Created by Badriel on Deviant

This essay originally appeared on my website. See the tweetstorm here.

What will be the long run effect of technological progress on the distribution of power? Will governments and big tech companies closely cooperate to strengthen their control over society? Or can the cypherpunk dream of technology as a tool of individual freedom and privacy be realized?

These questions are discussed in The Centralized Internet Is Inevitable by Samo Burja and in this podcast featuring Burja and Palladium editor and cofounder Wolf Tivy. Their position is that the Internet is an inherently centralizing technology.

Two days ago Vlad Zamfir published an essay arguing that existing governance mechanisms in crypto are dangerous and that we should move toward a system that makes it easier to intervene in the operation of crypto networks.

I see a strong correspondence between Vlad’s objections to existing crypto governance and common leftist objections to libertarianism.

This is not intended as a full response to Vlad’s essay — I recommend Vitalik’s reply for that. My goal is to examine only the parts of Vlad’s essay that exhibit this interesting correspondence.

Overview of Vlad’s Argument

Vlad describes “crypto law” as the protocol for handling disputes in…

Edited January 16 at noon PST to add the section “The meaning of ‘money’”, change some wording, and add an appendix.

Examining a Conspiracy Theory about Satoshi’s Intent

Dan Hedl recently published a popular tweetstorm in which he lays out a comprehensive theory of why we should think that Satoshi intended Bitcoin more as a store of value (SoV) than a medium of exchange (MoE).

I found Dan’s reasoning extremely unconvincing and will explain why below.

Why write an essay about this tired topic?

“Satoshi’s Vision” has been rehashed extensively over the years. Being overly concerned with this topic is associated with being enmeshed in unproductive tribalism. …

François Chollet recently published an essay arguing that an artificial intelligence explosion (in which an AI rapidly becomes far more powerful than humans) is impossible. Below I’ll describe why I found many of his arguments unconvincing.

Does “general intelligence” exist?

there is no such thing as “general” intelligence. On an abstract level, we know this for a fact via the “no free lunch” theorem — stating that no problem-solving algorithm can outperform random chance across all possible problems. If intelligence is a problem-solving algorithm, then it can only be understood with respect to a specific problem.

According to this definition of general intelligence, not…

A more up to date version of this FAQ can now be found here.

Why does this FAQ exist?

There are two main theories of how upgrades to Bitcoin should be decided upon: Market Governance (sometimes called Market Consensus) and Near-Unanimous Social Consensus Governance.

It is impossible to understand Bitcoin’s block size debate or the debate about when hard forks are appropriate without understanding Market Governance. Despite this, Market Governance is often badly misunderstood by participants in these debates. This FAQ is an attempt to correct that.

What are Market Governance and Near-Unanimous Social Consensus Governance?

A full description of both can be found here.

Market Governance is the theory that when serious disputes…

Imagine asking Bitcoin Core developers the following question:

If we could somehow increase the block size to a level that would keep transaction capacity above demand for two years, in a way that was safe for decentralization during this period, would you be in favor of doing so?

How do you think they would respond?

If you read Core’s scaling roadmap, you might think they’d answer “yes.” There is nothing in the roadmap suggesting any reason to limit Bitcoin’s transaction capacity in the short term other than to prevent direct risks to decentralization.

When Core developers talk among themselves on…

This article was edited and expanded on February 10th, 2016

There is a misconception in the Bitcoin community that the Core roadmap for how Bitcoin should scale is based almost entirely on the technical judgment of the Bitcoin Core developers.

While the Core roadmap does draw heavily on the substantial technical expertise of the Core developers, there are many non-technical factors that influence the Core roadmap. Many people agree with Core on all of the technical issues, yet still disagree with their roadmap. The roadmap is based on assumptions about economics, group psychology, ethics, and many other things that we…

Last week in a (publicly logged) IRC channel, someone asked one of those most prominent Bitcoin Core developers the following question: “Are you arguing ‘fee pressure is good’ and therefore small blocks and zero growth are desirable?” The reply was:

“Fee pressure is an intentional part of the system design and to the best of the current understanding essential for the system’s long term survival. So, uh, yes. It’s good.”

In other words: higher fees will be necessary in the future; therefore, we should encourage them now.

Most arguments for smaller blocks are about a larger block size directly leading…

Elliot Olds

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