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You want a real democracy? Try a hard fork

Taylor Pearson is the author of " The End of Jobs " and writes about entrepreneurship and blockchain technologies at .

In this opinion piece, Pearson argues that the simple forking option not only allows cryptocurrency users to exit the project, but also when they stay.

Commentators often try to compare the current state of the cryptocurrency ecosystem with the Internet years. But are we in 1990? 1995? 1998?

An equally valid comparison is to ask where we are in the years of democracy.

The United States, the first modern democracy, ratified the articles of the Confederation in 1781 after the end of the war of independence. They served as the "operating system" of the United States government until 1788, by which time they were replaced by the current constitution that was intended to remedy the problems uncovered with the first US system. modern exploitation.

Cryptocurrency governance systems may be at a similar stage to that of the Confederation era, when the country was trying a new governance system that looked promising, but still needed major adjustments

The questions posed at that time in American history were reminiscent of the questions asked about bitcoin and cryptocurrency more broadly:


  • How much and what kind of power should each branch of the federal government have? (How much and what kind of power should miners, developers and users have?)
  • How much power should we decentralize and give to states, and how much should they yield to the central government? (Is it better to resize through Layer 2 solutions like the Lightning Network, or scale up by block size increase?)

There are even questions that we are still facing today in American politics that bitcoin is now facing.

  • What was the vision of the founding fathers? (What was the vision of Satoshi?)
  • Should we be concerned about the vision of the founding fathers or adapt to our own current needs? (Should we care about Satoshi's vision or adjust to our own current needs?)
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An important difference with democracy, however, is that these new forms of crypto-governance provide a different mechanism for dealing with these issues: forking .

The best revenge

Attempting to explain American democracy to other European aristocrats, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840 that the elections were mini-revolutions. Instead of letting the tension accumulate for decades and end in a violent revolution, democracy has created a natural release valve in the form of elections. The network participants, the citizens, were allowed to express their feelings and hold the leaders to account, at least to a certain extent.

Forking adds a new dynamic. We are now able to not just vote, but to cram the constitution and start new governance systems to see what works best.

Forking allows participants to not only express their concerns, but also to create a competing network that more accurately reflects their ideals and preferences. Instead of spending resources to try to convince another part of your opinions, forking allows more and more participants to build what they believe to be a better network.

In the same way that the Internet has allowed an innovation without permission by allowing anyone to create a website without asking permission, the forking allows anyone to create his own network without asking permission. This is an A / B test on steroids.

However, one of the things we learned from the controversy over the suspension Segwit2x fork is that the possibility of forking changes the way the participants in the network use the voice.

Strengthening the expression

In his 1970 treatise, " Exit, Voice and Loyalty ," Albert Hirschman argues that members of an organization, whether it is a business , a nation or any other group, have two possible answers when they are dissatisfied with the governance of the organization.

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They can go out (leave the relationship), or they can use the voice (try to improve the relationship through communication).

Citizens of a country may respond to political repression by emigrating (leaving) or protesting (voice). Employees may choose to leave their unpleasant job (quit) or talk to management to try to improve the situation (voice). Discontented customers may choose to shop elsewhere, or they ask the manager.

Forking makes the exit a much more viable option than in the past. In doing so, he changes the role of the voice.

An employee at, for example, Google who has three other job offers on the table is more likely to resist management and advocate for change than she wants to see. Because job offers make the outing cheaper, the offers also increase one's willingness to use the voice.

The increase in output capacity in the cryptocurrency community and the increase in voice that accompanies may look like toxicity and a confrontation to the 39; outside. However, it facilitates the expression and debate of the best ideas, leading to a more meritocratic result.

The Google employee who is able to leave is actually more likely to create a significant change in the organization than one who can not leave.

The possibility of forking leads to adaptation both by the fork (by creating an alternative protocol that can then compete), but also by allowing participants in the network to have more votes .

What we see with bitcoin cash is the first. This group of big-blockers has created an alternative protocol in which they are now working to build an ecosystem around which to convince miners, developers and users to invest.

What we saw with Segwit2x was the last. The anti-2x community knew that the proposed range could create a competing blockchain, but they were confident that they would not destroy their blockchain. They were not hesitant to express themselves because they were in the same position as an employee who had other offers. on the table.

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If 80% of Google could come out tomorrow and take away all the company's assets with them, you can be sure that they would be much more vocal about the changes they're making. wanted to see. You can also be sure that the management would be much more responsive.

We do not know how these ecosystems will play out, but the possibility of forking, and the increase in the voice that it facilitates, suggests that we can move towards a more formal form of governance. meritocratic.

1787 image convention via Shutterstock.

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1 thought on “You want a real democracy? Try a hard fork”

  1. Outstanding read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing just a little research on that. And he really bought me lunch as I discovered it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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