Saturday, January 16, 2016

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

I'm no cryptographer, but I find Bitcoin endlessly fascinating.

It seems that others do, as well.

  • The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment
    Why has Bitcoin failed? It has failed because the community has failed. What was meant to be a new, decentralised form of money that lacked “systemically important institutions” and “too big to fail” has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people. Worse still, the network is on the brink of technical collapse. The mechanisms that should have prevented this outcome have broken down, and as a result there’s no longer much reason to think Bitcoin can actually be better than the existing financial system.
  • Bitcoin Is Dead, Long Live Bitcoin
    In my simple mind I liken it to this. Should Bitcoin be Gold or should Bitcoin be Visa. If it is Gold, it’s a store of wealth and something to peg value to. If it is Visa, then its a transactional network that can move wealth around the globe in a nanosecond.
  • A Bitcoin Believer’s Crisis of Faith
    The dispute — which grew out of a question about the number of transactions the Bitcoin network can handle — may sound like something of interest only to the most die-hard techies. But it has exposed fundamental differences about the basic aims of the Bitcoin project, and how online communities should be governed. The two camps have broadly painted each other as, on one side, populists who are focused on expanding Bitcoin’s commercial potential and, on the other side, elitists who are more concerned with protecting its status as a radical challenger to existing currencies.
  • Classic? Unlimited? XT? Core?
    Clever engineers will find ways to work around around the limit, whether that is ‘extension blocks’ or the lightning network or a sidechain that everybody moves their coins to doesn’t really matter. I’d prefer a nice, simple, clean solution, but I’m old enough to know that most of the world’s great technologies are built on top of horrifying piles of legacy cruft, and they work just fine pretty much all of the time.
  • Bitcoin is Being Hot-Wired for Settlement
    This block size debate ultimately comes down to competing economic and system survival theories. One theory is that a free market range exists for block size, in absence of a hard limit. Another theory is that a hard limit is required to forcibly constrain the free market. Stalling on core block size changes the former to the latter — uncharted territory for bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin Core Devs in ‘Civil War’ Insist We’re Not Getting The Whole Story
    These developers claim that the “schism” is more like two rogue developers against everyone else (and then there are a few out there, like Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik, who seem in the middle). Nick Szabo, whom some suspect is Bitcoin's original creator, called it a “reckless act to be performing on a $4 billion system,” sided with a more conservative fork, and posted a photo of a heartbreaking space shuttle disaster with the caption, “What happens when the managers and investors ignore the engineers and scientists....”
  • On Consensus, or Why Bitcoin's Block-Size Presents a Political Trade-Off
    The operator of a full node, and only the operator of a full node, decides which consensus rules that full node applies. As such, full node operators decide what kind of transactions they want to accept and, therefore, what kind of Bitcoin they want to use. Full nodes grant individual autonomy to their operators.

    But operating a full node is not only empowering from an individual perspective; it’s also empowering in a more democratic sense, as full nodes carry out social influence through network effects . Full node operators are incentivized to apply the same consensus rules as other full node operators, since that allows them to transact. So, as a full node operator decides to use a specific set of consensus rules, the incentive to adhere to these consensus rules becomes stronger for everyone else, too.

    This social influence can currently be witnessed by the fact that some full node operators would individually prefer to increase the block-size limit to produce and accept bigger blocks – but don’t.

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