"Blockchains are designed to increase the freedom of individuals and to allow them the opportunity to leave as a matter of principle at any time."
If the first day of Scaling Bitcoin showed how the technical and academic communities of bitcoin evolve rapidly to capitalize on newly updated code capabilities, the second day has seen an emerging project, the obstacles overcome. host a variety of cryptocurrencies.
So, the last day of this year's conference showed how, for the event, the presenters and the participants, this transition is worrisome – as for all the discussions about the opportunities offered by the new crypto assets , the bitcoin community trades in reputation as the main currency.
And as suggested Bitcoin Scaling this year, there are strong social norms among participants, many of whom strongly believe that ICO projects, and the blockchains and developers who support them, are no longer only "scammers" and "pump and dump schemers."
This thought, echoed by the participants, was exposed in an opening speech by MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, who used his speech to denounce ICOs, going so far as to say that the model could threaten to drain Bitcoin's talent. the promise of easy money.
Such a reflection seems to be shared by the conference itself, while Scaling Bitcoin has instituted a ban on ICOs for a year – a measure taken as part of an effort to secure technical standards, but which cost extra funding is always the work of dedicated volunteers.
Still, though the quote above alludes to the economic freedoms that developers want to allow, the reaction of participants suggests that such a move, whether technical or social, does not go without cost . It would seem that one approach does not prevent the entire community from seeking new opportunities.
As such, some of the most provocative speeches of the day took a more nuanced look at how bitcoin might reconsider its value proposition, design, and goals in light of this broader cultural shift.
In one of the most controversial discussions, guest speaker Joseph Poon, co-author of the Lightning Network, discussed work developed with ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin who theorized how bitcoin might take measures to cement its role among reserve assets. cryptocurrencies.
Poon told the audience:
"If the auto-discounted view of bitcoin as an entity is a reserve currency, then it is possible that we speak of a reserve currency for other strings. . "
In this way, conference organizers found a strong editorial balance – while most of the discussions were rooted in academic results, discussions around key discussions seemed more revealing of issues that may be better addressed. in the rare public forum. ]
However, as Poon's comments underscore, the event found the bitcoin technical community struggling not only with moral issues, but with a deeper level of design that, without being dramatic, may require the mission of the protocol. refined.
"I think it's important to be aware of the kind of interaction that the bitcoin community will have with the external parties, it's a marketing effort, which considers this view self-actualized, "said Poon about his latest work.
For example, if the passage of SegWit can be considered as an affirmation of bitcoin as a store of value, Poon's speech directly confronted the next stage of the ideation: whether it means that Bitcoin should take steps to market strong security. can provide other channels through its technology.
Called Plasma, Poon's concept envisions a stratified ecosystem of blockchains, in which smaller blockchains built over a simpler settlement blockchain could have very different characteristics, including blocks of terabytes and a creation of infrequent blocks.
As proposed, the system seeks to explore how systems like the Lightning Network could be adapted for more than payments, to encompass use cases for IT and smart contracts.
Yet, Poon often showed up in the audience, seeking to point out that the bitcoin community should decide if that was an area they would like to explore.
"We do not expect it to happen in Bitcoin and I do not suggest it," Poon said. "It's no longer an exploration of what it would look like."
Observers like Peter Todd, however, criticized Poon's ideas. Todd went so far as to assert that Poon's thinking is indicative of the ICO-influenced state of mind that sees a need for a lot of blockchains and tokens where simpler solutions should take it away.
For example, Todd argued that bitcoin would become "naturally" a reserve asset for other strings, but that there is a difference between "accepting other parts may exist" and allow their creation by technology.
"What I'm saying is that the vast majority of other channels have no reason to exist," he said.
David Vorick, CEO of Nebulous Labs, a start-up developing a decentralized storage blockchain with his own native cryptocurrency, gave another conference that envisioned a multi-blockchain ecosystem.
Another opinion on a similar idea, Vorick's speech speculated on a world with "millions" of bitcoin-like blockchains, some of which would have very small market capitalizations.
As such, Vorick's speech focused on various attacks that minors could make against these networks, as well as how the nodes that store blockchain copies might be encouraged to protect themselves from corruption.
Vorick went on to speculate that the nodes might be prompted to look at these blockchains for the surprise publication of a large amount of new work in the attacks.
"If the defenders are online and watching this attack, they are motivated by revenge, maybe they are more motivated than the attacker to defend it and protect their payment if the attacker has to face a motivated defender … lose money, "he said.
Vorick suggested that the idea could allow for "aggressive experimentation," although the Q & A session suggested that more attack vectors might be present and make the system naive or less viable.
Still, he particularly defended the idea as timely, considering a chain of blocks ecosystem where many operational networks today will not leave.
"Every micro-channel would have its own piece, a separate price and consensus rules, and you'd switch between them using a multi-channel multi-network," he said of the idea .
Yet there is more than culture to support the idea, there is also the current market conditions, while the developer Anthony Towns pointed out that the economy around bitcoin was affected by controversial disagreements.
Indeed, Towns' speech emphasized the ease with which disagreements can lead to the creation of new networks.
Most of the work presented focused on the assessment of how trade could help markets assess the perceived value of technical change. For example, he noted how exchanges are now beginning to list split versions of the bitcoin blockchain, but that it's hard to say now what these values mean.
Towns also pointed out how new cryptocurrencies could be made to represent potential variants of bitcoin, comparing the model to other ideas, such as how contracts might allow those who have strongly felt a change to exchange their coins. ]
Nevertheless, he suggested that pricing would be a challenge.
"We do not have enough equations to determine what the unconditional values are. If you look at the Segwit2x Bitfinex price, you can not tell if that's because the coin is not going not be useful, or if they think it will not have any value, "he said.
Cities also noted a problem with the way the ranges are being done today, and in his comprehensive remarks, offered suggestions on how such contentious transitions could be better executed.
Lightning in the distance
Other discussions also highlighted an idea behind the conference, namely that the Lightning Network, while useful for increasing Bitcoin's capacity, still requires significant work. before it can be implemented successfully.
This takeaway recipe was best summed up by a conference of the Hebrew University Aviv Zohar. Entitled "How to Charge Lightning", he examined how a mature Lightning Network could work, exploring the costs and considerations that users might face when opening payment channels and adjusting the results to the blockchain.
Zohar's work, which will be developed in an upcoming article, focused specifically on how the amount of money conserved in Lightning channels would impact user interactions.
"You start thinking about strings and you wonder, when are you relaunching a string?" Zohar said. "There is an optimal point, other than waiting until the channel is completely exhausted [of funds] you reset."
In this way, Zohar speculated that Lightning chains might want to have a fee structure whereby higher costs are charged for larger payments, proportional to the amount of money in the channel used. Nevertheless, he noted that the costs must also be competitive compared to simply executing the transaction on the bitcoin blockchain.
But while Zohar warned that his job was an "early attempt" at such an analysis, his ultimate conclusion was that while Lightning was helping the network, he was "waiting more." Perhaps controversial, he hinted at the idea that a larger block size might eventually be needed to accommodate Lightning style networks.
In addition, his comments gave credibility to the inclusion of chain-leveling research as perhaps cautious given the goals of the Bitcoin community and its determination. to develop its network in the face of competition.
As his comments have noted, bitcoin developers would be wise to always consider all possible options for improving the network according to its objectives.
"An increase in the size of a 2x block helps but not much, this is not surprising."
Images by Pete Rizzo for CoinDesk