Bitcoin Won’t Hardfork Any Time Soon
Saturday June 25, 2016
Bitcoin has never hardforked, may not hardfork this decade, or even next decade. This realization has made a lot of people angry, including former captains of Bitcoin industry loudly vocalizing their desire to see a hard fork, that recklessly changes the Bitcoin consensus rules.
The hard fork missile crisis has developed into a hard fork cold war, with a false dilemma. Predictably, consumers began to revolt, against an unclear threat. The block size debate began, and those playing Bitcoin politician vocalized only on this issue – citing it as the most critically needed upgrade.
Mainstream discussions of disincentivizing centralizing factors in Bitcoin have started to become completely ignored, or seen as non-issues. Any hard fork that could achieve near unanimous consensus would require these issues to be addressed, solved, and deployed.
A primary concern in centralization is the mining arms race that has resulted in ASIC proliferation. To stay competitive in mining, one must continuously make capital investments in new equipment to maintain existing profit margins. In consequence, all miners have joined centralized pools. Interestingly, greater than 50% of all hashpower is geographically located in China. Miners who have the primary authority to soft fork the chain by narrowing the consensus rules, have been slowly growing past the checks and balances on their power. It is only a matter of time before a cartel forms and implements detrimental soft forks.
Additionally the incentive to run an archival Bitcoin node has decreased significantly, as the overall archival node count has been slowly decreasing. Without any direct protocol incentive to run a full node, besides verifying and sending one’s own transactions, the node count will eventually approach zero.
Earlier this year, a proposal was made to reduce miner centralization through a hard fork. The specifics of the design are not fully flushed out but the essence of this change is quite sound. Strengthening the already existing consensus rules results in a more trustworthy system.
Bitcoin is an implementation of the proof of work solution to the Byzantine General Problem. In order to reach consensus on an attack time without every peer having to communicate with every other single peer on the network. This works by everyone initially agreeing on a set of rules by which to arrive at this attack time. A hard fork changes these rules mid-battle, as I’ve written previously:
I think he’s talking about breaking the Byzantine General problem by adding in a centralized factor.
Ideally PoW solves the problem by allowing everyone to verify which time to attack. They consent without actually communicating with EVERY node on the network. I may not know Mustafa, in unit 413, but Mustafa and I will be attacking the city at the same time.
What’s happening here is akin to one noisy general yelling out while on the battlefield, “Hey guys, this is a really bad idea can we retreat and try again?” Then using the same method of consensus to retreat and find another time to attack. Some may disagree with retreating others may be okay with it.
The problem for most people I think is that its so easy for a few “noisy people” everyone seems to listen to in order to change the time of attack, even while in battle.
If this is the case it makes it rather trivial for the opposing army to [send in spies], gain trust, and then yell loud enough for the [attacking] army to retreat.
This is the exact same debate Bitcoin has been having for 4 years, and as each year passes it becomes slightly more difficult to change that attack time. Is this a good thing? Some would say yes, some would say no.
It’s easier to hack the human than the system. So be very aware of the choices you as an individual make and decide to trust.
Bitcoin is difficult to change. In fact, Bitcoin should never be changed – humanity should change for Bitcoin. This is a hard pill to swallow for the “consumer has come to expect” crowd, as it now requires diligence to become successful – no more trophies for participation. Thus any change to the protocol should reinforce what Bitcoin already does well.
A hard fork will never be fully accepted by the entirety of the economic majority unless it adds new checks onto the miners’ existing power, and directly incentivizes nodes. The above proposal theoretically does both, it creates a market for data only retrievable by full archive nodes, and forces miners to utilize an existing blockchain before minting a new block, in turn destroying SPV mining.
An added benefit of this proposal makes future hard forks extremely difficult. Ideally the implementation of such a proposal should result in the blocksize being baked into hardware, thus any future fork would brick this mining hardware.
Without these requirements, a hard fork proposal will always fail. Bitcoin’s resistance to changing the consensus rules, is necessarily a good thing. While the blasphemous Roger Ver and incompetent Mike Hearn believe mass adoption will prevent Bitcoin from being hijacked by regulation, it should be quite obvious that adding more resistance to preventing consensus rule changes is an actual solution to this problem.