and anti-semitism.
His blog – Trilema.com – contains all of the above. Indeed, there are those who believe Popescu should have no recognition at all in passing due to his long and demonstrated use of hateful language.
Yet, for others, his influence on the Bitcoin conversation is – and was – undeniable.
An avid antagonist of Bitcoin coders, he would do much to undermine early lead developer Gavin Andresen’s claims to any link or lineage to Satoshi Nakamoto, referring to developers of the day collectively as “The Power Rangers” in blog posts that sought to portray their attempts to enhance the code as ego-driven, misguided and generally infantile.
“The self-styled ‘developers’ are by and large a bunch of retarded children looking for ‘sexy projects’ and who knows, maybe if they geek out more they might become spergrockstars and some fattie somewhere is throwing her bra at them,” he wrote in a passage that showcases his crass and evocative writing style.
Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where in his sprawling anthology (it was common for him to post between 70 and 100 blog posts a month), therein he articulated some of the earliest and most impassioned arguments for why the description “Bitcoin user” must be confined solely to those who run nodes (and hold a copy of the blockchain).
“Popescu used the metaphor of peasantry and aristocracy to make this distinction clear. People who don’t run their own nodes are peasants, and this is the reality. He put it in terms that everyone can understand,” said Akin Fernandez, founder of Azteco.
At times, he even successfully combined his unconventional sexual lifestyle with his Bitcoin musings in posts that argued for the freedom and ecstasy that could come from submitting to the software’s rules.
Still, all of this could be buried under blogs that could be degrading to others when they weren’t outright violent and offensive. His most memorable act remains putting a bounty out for the death of Bitcoin developer Pieter Wuille, though the blog post itself can be read as a multi-layered technical argument about transaction validation.
Just as impactful was his argument the software must remain backwards compatible, eschewing hard forks, in which he linked the dense technical concept (loosely) with the assertion Bitcoin must be defined by the end user’s choice of software, not any one developer group.
Was Mircea a flawed character? Undoubtedly so. But in his worldview, only the software mattered, and at a time when Bitcoin was in its infancy (and still at risk of losing its essential qualities) he emerged as one of its most spirited defenders.
“Bitcoin is not here for you to opine about it. Bitcoin is here to profoundly and oft times painfully change your life,” he wrote. “Whether you agree or not, whether you give permission or not, whether you think it ‘acceptable’ or ‘called for’ or whatever else. Nobody asked you.”
A selection of some of his more memorable quotes can be found here, though this is by no means an exhaustive overview of his extensive writings.
The author intends to further explore Popescu’s canon in the coming months, he can be reached here.
Image via TheWhet.net