Why My Faith in Bitcoin has Been Restored
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.
"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.