Tuesday, June 7, 2022

You Can't Have One Without The Other

I made the point of this post in my EE380 talk, and several times before that. But it was easy to miss, being buried half-way through a long argument. I'm rewriting it here to make it easy to link to specifically.

I can paraphrase an important part of the epidemic of Blockchain Gaslighting as "cryptocurrencies have all sorts of problems but blockchains are a fantastic new technology with all sorts of uses that are nothing to do with financial speculation". Below the fold I show why this is false.

First, it is necessary to add back two details that the gaslighters deliberately leave out:
decentralized cryptocurrencies have all sorts of problems but permissionless blockchains are a fantastic new technology with all sorts of uses that are nothing to do with financial speculation
Centralized cryptocurrencies and permissioned blockchains are completely different technologies from the ones the gaslighters are talking about.

In my EE380 talk I wrote:
Because there is no central authority controlling who can participate, decentralized consensus systems must defend against Sybil attacks, in which the attacker creates a majority of seemingly independent participants which are secretly under his control. The defense is to ensure that the reward for a successful Sybil attack is less than the cost of mounting it. Thus participation in a permissionless blockchain must be expensive, so miners must be reimbursed for their costly efforts. There is no central authority capable of collecting funds from users and distributing them to the miners in proportion to these efforts. Thus miners' reimbursement must be generated organically by the blockchain itself; a permissionless blockchain needs a cryptocurrency to be secure.

Because miners' opex and capex costs cannot be paid in the blockchain's cryptocurrency, exchanges are required to enable the rewards for mining to be converted into fiat currency to pay these costs. Someone needs to be on the other side of these sell orders. The only reason to be on the buy side of these orders is the belief that "number go up". Thus the exchanges need to attract speculators in order to perform their function.

Thus a permissionless blockchain requires a cryptocurrency to function, and this cryptocurrency requires speculation to function.
That is the argument in a nutshell. An application built on a permissionless blockchain cannot escape from the cryptocurrency that secures the blockchain.

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