What is your opinion on a block size debate?
Surprisingly enough, I have not been asked that yet… this month.
I recently wrote a post on scaling and why scaling is not something you “solve,” but something that you continuously aspire to and push back on as a frontier of scaling. Scaling is the thing you can’t yet do today, and how you keep pushing that frontier back… by failing to scale over and over again, and then scaling a bit better to create opportunities for new use cases (applications, in our little world they are called dapps or decentralized applications). Scaling is not something we will solve, but what we will improve continuously, hopefully over decades, until we can support more and more interesting applications.
In the scaling debate today, there is a lot of noise and drama. Part of that is because, we are accustomed to financial systems where we perceive zero noise or drama in governance. In traditional financial systems, there is a committee of twelve people (usually white men) who gather together, smoke a couple of cigars, and then say:
“Well, how can we best help our shareholders?”
“I don’t know… Should be drop interest rates again?”
“Well… we have already dropped interest rates one hundred times and the economy is still dead… But you know what, maybe one hundred and one times might do the trick.”
“Okay, let’s drop them again… and see what happens…”
“I will be in the Bahamas next week, it’s ok, I don’t give a shit.”
“Okay Johnny, will you make the announcement?”
“Sure, I will make the announcement – After zero deliberation and absolutely no disagreement, we will now be dropping interest rates.”
And people are going after that: “Great! Oh, at least they are not fighting with each other, because that would be bad!”
Democracy is loud, noisy, dirty, and weird. Imagine if someone in Bitcoin could say: “You had enough space, it has been x years now since you all started talking about the block size limit, but now it is time to make a decision. So here is what we will do.”
That is the one thing you can’t do in Bitcoin because there is no one in control. The fact that we can’t simply dictate our decisions to everybody else, the fact that consensus is an “everyone together or not at all” proposition… that is not a bug. It is a feature. It is probably the most important feature in Bitcoin.
Ironically, people have not yet realized that we have reached a point where the distance between opinions is very small.
A five years ago, we were talking about a “20 megabyte block size limit with exponential increase until forever!” and “NO HARD FORK!”
Then they started negotiating debate, that went like: “ Now let’s do about a 2 megabyte block size increase, plus Segregated Witness later” and the other side went something like: “Segregated Witness now, plus a 2 megabyte hard fork later. Maybe.”
Classic reached at late 2016 around 6% of the network. Segregated Witness activation on BIP-9 required 95% percent consensus, so Core had veto over the hard fork and Classic has veto over Segregated witness.
Those were interesting times, eventually one side won over the other, other hard forked. And was it worth all the fight and buzz around it?
When two parties hold a veto on each other’s most desired outcomes, compromise is just around the corner. Or not. The beauty of blockchain is that you can have two or more versions. And they can just continue flowing on their own, like a rivers.
It is an illusion that one party controls Bitcoin. You might appear to have a lot of power in Bitcoin as long as you continue to do what the consensus want you to do. But when you stop serving that consensus, your power evaporates.
That is what I think about the scaling debate. I am not pro-Classic. I am not pro-Core. I am pro-consensus and consensus will always come. We had many upgrades on the Bitcoin blockchain, and there will be many other optimizations in the future.
Then we will hit a scaling wall again, and the scaling debate will continue. Welcome to democratic assets.