Stake Disempowerment - Just A Thought

4개월 전

Just some thoughts on the soft fork exercised by the current set of witnesses. Although, I am not a fan of the purchase of the Steemit stake by TRON, I don't necessarily think this fork was the right approach to addressing the vulnerability that the stake left us in.


Campfire.png
The picture was originally for a much more negative post I decided not to write months ago. That's good news I guess.

As others have mentioned over the course of the past few weeks, having 30 votes available to each account does nothing to prevent attacks from parties with large stakes in the system simply voting in their own pawn witnesses and adopting whatever rules they want via consensus.

Clearly a system with a single divisible vote would be much more desirable and more universal than a system where we have to target specific accounts because they're "scary". But I can kind of get behind the reasoning if it is only a temporary measure to fix the weakness rather than use consensus mechanisms as negotiation tactics.

We shouldn't have to worry about accounts having the power to yield the chain to their will regardless of whether the community approves or not. At some point, this fork will become permanent (thus setting a precedent for disempowerment), or it will be removed.

Granted there is very little incentive for those at the top to divvy up their largest votes and have to compete for user support. It's much easier to keep one's power and nullify threats in more morally questionable ways. People are going to be selfish, and sometimes we have to deal with it.

A weakness has been shown and an action was taken. That action doesn't need to define the change, but serves as a warning. Just remember that all it takes is a little negative marketing to leave potential future users with a bad impression.

This is not really a well-thought out post, but perhaps another nudge to hopefully bringing up the voting reform discussions we should be having rather than the stake disempowerment discussions that are currently being had.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
STEEMKR.COM IS SPONSORED BY
ADVERTISEMENT
Sort Order:  trending

We shouldn't have to worry about accounts having the power to yield the chain to their will regardless of whether the community approves or not. At some point, this fork will become permanent (thus setting a precedent for disempowerment), or it will be removed.

Things like this never end up is temporary. There is always the push, the pressure, the energy to imagine that someone, somewhere out there will be coming in and destabilizing the status quo to the point that those who wield it must use that power to protect it. Even if that active protection is completely and utterly in contravention of the underlying philosophies which protect and justify the presence of the system as a whole.

And I'd like to recast this entire thing in other terms in order to more starkly represent what kind of threat it is:

As others have mentioned over the course of the past few weeks, having 30 votes available to each account does nothing to prevent attacks from parties with large stakes in the system simply voting in their own pawn witnesses and adopting whatever rules they want via consensus.

We have mentioned the inevitable capacity for failure in that set up for years now. When the mechanisms for buying new accounts outright in exchange for three SBD came along, the obvious threat of multiplying all of the things that are right and justly considered rights of each individual account was very plainly paraded before everyone. They knew exactly what could happen. They knew exactly why it could happen (because of the inability of the system to vet incoming accounts to avoid account duplication and try to contain the worst of the scams) and why it would inevitably happen as predicted. It would have been slightly better to accept that enough steak could simply buy out right as many votes as they could afford because at least then it could've happened in plain sight, for the most part. But add three or four levels of cut outs and scrambles, political smoke to hide behind and a few deals brokered in back rooms – and now we don't actually know where most of that power flowed from – or who it could be flowing to wash away next.

If we really want to have a discussion about voting within the Steem blockchain as a governance activity, we really have to stop, take a moment, and decide if the idea that the governance mechanism truly runs on SP is a good idea. It is from SP that all power flows, and if you possess SP, you possess a portion of that power. Any blockchain mechanism which denied SP its ability to vote to the maximum for whatever purpose it felt like aiming at would simultaneously be reducing the power of lesser SP holders to compete using the same tools. Protecting those what has with the cost of those what has not.

But this is the truly dangerous discussion to have because at the end of it, you very well may think that the best thing to do is simply to dissolve the Steem blockchain altogether as an entity. And indeed, that might be the best idea. Certainly a better one than picking an enemy, freezing it, making it personal, and treating it specially – which is what we see here. This does not end well. Having been established as possible, it will be used again, and again, and again, just with all new players but the same old game.

·

you very well may think that the best thing to do is simply to dissolve the Steem blockchain altogether as an entity. And indeed, that might be the best idea.

This is something I have entertained the thought of for the past few months.

One could start another chain (with slightly modified code) without the desired parties (or the ninja-mined stake that is clearly disliked) but starting over wouldn't necessarily be good for the witnesses' bottom line. I never understood why someone didn't just restart the blockchain under "more fair" conditions. It's open source and "decentralized" code.

One could spend some time thinking about the mechanics, come to the realization that you should always assume the worst when it comes to anything that can be monetized and start from scratch, restarting a chain utilizing the new found experience from the failure of this chain. But that would be harder than the prior option and could take considerable work.

One could just give up on blockchain and take some of the decentralized principles and try something else. Blockchain isn't the only decentralized way to approach any centralized problem. The only issue is there's less of a monetary incentive involved. But there are still people with "principles" left out there, right?

·
·

One could start another chain (with slightly modified code) without the desired parties (or the ninja-mined stake that is clearly disliked) but starting over wouldn't necessarily be good for the witnesses' bottom line. I never understood why someone didn't just restart the blockchain under "more fair" conditions. It's open source and "decentralized" code.

Oh, it would absolutely suck for the current witnesses' bottom line. They have a lot involved and invested in the current status quo, both financially and personally. I certainly wouldn't blame them if they were against the general idea on general principles.

But I can tell you exactly why no one has just restarted the blockchain with a different set of assumptions.

It's expensive and tedious, and I've come to the conclusion that nobody involved really understands the underlying mechanics of interaction which are both explicit and implicit. That is to say, "they don't know shit about what they even made." Which isn't a terribly unusual state of affairs, it's just annoying.

One could spend some time thinking about the mechanics, come to the realization that you should always assume the worst when it comes to anything that can be monetized and start from scratch, restarting a chain utilizing the new found experience from the failure of this chain. But that would be harder than the prior option and could take considerable work.

Some of us have even had entire careers based around that kind of thinking. It's just one more game. Any game designer worth their salt will tell you that every game has somebody that wants to exploit it. That is not saying something bad either about games or people who play games – it's a simple observation about human nature and how people engage with the world around them.

Once you accept that, you can make certain assessments of what is going to come to pass given various incentives and disincentives for players. Three quarters of the people I've ever worked with in the game industry could have taken the original Steem blockchain proposal and told you that bots would become a massive part of what keeps SP in motion, only SP in motion makes a difference, and that the pre-mined stake value was going to be a huge inertial mass which kept value from actually budging. They probably would've taken a couple of more weeks to come up with the rest of the way things have been broken, but it would've been early.

But nobody involved knew anything about game systems. Nobody involved really knew anything about financial systems (which, when looked at objectively, are just a big, very expensive game). They knew a whole lot about how to get math to turn out the way they wanted as long as it wasn't in motion, and they knew a whole lot of things that they wished were true.

The rest is just fallout.

One could just give up on blockchain and take some of the decentralized principles and try something else. Blockchain isn't the only decentralized way to approach any centralized problem. The only issue is there's less of a monetary incentive involved. But there are still people with "principles" left out there, right?

First, I would have to actually see someone sit down and sketch out an idea of what "the problem" is. The absence of a clear statement of what the system is supposed to be providing in terms of problem-solving power is one of the big issues. It's one of the most critical failures across the board. What do we actually want it to do? Is it supposed to be an actual quantum token of value? Is it a way of keeping score of how much "good content" a given account provides to the ecosystem? Is it a means of distributing governing authority over a system of thousands of people in a way that gets the results that you want? All of these things are different axes and solving for all of them at the same time may simply be impossible – but that was the promise.

There are a lot of "decentralized solutions" for a lot of things out in the world that blockchain databases have absolutely no point of contact with. You wouldn't know it by listening to the cryptocultists, but there's an entire world out there. But you have to start by clearly and succinctly stating what the problem is you want to solve. Then you have to accept that you can only solve that problem with your solution.

However, if you are hoping that systems will work because "there are still people with principles left out there," I have a lovely bridge in San Francisco that you may wish to invest in purchasing. Don't count on the good grace of other people to make the world better. Principles are a lovely thing but they don't solve problems. Generally, they just create them. Instead, you need to come up with something that provides value to individuals, but that value doesn't necessarily have to be fiscal. Build a tool that everyone finds makes their life easier? You will be rolling in resources of various sorts to make your next project. Show people that they have a problem that they didn't realize they needed solved before? Even better.

But counting on principles to save you? Counting on principles to motivate and keep people engaged in dissolutions that you approve of? People with a lot more talent than any of us have been banging at that problem using the mechanism of religion for thousands of years and you see what a shitshow that is. The expectation that someone's going to do better than that is unreasonable.

In some ways, one of the real problems with blockchain technology in general and cryptocommodity communities in specific is that they trade on religious fervor without any talent for it, all the while promising the equivalent of "prosperity Christianity." If you believe, God will make you rich. If you believe, STEEM will moon. If you just HODL, bitcoin will carry us all to heaven. All of the problems of the modern era will disappear, all of the un-banked will be rich, all of the fat cats will fall from grace, all of the world's governments will be enlightened, and we will be the shining stars leading humanity into a better age.

Which is transparently bullshit. Always has been. But that's what comes of trying to trade on people's principles rather than solve a problem that they have in exchange for their attention.

Clearly a system with a single divisible vote would be much more desirable and more universal than a system where we have to target specific accounts because they're "scary". But I can kind of get behind the reasoning if it is only a temporary measure to fix the weakness rather than use consensus mechanisms as negotiation tactics.

I have kind of a big issue with this whole concept.

Nothing is ever temporary. No system which is ever put in place to control other people is only there for a little while. Once it's proven to be effective, somebody will have a good reason – which is almost always a bad reason – to keep it in place. If by some amazing accident it's proven to be ineffective, it will hang around forever because "what harm can it do?" And then it's guaranteed that someone down the line will find a way to use that power to do things I find objectionable because they're essentially authoritarian.

There is no outcome from this which can ever be good.

That it actually goes against one of the central tenets that the blockchain itself is based on, that "SP is voting power," one of the central things that we are told, constantly, is what democratizes the blockchain, and that this action is being independently pushed by people who have said that the fact that voting power is intimately connected with the amount of SP you have is a good thing – none of it fills me with a good feeling.

The last thing you want is for there to be an even larger precedent for disempowerment than there has already been set by the mechanisms of the system. Seriously. The very last thing. Because if a minority of the voting power can decide to silence and quell the majority of the voting power, what chance do any of us who don't even have a particularly notable share of the voting power have to be heard if we step wrong?

This goes back to something that I've felt uncomfortable with regarding the Steem blockchain for a very long time, all the way back to my early days on the platform, which is the overall comfort with authoritarian, top-down, power-first solutions rather than actual distributed, individual-focused choice-based mechanics.

The Steem blockchain is a Proof of Stake system. Justin Sun has access to more stake than any other active inhabitant on the blockchain. As such, he has established the basic controlling interest via the mechanism that we have been told is the best one for determining who gets to make those decisions. Proof of stake and maintaining the administrative lever it provides is central to Steem as a blockchain. If it can't be maintained by the people at the top, if they can decide, "no, that's no longer true as far as it applies to us," then there is no blockchain. The one thing it's built on goes away. And incidentally, the one thing that we have been told for years that is the main selling point for investors on the platform goes away.

I am perfectly willing to say that I don't have a particularly large amount of trust for Justin Sun, but I have an equal amount of trust for him as I do any of the major stakeholders, many of which are witnesses, and all of whom engage in some pretty questionable, shady behavior when it comes to the blockchain.

I would respect the people who think that Justin Sun is "scary" if they decided to go off and start their own blockchain focused on social media exchange based on the seed content and technology of the Steem blockchain. It would start an absolute shit storm of "how dare you take that, you don't own that" which would be an absolute lie in terms of what you agree to when you sign up for the platform, but at least it would be bold, interesting, and not set a terrible precedent for the future.

Unfortunately – we've got what we've got.

·

I agree with you on this point. I think the point that I was trying to make is that I would be more sympathetic to the idea of using such a fork as a means of buying time (which it clearly isn't) in order to make changes and then vote on them, but even then, like you mention, the "community" can just fork the code and start a new blockchain. It would be a much more principled move given all the stake they would be giving up, but it would clearly emphasize the point that the witnesses have been claiming to make the past two weeks or so.

·
·

I agree with you on this point. I think the point that I was trying to make is that I would be more sympathetic to the idea of using such a fork as a means of buying time (which it clearly isn't) in order to make changes and then vote on them, but even then, like you mention, the "community" can just fork the code and start a new blockchain. It would be a much more principled move given all the stake they would be giving up, but it would clearly emphasize the point that the witnesses have been claiming to make the past two weeks or so.

Honestly, from the perspective of someone who is not totally invested into the transcendent idea of blockchain technology, Justin Sun just isn't scary. He is finally what everyone who has been screaming about investment on the blockchain has been clamoring for: a rich investor with an interest in cryptocurrency and a legitimate stake in the business who wants to bring a big pile of money in exchange for a big pile of STEEM. That is what everybody has been telling us that we need, "more big investors." "More business."

They finally got what they want.

And then they suddenly realized that in a Proof of Stake system, the guy with the stake makes the decision. Just like they always have. It's just that Justin Sun isn't "one of them." They fully expected to be agitating for one of their own to be "the guy" and JS coming in from outside and promising to be an active player – that wasn't on the agenda. So they freaked and they show their hand as regards what they really think about distributed governance. It's fine as long as it's distributed to them. It's not fine when someone literally plays by their rules and just has more resources to burn on that stake.

For us little players at the bottom who will never and would never have any kind of governance role or input into the witness slots in a meaningful sense, the only threat is that Sun will shut down the blockchain, and that's not much of a threat considering how much money he just spent to own it. He's not going to shut down Steemit because he expects to get some sort of value out of it first. Of course he does.

For us, the question is whether JS is better than Ned and/or better than whoever it is that actually owns the stake in the pool before he got here. It would be hard to be worse so – I guess I just don't have as much fear as they do. I can't find any reason to.