This is a viewpoint editorial by Michael Matulef, an electrical contractor, independent trainee of Austrian economics and member of the Mises Institute.
Bitcoin needs to change! In the world of Bitcoin heresy, prior to you prepare to hang me from the gallows for that declaration, allow me to reveal my last ideas. Allow me to offer a quick intro — I am not a galaxy-brained, shadowy very coder. I need to confess to my relative lack of knowledge in the fields of computer technology and cryptography. I do not work within the Bitcoin market. Instead, I am a normal pleb, toiling away in building and construction to make ends fulfill, aiming to preserve humbleness and get a detailed understanding of the real nature of Bitcoin. So, why do I state that Bitcoin must change?
Let us start by contemplating the expression, “Not your keys, not your coins,” which resounds as one of the loudest mantras in the Bitscoins.netmunity, and truly so. When your personal secrets are held by a central exchange or custodian in your place, you successfully give up control over your funds. This circumstance presents counterparty threat, as you end up being reliant on the security practices and stability of the 3rd party turned over with your secrets.
The viewpoint underlying “not your keys, not your coins” lines up with the wider concepts of decentralization and censorship resistance. These concepts look for to empower people with monetary sovereignty and remove the need for intermediaries. It highlights the significance of individual duty, security and self-reliance in this digital period where federal governments progressively use innovation as a tool for managing people.
Now, you might ask, what is the concern at hand? Well, the fact of the matter is that, under the existing application of the Bitcoin procedure, self custody does not scale. Many Bitcoin lovers select not to seriously examine this truth. However, we cannot overlook the repercussions of neglecting truth.
Recently, the BRC-20 minting concern thrust this obstacle into the spotlight within the neighborhood. The occasion set off a surge in the base layer cost market, leading to inflated expenses to verify deals. Regardless of your viewpoint on BRC-20, the occurrence offered us with a peek of the future if the network continues to broaden. Try to picture, in all sincerity, the worsening of this circumstance with 8 billion users. As activist Anita Posch explained in this tweet, custodial options would end up being the only ways of onboarding brand-new network individuals. While there are federated procedures intending to disintermediate custodial threat by spreading it amongst several custodians, this service stays essentially various from self custody.
Recently, human rights activist Alex Gladstein posed a thought experimen focused on this issue:
To my discouragement, over 54% of participants to his situation considered it a success. This belief is dangerous, as such a situation weakens Bitcoin’s ethos of self sovereignty and censorship resistance. It might not come as a surprise, though; this survey might show that more individuals focus on “number go up (NGU)” over specific liberty.
Whenever the scaling concern occurs, a typical reaction is to conjure up the concept that Bitcoin scales in layers, which the base layer can ossify while extra layers assist in the onboarding of the worldwide population. However, as Shinobi reminds us, “Layer two is not a magic incantation. For layer twos to optimize and improve, new functionality on the base layer is required. Layer twos are literally just things built on the functionality of layer one. The limitations of layer two are a direct result of layer one limits.”
Accepting this truth can be overwhelming, specifically for people like myself who are not computer technology majors or cryptographers. We love Bitcoin, and the possibility of change can be frightening since we are uninformed of what we do not understand. There is a non-zero possibility that any change might cause Bitcoin’s failure. Consequently, a number of us stubbornly dig our heels into the sand and supporter for the ossification of the base layer to guarantee, in our minds, that Bitcoin stays undamaged.
If you, like me, think that “not your keys, not your coins” ought to be an alternative for all individuals in the network, present and future, we need to accept Bitcoin’s malleability prior to it is far too late. In the words of Jameson Lopp:
“Bitcoin is sound money. But it’s not just digital gold. Bitcoin is programmable money. Unlike gold, it is a technology that can be upgraded. We need not throw that property out the window. There is still much about Bitcoin that can be improved without violating its soundness… The nature of how network protocols ossify means that the changes necessarily must happen earlier rather than later; it becomes impossible to coordinate changes once a protocol is adopted at a mainstream level.”
And to quote Lopp once again:
“Ossification is a side effect of growth, not an explicit decision unto itself. There is no way to really know when we’ve gone too far until newly proposed changes simply cease to gain any traction. Now, the real problems of ossification become clear: once we cross an invisible line in the future, Bitcoin will be ‘set’ as it is, with no more updates practically possible.
“Before this happens, developers and users need to think about what Bitcoin’s ultimate code base should look like. We can see from past debates surrounding things like the SegWit fork that bitcoiners are both divided and passionate about many issues, and there’s almost certainly no answer to this question that everyone will agree on. This is, of course, part of the problem driving ossification in the first place.”
Only time will reveal whether we have already crossed that invisible line of base-layer ossification. However, until that day arrives, it is crucial for all users who cherish Bitcoin for its properties of self sovereignty and censorship resistance, as well as its potential to truly separate money from the state, to embrace changes with an open mind. Engage in the various discussions within the developer community. Implement the principle of charity in your observations and discussions. Personally, as an attendee of ChiBitDevs, I can attest that those in the developer community are extremely welcoming and enjoy assisting non-technical users in grasping complex engineering matters that reside at the forefront of development.
Let me leave you with one last quote from Shinobi to consider: “What if the spooks (federal government) desire you emphatically versus any more modifications to Bitcoin so that our only practical long-lasting scaling alternatives are banks they can attempt and control and record?”
Tick tock, next block.
This is a guest post by Michael Matulef. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
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