Ossification is a phrase thrown round very continuously in Bitcoin. “The protocol will ossify.” “Ossification is good.” “Bitcoin doesn’t need to change, ossify it now.” Bitcoiners are a skeptical group of individuals, and as such they are naturally skeptical about change. There’s an excellent motive for that: the blocksize conflict was successfully a mix of sure builders (fortunately gone now) and influential figures making an attempt to strong-arm and coerce folks into adopting damaging change via threats and misinformation. After such a big assault as that, it is solely pure to view each proposed change as some barely better-disguised and refined mechanism that could possibly be used to undermine the system as a complete.
In concept, Bitcoin is one thing that may be upgraded and altered without end; so long as the supermajority of individuals select to enact a change, and all voluntarily undertake and implement that change, then Bitcoin can incorporate it. At the tip of the day Bitcoin is only a protocol and software program used to implement and work together with that protocol. Any arbitrary change could be made to the protocol so long as folks are prepared to undertake and implement it.
The catch there is that may folks all get on board with a change? If historical past reveals us something, the default reply is no, not and not using a very convincing case for a value-add and one which doesn’t create any new externalities or negatives.
So what does this imply?
Ossification Isn’t Culture, It’s Incentives
Ossification is continuously mentioned as a cultural phenomenon; i.e., “Bitcoin must have a culture of ossification!” I feel this fully misses what the unique dialogue round protocol ossification identified when it comes to social dynamics. The dialogue round ossification had nothing to do with folks deliberately constructing a tradition of “no change,” or deciding consciously “Bitcoin is good enough!” — it was in regards to the primary incentives round system development. The extra individuals there are, the extra folks there are with much less understanding of the trade-offs of potential modifications. When somebody enters this house they begin studying about Bitcoin because it is now and the trade-offs of issues as they are now. To take their understanding past that, to analyze the trade-offs of how issues could possibly be, takes time.
Add to that very clear historic examples of individuals having tried to push via modifications that may have been very detrimental to the system, and the pure tendency in an surroundings of development is for modifications to asymptotically method being unimaginable. Why? Not due to some tradition that claims “change is bad!” Because the pure incentive if one thing is working correctly to preserve or develop your wealth is to not mess with it until it stops doing that efficiently.
People are not going to get on board with change till they are assured that the change underneath dialogue is a web optimistic to their financial worth. That is not tradition, or “Bitcoin maximalism,” that is simply pure unadulterated financial incentives.
The Rock And The Hard Place
Bitcoin will naturally ossify finally; if it doesn’t then your complete system has someway wound up being influenced or managed by a central group of people that are ready to push via modifications with none hesitance or skepticism from the broader consumer base. If that is the way forward for Bitcoin, then I’d personally think about your complete system a failure.
So finally, if it doesn’t fail, Bitcoin will stop to be one thing that may be basically upgraded on a protocol stage. There shall be a degree the place consensus guidelines don’t change anymore, and everybody has to accept what Bitcoin is at that present time. What’s the issue with this?
Right now, Bitcoin doesn’t scale. If we wind up discovering that Bitcoin is ossified because it is proper now the subsequent time we try a tender fork, then it doesn’t scale to even a small fraction of the planet if everybody tries to use it in a self-custodial approach. So if Bitcoin ossified at the moment, your complete dream of a cash that everybody can self-custody and be free from the chance of third events successfully is lifeless for most individuals on this planet.
Bitcoin will finally cease altering, but when it hits that time too early then there are enormous downsides. A Bitcoin the place solely 5% of the world can probably self-custody may nonetheless enact huge change to the world by being a impartial platform opening up competitors for custodial providers, but it surely is not the true revolution of sovereignty that many Bitcoiners are right here for. It’s one factor if many individuals consciously select not to self-custody; it is totally one other if most individuals are not even provided that alternative.
Threading The Needle
Changes to Bitcoin ought to unquestionably be approached with warning and conservatism, however this wants to be balanced with the dynamic of approaching ossification. Bitcoin has many shortcomings, particularly with reference to scalability, and these shortcomings want to be addressed as a lot as attainable in a secure approach earlier than it reaches the purpose of ossifying. Discussion and training round proposed modifications is crucial and significant side when pushing for an enchancment of change to the protocol; with out even a primary understanding of how a proposed change works and what it does, it is the pure response for folks to reject that change. If the system features, and secures their worth correctly, there is no motive for any rational actor to help the change with out perceived advantages to their financial worth that outweigh any perceived unfavorable results.
This presents each challenges and assault vectors to the consensus-building course of. It is vital to inform customers earlier than any probability of enacting a change can happen, however this presents the chance for malicious actors to spend their time misinforming customers so as to stop a optimistic change or create help for a unfavorable one.
Bitcoiners have to thread the needle of being cautious and conservative when it comes to modifications proposed to the protocol, however on the similar time we are going to have to change Bitcoin so as to handle its scalability shortcomings. The solely different different is to settle for them and shut the door on a Bitcoin protocol that may really supply the power to custody their personal cash to everybody. One day it can cease altering, and at that time there shall be a bar set on how many individuals are able to interacting with the system natively and sovereignly. We mustn’t rush to set that bar prematurely.
If Bitcoin is to succeed, for my part it can finally ossify, and if that doesn’t occur I’d personally think about Bitcoin a failed experiment. But we needs to be wanting to make the system as scalable as attainable with out damaging or destroying the elemental properties that make it useful within the first place. The clock is ticking; that does not imply we should always rush into reckless motion with out warning and cautious thought, however the clock is nonetheless ticking.
This is a visitor submit by Shinobi. Opinions expressed are totally their personal and don’t essentially mirror these of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.