More Thoughts on "Longest Chain"
I wrote an article yesterday called "No, That's Not How the Longest Chain Works in Bitcoin". There were a few points that not everyone agreed with and perhaps I did not express my thoughts as perfectly as I could have. I want to clarify a few things here. One of the themes of the article was that people have different opinions about Bitcoin. Perhaps this point was overemphasized; I did not mean to imply that Bitcoin is completely subjective. Fact vs Opinion is an interesting meta topic unto itself. Ironically, one of my unstated premises is that the Bitcoin system operates based on certain facts and objective principles, regardless of who believes what. However, paradoxically, within that system, the collective beliefs of its actors will determine specific outcomes. That was a mouthful, so let me break this down. Anyone can mine whatever chain they want, and anyone can economically support whatever chain they want (by buying coins, holding coins, using coins, building applications, and so on). This is the factual, objective reality. Which chain gets the most support, the most usage, and the most hash is up to the actors in the system. This is the part which depends on people's opinions. Chain splits generally do not change this. There's 1000 coins out there and a split essentially just creates one more.
Clear Boundaries for Bitcoin
Some readers took objection to my handling of the BCH vs BTC topic. Their view was (paraphrasing) "The BTC case was the exception rather than the rule. But normally when there is a split of Bitcoin (the p2p cash system), assuming nothing radical changes, the majority should win the day." Well...Maybe that's true sometimes. Heck, maybe it's even true most of the time. My point was that it's not necessarily true all of the time... and who is to say what constitutes "radical"?
And if it turns out not to be true (let's say that despite obtaining 51% of the hashpower, a certain faction of the community is unable to control the name/ticker), you have the right to be upset but it might not be "unfair" in the broadest sense; its just the market. This gets into some murky grey areas: how much social engineering is too much? Is censorship just part of the bigger picture? Is all truly fair in love and war? Back to Bitcoin. Yes it is defined in the whitepaper. Yes there are certain widely accepted parameters such as the 21M coin cap. But people still can and will disagree. Me pointing this out should not be twisted into a slippery slope argument to claim that I am preaching moral relativism. My point isn't that facts don't exist nor is it that every viewpoint is equally valid. Instead the point was that Bitcoin gives freedom to a range of opinions. For example, your own particular viewpoint might not be shared by the majority...which is exactly what happened with BTC, and it could theoretically happen again in various different ways.
Why Did I even Write the Article?
If the direction the BCH ecosystem takes depends on what a large diverse group of miners and investors do, then surely one Yours post is not going to have an effect on it. Or maybe a tiny effect at best. So why did I write it? The article was written because it is annoying to see people say certain things on reddit. Perhaps I am guilty of allowing myself to be trolled into responding. Hashrate is important in Bitcoin. Very important. But it's not all-important. Someone told me that I missed the most important final sentence of the whitepaper which states that: "Any needed rules and incentives can be enforced with this consensus mechanism." To which I answered: They are enforced on whatever chain is willing to mine them, which is in turn supported by whatever market supports each group of miners. That's quite different than some pre-defined social contract where people "obey" the outcome of a hash war. If some people think not "obeying" this social contract is an attack, well... all I can say is that they are entitled to their opinion.
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