“Unpopular Ideas about Blockchains” by Sunny Aggarwal and Nate Rush, adnotated.

It must first be said that unpopular ideas are generally to be leaned towards if you’re interested in being in the avant garde, which is to say kicking ass, taking names, and making serious dough in this cruel, cruel world. This counter-cultural path has many a trap along its way, but if it were easy, everyone would do it! This way too lies individuation, which we’ll get to further down.

Anyways, Sunny Aggarwal, who has clearly spent way too much time at UC Berkley and claims to be the “Czar of Bitcoin Cash,” and Nate Rush, an Etherista of some irrepute, have compiled a supposedly “unpopular” list of ideas relating to a topic near and dear to my cold, black heart : that of (Bitcoin in particular and) blockchains in general. While such mainstream / lamestream lists tend to be about as boneheaded as an elephant graveyard, let’s see if we can’t suss out a silver lining. Maybe it’s not all garbage ?

Without further ado, let’s footnote this shit!

1. Wild speculation is good. All money is a bubble anyways.i
2. Blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies are being adopted too quickly. This should be curbed. Scalability, privacy, and security are far from being solved. Any/all industries adoption blockchain technology is in for a rude awakening.ii
3. Not everything needs to be decentralized. Most things probably shouldn’t be.iii
4. The only real use case for blockchain technology will be money.iv
5. Blockchains and smart contracts can succeed in a world where cryptocurrencies remain a niche asset.v
6. In most contexts, permissioned blockchains (even for money) make more sense than public blockchains.vi
7. Alternatively, a private blockchain without a currency is just a (sometimes) effective data structure for “distributed databases.”vii
8. Blockchains will end up being run by the same banks and governments that they were designed to fight.viii
9. Blockchains might end up accelerating wealth inequality rather than decreasing it.ix
10. Development of zk-SNARKs is the single most important thing to come out of the entire space.x
11. Most research in the space is just reinventive what academics already thought of pre-blockchain era.xi
12. The Bancor protocol is the currently one of the best blockchain application that exists and is super underrated.xii
13. Blockchains should not allow arbitrary computation to occur (e.g. no Turing complete VMs).xiii
14. Proof of Stake is a better consensus protocol. Proof of Work is a better coin distribution mechanism.xiv
15. Proof of Work has equal economic cost to Proof of Stake, but unlike Proof of Stake, Proof of Work channels it into productive cumulative security.xv
16. Stellar has one of the most interesting and underrated consensus protocols for a public blockchain.xvi
17. Stablecoins are a fool’s errand.xvii
18. Decentralized storage doesn’t work. At best, it will become a marketplace for large providers to sell their services. 19. Your smartphone isn’t going to sell its extra storage space.xviii
19. ASIC-resistant hashing algorithms will be less decentralized in the long term.xix
20. Not enough discussion and thought is being put into the moral and ethical considerations of the technology we are building.xx
21. Blockchains are fundamentally about subverting the law. Even ICOs.xxi
22. As put quite elegantly by Paul Sztorc: “Every single entity on coinmarketcap.com, with the exception of Bitcoin, and, arguably, the Bitcoin-metacoins, is inherently flawed. By this, I mean, each has a negative economic value and should be abandoned.”xxii
23. Ether is not, and never will be, money.xxiii
24. Ether price is overinflated to the point that no amount of usage or applications being built on top of it can justify its current value.xxiv
25. Litecoin is pointless.xxv
26. Uncapped ICOs are more fair than capped ICOs. All ICOs should be uncapped.xxvi
27. Alternatively, ICOs are all scams and as such should be banned/heavily regulated.xxvii
28. Bitcoin’s monetary policy is dumb. Decreasing rewards creates security issues as more and more transactions move to 2nd layer solutions. Also, over 80% of Bitcoin has already mined with <0.1% of the world knowing about it.xxviii
29. Ethereum community lacks the revolutionary zeal of the Bitcoin community. Ethereum is a FinTech platform. Bitcoin is a new global monetary system.xxix
30. Bitcoin can handle the entire world’s monetary transactions with purely 1st layer scaling.xxx
31. The best outcome is for Ethereum and Ethereum Classic to continue to exist in parallel.xxxi
32. Ethereum Classic should be called Ethereum, and the DAOFork chain should have gotten a new name.xxxii
33. All hard forks whether or not they are malicious, contentious, etc, should have a new name and possibly even ticker.xxxiii
34. Ethereum would be nowhere close to as popular as it is today if it weren’t for ConsenSys’ infrastructure projects such as MetaMask, Truffle, Infura, etc.xxxiv
35. Proof of Stake will probably break many securities laws. Especially with delegation.xxxv
36. There should only be one Proof of Work chain.xxxvi
37. Application specific currencies are a terrible idea. Imagine only being able to use store-specific gift cards for everything! So much for fungibility.xxxvii
38. The UTXO model is superior to the Account State model in many ways.xxxviii
39. Protocols don’t need to be perfectly asynchronous. Weakly synchronous is good enough for all real use cases.xxxix
40. Protocol incentives are largely orthogonal to consensus design. They don’t need to be perfect, just good enough. Bitcoin has been operating for nearly a decade just fine.xl

There are certainly a diversity of opinions out there in the world, and perhaps nowhere moreso than in the emerging context of Bitcoin and its many offshoots, but this isn’t to say that all opinions are equal. They aren’t. And as you can see from the hits and misses hereabove, it’s statistically more profitable to err on the side of unpopularity than with the present- and near-past-minded herd.

Leaders, as ever, look forward.

___ ___ ___

  1. Things aren’t simply “good” in the abstract. See Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2. Things have to be good for something, or preferably for someone. Are these things good for eating ? Good for storing value ? Good for anonymity ? Good for the pauper or the prince ? Such clarifications matter a great deal is assessing goodness.

    Speculation is definitionally short-term and broadly speaking a crap shoot at best and insider trading at worst. While you might find yourself on the winning side of a pump-n-dump, you’re more likely to find yourself on the pointy end.

    As to all money being a bubble, this is even less clear. Net worth is, after all, and despite frequently being calculated in monetary terms, inherent. Bubbles are furthermore economic phenomena that tend to inflate and deflate within relatively short periods of time, like a year or two or ten at most. It might therefore be said that “money is an unusually long bubble that typically experiences inflation on the scales of human generations” but I guess that doesn’t have the same catchiness to it, even if it’s correct.

  2. Blockchain tech” and “cryptocurrencies” in the abstract are most certainly being adopted too quickly, mostly by megacorps for whom the real deal of Bitcoin would be like setting off a nuclear bomb in HQ, such would be the devastation left in its wake. As such, megacorps will buzzword pretensions (because TBTF status to defend) have few options but to avoid The Coin and focus their busybody energies on “blockchains.” They’re therefore not in for a “rude awakening” because they’re not really trying to upend their own businesses, they’re just giving themselves something to talk to journalists and shareholders about in press releases.

    As to curbing adoption, this isn’t in anyone’s control, in case that wasn’t clear yet. So “should” is neither here nor there.

    As to scaling, privacy, and security, these can all be managed within the confines of Bitcoin and have been for many moons now. With other coins, you’re definitely on your own. Then again, you’re always on your own anyways, certainly in the cryptographic sense.

  3. This is very true, and indeed very unpopular. There’s waaaay too much of the “decentralise everything!” nonsense being spewed across the web. Markets, for example, do better when they’re centralised. This is what it means to be a market! Other things too.  
  4. This might be an unpopular idea, but it’s not wrong because DAO blows dead donkeys, but rather because deedbot is a registrar par excellence and the bitcoin blockchain is already tits for timestamping.
  5. Bitcoin will certainly remain a niche asset going forward, at least in terms of %pop holding >1 BTC, which is pretty much exactly as it would be in a more ideal world. The idea that “everyone is an investor” is like saying that “everyone is a firefighter” and “their own best dentist.” It’s poppycock of the first order. Specialisation might be for insects, as Asimov put it, but it’s also for highly globalised societies such as the one we’re unavoidably in, whether you voted for it or not. Why can’t Bob be the best investor in his community and then other people can handle the building of buildings, delivering of pizza, manufacturing of pencils and so on and so forth ?
  6. Da fuck is a “permissioned blockchain” ? Sounds like v2.0 of the “permission(less) innovation” fad from a few years back. Anyways, the “in most contexts” qualifier turns an already vague statement into ungraspably soggy goop. That, and we already have central (permissioned) banking and it’s cracking at the seams. Just ask google.
  7. No argument here.
  8. The private ones will end up being run by the same banks and governments, sure, but the public blockchains are already a cat escapèd from his bag. And he’s not going back in. The future will be owned by individuals, not by loose agglomerations of empty suits attending no end of Very Important Meetings For Which They Are Already Late. This much has already been written in the stars, as it were.
  9. Wealth has always been unequal, it’s simply its measurement that has remained buried beneath the endless mountains of fictitious paper to date. Now, in a highly globalised and interconnected world, the depths of inequality are merely revealed – they’ve always been there – Bitcoin just puts a number to them.
  10. Since neither I nor the esteemed forum had ever heard of “zk-SNARKs,” to google I went, which led me to this blog post on the Ethereum site. It smacks a bit of 2.0ism but then I’m neither Satoshi nor Stan. Your mileage may vary but “scarce, immutable, private, cash-like online currency” is awfully hard to beat in this space, popular or not an idea.
  11. Is this an unpopular idea ? Seems to be that Matt Levine of Bloomberg chants incessantly in this vein of “cryptocurrency-is-about-re-learning-basic-financial-lessons,” the basic lessons being, of course, all the economic academics extant are fit to wrap their heads around. I mean, if Paul Krugman has a Nobel and is some sort of shining light in the profession, the profession itself must be as dark and dim as a 12th century Corsican sailor’s pub.
  12. In case you didn’t know, as I didn’t, that “Bancor is a Decentralized Liquidity Network that allows you to hold any Ethereum token and convert it to any other token in the network, with no counter party…,” now you also know that it’s unpopular to think it underrated! Etheristas live in such an alt-universe of catchy catchphrases and zippidy-doo-dApps that it’s no wonder their cult leader is mostly famous for wearing unicorn rainbow sweaters. 
  13. So no Ethereum then ? This is probably unpopular, but hardly uncontroversial among the thinking set.
  14. PoW works pretty snazzily for Bitcoin even if it means that relay nodes aren’t rewarded for their considerable costs incurred in supporting the health and decentralisation of the network. Alas, PoS might be better for consensus, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. 
  15. Not sure how equal or unequal the economic cost of PoW vs. PoS is, but the productive security angle is correct, unpopular (with whom?) though it may be.
  16. World’s tallest midget and all that.
  17. s/Stablecoins/99% of altcoins, especially those not having forked from TRB-BTC and double-especially those WITH NO ISSUANCE CAP!!!11 Conversations about value that aren’t bookended by clear delineations of scarcity are non-starters…. omfg how many times must this be repeated ?  
  18. Neither is your laptop or desktop. Remember the MAIDSAFE scam that I was “uninformedly” writing ? Meh, before your time. But trust me when I said that any pretenders to this “decentralised cloud storage” bizniz are but mongoloidic scammers.
  19. This is probably unpopular and almost certainly counter-intuitive, but the empirical evidence points to its correctness. The more moneyed mining competition that a cryptocurrency enjoys, the better its long-term prospects for decentralisation. Why ? Because wealth begets wealth, and it loves a fight to boot. GPU-favouring or more RAM-intensive hashing algorithms are therefore  
  20. Oh ? Not enough ppl reading Contravex ? Couple hundred thousand pages served every month just isn’t cutting the mustard ? Ya, that’s reasonable. Even Trilema’s few million pages served every month is but a drop in the “popular” bucket. What’s “popular” is mostly “Wahoo rollercoaster we cracked $5000! and “How I paid off all my uni debt with btc / eth profits!” Conversations of moral and ethics severals orders of magnitude more rarified, if still reasonably well explored to date.
  21. Life is fundamentally about subverting the law, of which blockchains are but one mechanism, if a particular potent and commercially-minded one.
  22. Unpopular and true. Sztorc sees that there are considerable winner-take-all effects in globalised asset classes. Smart guy. Must be a log lurker!
  23. Lol so unpopular and so on the money. Are you noticing an emerging trend yet ?
  24. Unpopular and verifiably accurate ? Like your government, where are you dApps now, Etheristas ? Hm ?
  25. Since oh so long ago. This was one I unfortunately had to learn the hard way.
  26. Bahahahaa “Uncapped scams are more fair than capped scams” ? Because why should only Jane be scammed when Jimmy can be scammed too ? Makes perfect sense. No scammee left behind. Worked for GW Bush, right ?
  27. The “ICOs are all scams” part of this statement really isn’t that unpopular but the “should be banned/heavily regulated” part really should be, so nonsensical and unenforcible is it. Really, the SEC‘s got nothing. No. Thing. Nada yo.
  28. Of course it would be a popular opinion that Bitcoin’s monetary policy is “dumb,” “the people” had their chance and did diddly squat with it. It’s sad, yes, but true. Most people were too old, too young, too uneducated, too unmotivated, or otherwise too unlucky to participate in this beads-for-Manhattan land swap. But who said life was fair ? Life just is. But mostly life’s just what you make of it.  
  29. Unpopular and true! Mostly, Ethereum lacks the intellectual leadership that Bitcoin basks in. It was never really a fair fight. As to “FinTech platforms,” we already have App Stores. We don’t need Ethereum.
  30. The important global monetary transactions can be handled by Bitcoin with no layers of scaling at all. The next most-important ones can be handled by deedbot payments and the rest can be handles by cash, wires, paypal, and the rest of the usual fiat infrastructure that hasn’t completed rusted out just yet.
  31. Best for what ? It’s not really an option either way.
  32. I actually quite like this. Vitalik’s coin should be called “DAOForkCoin” !!!
  33. Ummm. Ok ? Not sure what the alternative here is, or what the “popular” opinion is but let’s go with the unpopular one anyways. It’s best to err on that side in general.
  34. How’s this for a related and even more unpopular opinion : Ethereum would be nowhere close to as popular as it is today if it weren’t for the White House (via its TBTF tentacles, naturally) stepping in to support the currency.
  35. Everything online breaks securities laws. While it’s unpopular to break the law, it’s quite popular to fear breaking them.
  36. There can only be ONE HIGHLANDER!!!1!
  37. Unpopular ? And so true! This is an underrated perspective on cryptocurrencies, especially amongst newbs.
  38. Apparently this is some kind of debate ? I’ll let more technically qualified individuals chime in on this one.
  39. Not sure why this is unpopular either but IRC shows that weakly synchronous protocols do indeed work quite well, unless I’m just abusing and misunderstanding the term.
  40. Bitcoin has hardly had a smooth path to success, and it’s not over yet, for such a path is never laid out as clearly as historians and bystanders imagine. A pretty bloody war has been raging this past decade and only the will of a highly resourceful and equally uncompromising group of individuals has been protecting the greater interests of the free world. Without the protocol incentives that Bitcoin enjoys – not the least of which is programmatic scarcity of money supply – there would be nothing to lay down one’s life for, so I’m not sure that this last “unpopular” opinion is quite so accurate, but there were certainly a few on this list that were.

    While blindly following either all the popular or all the unpopular opinions is a task fit only for small-minded goats, leaning towards the latter group at least opens our eyes to the possibility of disagreement, and maybe one day, individual opinions. It’s a long shot, and a long road, but it all starts with a single step.

6 thoughts on ““Unpopular Ideas about Blockchains” by Sunny Aggarwal and Nate Rush, adnotated.

  1. Did someone say ‘Blackheart’?!

    Nicely critiqued.

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