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Why My Faith in Bitcoin has Been Restored

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Last year I wrote a piece called "Bitcoin is Not a Honey Badger," where I critiqued the notion that Bitcoin is impossible to kill. I used the analogy of a forest and broke down "being a Bitcoiner" into five stages. I foreshadowed some of Bitcoin's current problems, but not enough to hurt the entertainment value of the recent block size debate. 

"You want to…catch a glimpse of Gavin Andresen as he struggles to mop up Bitcoin with his limp wrists"

Indeed Gavin took it upon himself to "save" Bitcoin, and indeed he has limp wrists, because Bitcoin XT.
This proposal was nothing short of a power grab by Gavin and Mike Hearn. It was overreaching, poorly thought through, and it would have created more problems than it solved. It wasn't long before XT's political and technical flaws came to surface, but it didn't matter because egos were at stake.

After months of fire, Scaling Bitcoin rolled around to try and get everyone on the same page. Gavin reluctantly attended, keeping away for much of the conference, and when he did show, he got the cold shoulder from the attendees for…well, being himself. Gavin learned a valuable lesson; when your notoriety is mostly built up from media coverage, those who actually hold the skillset you claim to have, will see right through you.

At one point a dialogue was struck between him and the other devs, and for a few days it looked like Gavin was willing to think about other solutions. Alas, yet again Gavin was given too much credit. He went home and returned to preaching XT behind his reddit firewall. Mike Hearn didn't bother physically coming because he's smart. Although he received no mention in my article, I had been critisizing him on other platforms

Hearn later spun Scaling Bitcoin into some kind of Blockstream conspiracy. Funnily, I was randomly privy to the discussion during which Scaling Bitcoin was proposed. The conversation was enthusiastic, and the only intent spoken of was to reach consensus between all the devs. Anyone who actually went to the conference would not disagree.  


Why it's all ok:

XT failed, and Mike Hearn rage quit. 

Sidebar: for a more fun conspiracy, dig around Hearn's past. He's totally MI6. 


"You see the rot coming up from the inside. You realize that Bitcoin has severe social, political and technical issues. You see that Bitcoin is not a honey badger. Suddenly BTC isn’t just fun and exciting; it’s complex and uncertain. At this point you probably decide to practice cognitive dissonance and stay in your comfort zone. You probably decide that it will be fine because any concerns raised can be sterilized with a reddit post. But a few of us quit."

The biggest issue for Bitcoin turned out to be internal turmoil. The block size debate – on the surface – is about technical problems, but at its core, it's all about governance. After XT failed, BTC Classic was birthed, quickly rounding up uninformed cheerleaders.

But how can classic be bad? It's democratic! 

You don't need to be philosophically versed to clue in that if decisions about the Bitcoin protocol were to be democratically driven, Bitcoin would end up in a grave. If the block size debate has demonstrated anything, it's that there's a fundamental lack of understanding about how Bitcoin actually works. If you're going to the moon, would you like your spaceship built by a handful of informed engineers, or by the average tax payer?

Let's get something clear about Bitcoin: having gone to every meet-up, reading every thread, buying btc at $30.00, mining btc, or making videos about btc, does not mean you fully understand the tech behind it, and it certainly does not mean that you're entitled to an opinion, let alone a vote. Incase anyone is confused, yes, even founding Coinbase does not qualify you as a Bitcoin expert, therefore you are not entitled to influence technical decisions. 

Sidebar: forking Bitcoin because "the majority" wishes it, is a direct assault on anyone who opted into the original protocol. 

Sidebar: democracies are incredibly easy to game

Sidebar: you may have noticed I left out BTC Unlimited. This is because it's – let me be politically correct – "learning disabled." 

But certainly democracy is better than Blockstream! 

I understand the concern about too many devs working at Blockstream. I share this concern. Other devs share this concern. The continuous expression of this concern is vital because it helps keep them in check.

I don't give people the benefit of the doubt; I look at their track record. Regarding recent events, the devs employed by Blockstream have shown that they deeply care about this tech, and want it to succeed. I think for many of them, success is defined by Bitcoin continuing to be a unique technology. Scaling is important, but not if it means sacrificing what Bitcoin is. They hold bitcoin, they use bitcoin, and they've dedicated years to Bitcoin. If they just wanted to get rich, they'd go for a risky quick fix. They'd increase block size and if anything went wrong, they'd be the first to see it coming and cash out, leaving all the investors, start ups, exchanges, and miners to fend for themselves. Instead, they are thinking of other ways to scale Bitcoin, difficult, long-term solutions that require their dedication and energy (e.g SegWit, Lightining); and no one seems to appreciate this. 

Despite all the power plays, despite the abuse from r/bitcoin, despite personal attacks from the media, and invasions of privacy from the mailing list, most of these guys continue to do their best to balance both the political and technical issues that continue to face Bitcoin. I say most, because as I predicted, some of them quit; their exit was silent (and I hope, temporary). This is notable because it displays a certain character; character that Mike Hearn lacked when he decided to make his abandonment of Bitcoin into an R3 advertisement. 

Why it's all ok:

I'm going to return to my forest analogy. Think of the core devs as Ents. They are wise, experienced, and do their best to stay unbiased. They consider all the things, which makes decision making a slow process. They don't rush into doing something just because a few little hairy men yell at them; they make sure the forest is indeed burning before they make a move. 

Sidebar: Core devs are not all at Blockstream. And Blockstream only employs one dev with commit access.

Why my faith has been restored

The biggest complaint about Bitcoin right now is that it's too hard to make changes. Ironically, this is its best feature. If Bitcoin was easy to change, it would quickly be "appropriated into the same functionalities that have historically corrupted everything." Core continues to work rationally, overreaching entities keep imploding, and many of us are keeping their bitcoin despite these stormy waters; perhaps Bitcoin will prove to be antifragile afterall. 

 

Extras

"For something so new and different, there sure are a lot of Foundations, Associations…Alliances."

Why it's all ok:

Most of these entities are now dead or irrelevant, which I hoped for: "it’s possible that many of these entities are severely incompetent, masters of writing proposals and statements, yet unprepared to execute anything."

"*No one should be excited about 21 Inc."

Why it's all ok:

21's docs were leaked and there was an internal coup, forcing them to change their business model.

*Months after this post, Gavin discredited himself by endorsing a scam artist who posed as Satoshi. Whether this was an intilectual blunder, or a  political move in hopes to improve his status, we cannot know. 

Comments
38 Responses to “Why My Faith in Bitcoin has Been Restored”
  1. Mike says:

    Where can I find these leaked 21 Inc. docs you speak of?

    • bravetheworld says:

      http://bravenewcoin.com/news/21-inc-decommoditizing-mining

      Links to the slides. More than the slides were leaked though. They did a full investigation, and it created a lot of internal termoil. They ended up discovering the guy (he left a photocopy and email trail). And I’m finding it incredibly odd how difficult it has been to search for the original articles and reddit posts. It was huge news within my bitcoin circle last year & I have 2 direct sources that have confirmed details. 

  2. Javier says:

    Thanks for sharing your post… I'm been observing bitcoin politics, is bitcoin a new kind of republic? what do you think 🙂 

    • bravetheworld says:

      not to sure what to think lately to be honest, but one could think of the protocol as a constitution…so maybe changing it too much isn’t a great idea

  3. Thomas says:

    A wonderfully written article. The humor that you bring into this important political writing is great. 

    I don't fully understand how Bitcoin will evolve over the coming years, but it's continued resilience to change and corrupting influence does inspire hope in me. 

    I continue to be excited for your future work. Keep being Awesome 🙂

  4. PropSpotter says:

    I'm geniunely amazed by the level of ignorance you present regarding to the workings of Bitcoin or the Blocksize limit controversy.

    I cannot help but think that this is a propaganda piece ordered by Blockstream.

    If that's not the case I recommend that you search for unmanipulated and uncensored bitcoin communities and try to get rid off your apparent biases.

    • bravetheworld says:

      you disagree therefore I’m wrong. cool.

      • Dave Scotese says:

        Hi Julia, I've recently decided that "disagree" is a euphemism for "misunderstand" and it's used by people who simply don't want to put in the work to solve the misunderstanding.  Often, that simply means accepting that the same word is used for different meanings by the two people.  Less often, but still also often, it simply means that each person has a different set of preferences.  Still less often, each person has a different set of underlying axioms, or else one of them doesn't have axioms and is going on psuedo-logic instead of actual logic because they haven't put in the work to formulate their own basic axioms.

        Anyway, all this is to say that I, also, am interested in your dismissal of Bitcoin Classic.  I know that it simply buys time, but that doesn't seem like a bad thing.  BTW, I sent you 1/7 of a bitcoin yesterday.  I hope it finds you well and you find the time to explain why a simple one-time double of the blocksize is a bad idea.

        I believe you are a voluntaryist and voluntaryist.com would love to have your story of how that happened (see http://voluntaryist.com/howibecame/index.html for examples if you're interested).

        Thanks for being awesome, and keep it up.  You are one of the best examples of the point I tried to make at http://everything2.com/title/The+benefit+of+superficial+beauty

        • bravetheworld says:

          Hey I do not have time to asnwer everyhting (new mom)

          Basically increasing the blocksize ignores btc’s other problems. It is a dumb, simplistic, short sighted fix. 

          In this thread there are some great discussions explaining these things: https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/5h2mgj/cirlce_ceo_blame_openly_bitcoin_devs_in_wsj/?ref=search_posts

          for example:
           

          I’m still trying to get my head around why core wants try to use SegWit before even considering raising the block size to just 2MB. I’ve heard that it’s because LN will be easier to implement after SegWit, and that will be a boon to Blockstream. True?

          Serious question.

          [–]4n4n4 44 points 1 day ago 

          Have you heard of the quadratic signature validation problem? Malicious 2MB blocks could be designed to take over an hour for consumer hardware to validate. Segwit fixes this problem. UTXO growth increases are also mitigated by segwit’s costing versus a straightforward blocksize bump. And yes, segwit does make LN work better, and this will likely be a boon to everyone, giving us a new way to transact using Bitcoin instantly, cheaply, with scaling that is orders of magnitude better, while still remaining decentralized.

          I appreciate the q’s  xoxo

        • bravetheworld says:

          even better  https://soundcloud.com/elux-2/the-great-stakehodler-debate-lombroso-petrov-potter-ver

    • derbledoo says:

      Which uncensored bitcoin communities would you recommend?  Because r/btc has gone completely off the deep end with posts like yours, citing blockstream conspiracy theories at every turn.  It is also at least as censored as any other bitcoin community, if not moreso.

      • bravetheworld says:

        I’ve hated bitcoin on reddit from the start. I’ve been censored on r/bitcoin for years. Never bothered with r/btc. All my comrades have been shadowbanned at one poit or another. It’s pretty useless. If online is your only option, maybe read the mailing lists, bitcoin talk forums…or #bitcoin-assets if you have the stomach for it 😛

        Personally, I connect with people directly. I talk to people who are actually doing work. I’ve been contacted by people who’ve been “in it” since the start but are not public. I’m close friends with all types of “bitcoiners.” Investors, devs, ceos of startups, traders etc. Everyone always has something interesting to offer that you won’t find on fucking reddit. Believe me, the biased, skewed perceptions are formed online, because when you actually talk to the human beings involved, you get a much clearer story. 

  5. CosmicHemorroid says:

    `Loved this article but I think you meant r/btc "despite the abuse from r/bitcoin, "?

  6. Carlos says:

    I think that the block size will increase when it needs to increase, regardless of whether some people like it or not or consider it rational or not. When the blocks get consistently full and transaction fees increase to a point where Bitcoin begins to be less useful, users will begin to leave and move on to other things and price will implode. Then miners will fork to a bigger block size or will be left with useless hardware. If miners were rational they would increase the block size now and avoid all the pain, but since they don't want to be rational and want to please the irrational "majority" of users they will have to endure the pain.

    If I were to go to the moon I would like to choose which informed engineers build it, not blindly follow Core's "informed" engineers' diktat. Core's reasoning is being rammed as scientific thought the same way politicians ram their decisions explaining them as "rational" and for the greater good. The difference in the case of Core is that there is no force involved, but there is a lot of irrationality and magical thinking (LN, segwit, FUD that Bitcoin will become centralized with bigger blocks…).

    Bitcoin will either fork and grow or become irrelevant. Of course it will not fork because of "democracy", but because of miners and payment acceptors acting rationally in their self-interest.

    • George says:

      I completly agree with you. Core devs hijacked bitcoin and they are not following Satoshi's vision. Number of transactions will stay the same(1MB block) and transaction fee will rise to the point noone will use Bitcoin anymore. Core devs predicted fee price about $100-$1000 per transaction, taht is insane. Now I understand why Bitcoin is becoming MySpace and some other altcoin will become Facebook. I would never use Bitcoin if I know this would happen some day. 🙁

    • Dave Scotese says:

      Hi Carlos,

      Can you explain why LN and segwit are "irrationality and magical thinking"? Or did you mistype that?

  7. azium says:

    Bitcoin Unlimited is "learning disabled"? Did you not know that there are technical research papers associated with it, or you do and somehow still consider it "learning disabled"?

  8. Chuck Williams says:

    Reading between the lines, I see that you see the truth of things unseen to the masses. I shared your post on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chuck.williams.712161/posts/10205819332066427), and I will support your work.

    When it all goes down – reach out. We can build a coalition.

  9. When I wrote The Hard Fork Missile Crisis I realized there would inevitably be a cold war scenario within Bitcoin: The East vs. The West. What I didn't realize was how vocal peasants could become when left to their own devices – obviously anarchy isn't for everyone, moreso perhaps free will isn't for everyone either.

    The most fascinating thing for me is watching people lose their minds to emotion over this issue as if they are being oppressed in a system the opted-in to. You'll see a lot of "This isn't the Bitcoin I signed up for. I was told the block size was temporary."

    I was hesitant to believe Bitcoin had natural immunity to "the eternal September" problem from which nearly every online community in existence has suffered. But this is it. The ignorant masses flocked to Bitcoin for deluded promises. Normally adding even a drop of sewage to fine wine ruins the entire concoction, however Bitcoin slowly separates the sewage from the rest of the mixture. Eventually the ignorant all pool in a single spot for all to see, while the system continues chugging along.

    I don't know about the power rangers though. Sometimes they seem competent other times they seem incompetent, it depends on the day. Maybe in the future Bitcoin development won't feel like we are trusting the fate of the universe to a gang of high school teenagers. 

  10. Tegknot says:

    I don't completely agree. I'm one of those sidline non-technical people that is of the opinion that we should do the bigger block thing. No, I don't think Bitcoin will fail if we don't have bigger blocks soon, but I also think there is more than the technical to consider.

    I don't think I dissagree with the Core developers on anything really. I just give greater weight to some considerations than they do.

    First, I worry about the security of Bitcoin. Segrigated Witness is awesome, and I want it. But expecting it to be a safe upgrade to the protocol in just a few months is a little scary to me.

    Second, I'm a believer that the curerent monetary system is in for major turmoil in the very near future, and I'd like Bitcoin to be ready for heavy adoption. I'm not saying Bitcoin will be in trouble if the adoption is stalled, but I'd like to see Bitcoin be what many think of as a safe place to move when the shit hits the fan. Yes, I'd like my small investment to grow, but that's far less important to me than that we have an oportunity to take a lot of funding away from the warmongers.

  11. Leo says:

    Great! Another blockstream fan 🙁

  12. Olsen says:

    Yes… 2 mb block size limit will kill bitcoin. /s

  13. danda says:

    Julia, thank-you for this piece.   I have been thinking of making a similar post, and you've saved me the effort!

    At its core, Bitcoin is a protocol.  a contract.  An agreement by all participants on a way of doing things.  Changing that contract willy nilly erodes trust.  Not only in bitcoin but in all cryptocurrency.

    Yes, we would all like improvements.   Privacy, fungibility, and scalability top my list.

    The path forward will be to continue researching these areas and introduce them in altcoins/sidechains.  Let a thousand flowers bloom, or at least a handful.   If a technological advancement in one of these altcoins is so clearly superior that 99.9% of bitcoin participants agree with it, then perhaps bitcoin can be upgraded itself via hard-fork (similar to how critical bugfixes have been unanimously adopted).   Or if not, then the market will gradually move to the superior altcoin(s), and that will be that.

    The first coin that gets both privacy and scalability right will be a real winner, in my book.

    To me, this is the only realistic approach.  One that is dictated by the very nature of bitcoin, and one that more people are beginning to recognize.

    and if no coin appears with these superior properties, then I suppose we end up going the "bitcoin as a settlement layer" route.  Not ideal, but still better than the pre bitcoin era.

    Thanks for helping get the word out.

  14. Slipbuck says:

    You are the clueles one. The one thing you and all the other Blockstream sheep don't understand is, if Bitcoin broke and stopped working, it would get fixed, within minutes or hours. Nothing would be lost and we could move on to make Bitcoin better for it. But, you spread your ignorance and fear mongering which holds Bitcoin back and we all lose.

  15. Michele Seven says:

    You are such a sassy lassy! I miss you! Your t-shirt is one of 3 that I have taken for my cross country journey.

    #WildWomenFTW

  16. 1247 says:

    I don't see us as out of the woods yet: the mining cabal can still ram this down our throats– abandon Bitcoin for a shitcoin and take their hashrate with them. I'll see you on the one true chain. 1247

  17. libertycoin says:

    You really show your ignorance on Bitcoin and other issues.  Please stop attacking Gavin, and using ad hominem attacks.  I used to like some of your stuff, but you really got brainwashed and fell for the BlockStream Core scam.  How lame.

    • bravetheworld says:

      I call Gavin limp and silly.
      Gavin promptly goes on to support a know scammer, believing he was Satoshi, without real proof.
      Discredits himself completely.

      Care to retract?

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  1. […] What have we gained? Bitcoin Core has a new website with lots of useful material. Communication has improved between all aspects of the Bitcoin project. The community as a whole got to improve their understanding of the project’s state and challenges. We got reassured that Bitcoin cannot be changed easily enough, that it will quickly end up “appropriated into the same functionalities that have historically corrupted everything.&#8221… […]



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