Saturday, August 25, 2018

Crypto Ideology: The Bitcoin Cash Ideology and the Incoming Schism

Bitcoin cash is facing a schism. Developers on Bitcoin ABC seems to be completely oblivious to this threat, hence they are proposing to hardfork over non critical matters on Nov 15th. It is not clear what the other BCH implementations like Bitcoin Unlimited and the new Craig Wright project Bitcoin SV intends to do on Nov 15th. What is clear is that there is a good deal of hostility (devs being banned from communication channels, Faketoshi posturing), and a high likelihood of Bitcoin Cash splitting into multiple chains. Various vulture chains have started to come out like Bitcoin Cobra and Bitcoin Stash trying to take advantage of the situation.

Bitcoin cash is founded on the ideological tenet that a hard forked minority chain can be a legitimate successor to the original chain. “Bitcoin Cash is Bitcoin” is a Roger Ver invented meme based on this tenet. It should not surprise anyone that disagreements within the Bitcoin Cash community will be settled by the chain splitting into multiple forks, using the tenet as the justification. Allow me to “unroll” this statement:

The core foundation of any large group of people rests on ideology. Nations, religions, and political movements cannot exist without ideology and neither can cryptocurrencies. Stable ideologies allow communities to thrive. A simple example in religion is the Christian tenet that “there is one true god”. This belief strengthens the religion because it weakens membership in competing religions. Communities with unstable ideologies will eventually collapse. Think of the Shakers, a 18th century Christian sect that endorsed celibacy as a core tenet. It should be no surprise that Shakers are now extinct because its members did not have children that could continue the practice of the religion.

The very ideology that justifies the existence of Bitcoin Cash, also justifies the use of chain splits to settle any disagreements within the community. Its easy to see that this ideology, that a hard forked minority chain can be a legitimate successor to the original chain, is completely unstable. Witness below this profoundly confused statement by professional BCash shill David Jerry. He proposes that to solve a chain split, the minority chain capitulates and switches to the winning chain, while not realizing that Bitcoin Cash itself is a minority chain to Bitcoin.

While David Jerry’s solution is sensible in Bitcoin, it is completely incompatible with the Bitcoin Cash ideology. It is thus reasonable to conclude that Bitcoin Cash will face a never ending threat where its community members threatens to split off permanently from the main chain. I predict that within 1 year, there will be multiple competing hard forks that come out Bitcoin Cash. Eventually, the chain will have been split so many times that it will be a forgotten footnote in the history of cryptocurrencies.

Now let us go back to the original debate which created Bitcoin Cash in the first place, the block size debate. Bitcoin Maximalists often say that the block size debate is not about the block size at all. This is true, the block size debate is about retaining a stable ideology. The most important belief that the maximalists wanted to stand by in the block size debate is that backwards compatibility is never broken (or that we never hard fork). This ideology is stable because it guarantees that members who failed to upgrade their software are never dropped from network. This may sound like a rigid requirement for a software project, but Bitcoin is not just a software project. It is a method of coordination for a large group of people who face extremely hostile and powerful adversaries. Understanding this fact, it becomes clear that software upgrades can be a large attack vector and may not be feasible when the adversaries are fully engaged.

Critics are correct in saying that currently, the state level adversaries are not fully engaged and that hard forks are completely possible in practice. What they don’t understand is the nature of ideology. Ideology can only be strengthened through strict adherence to it. A cryptocurrency project will not be able to easily switch to a policy of having no hardforks when the adversaries become suddenly engaged. For a project like Bitcoin Cash, which have already hard forked twice within a year to solve its problems, the users have been conditioned to believe that hardforks are safe. Thus when a malicious state sponsored hard fork comes along, they will be sitting ducks. Bitcoin users, who have been conditioned to believe that all hardforks are unsafe, will be immune when such an attack comes.

A stable and sustainable ideology must be the foundation of all cryptocurrencies. No amount of cryptography, consensus protocol development, and technical optimizations will help a cryptocurrency with an unstable and bankrupt ideology.