Last week has been an absolutely wild week for anyone involved in cryptocurrencies, blockchains and related topics.
I am convinced it will be considered a watershed moment for the industry due to the sheer magnitude of what has happened and what the follow-up will be.
In short: due to a bug in the coding of the DAO, a hacker could siphon off about $ 60,000,000 worth of Ether, the native token of the Ethereum project.
It’s a simple sentence, and if you just told this to someone in the street, he would most likely just gawk at you with a vacant stare, unable to take in the message. I myself still have difficulty, and going by the reactions from the communities, most of us can’t.
Sixty million dollars! I am not even going to try to break that down into manageable chunks to wrap my mind around.
For me, with two and a half year in the Nxt community, the whole episode felt like a rerun of a problem our community had, namely the theft of 5% of the toal supply early in our development. We, too, had to come to terms with a third party messing up our system by sloppy security and were offered a forking choice. Luckily, our devs only offered the choice and then refrained from any comment on the matter.
Why do I say “Luckily”. I answered that question almost two years ago in an interview about the issue which i just dug up.
Interview With NXT’s Bas Wisselink and Vericoin’s Patrick Nosker: The Bter Hack, The Future and When Is It Okay To Change History?
With the recent hack at Bter that saw 51 million NXT exit the exchange, the NXT community was granted a choice: change the blockchain or not. While the decision was made moot by the negotiated return of the stolen NXT, it still brought up major philosophical choices for the entire cryptocurrency community.
Also, the power to do this should always be in the hands of only the stakeholders. The devs can offer the choice, as they have in our case, but the casting vote should always be in the hands of the stakeholders and no one else.
Of course, problems like these are inevitable in any open project, especially once there is value involved. An element that is out for the main chance will always look for ways to get an easy buck. Not to expect and anticipate this would be naive, especially when you have watched scheme after scheme being hatched in the crypto space for over two and a half year.
At the blockchain conference in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, I made mention of this in my presentation.
Yet, when disaster struck, and the DAO was being emptied, it seems it came as a complete surprise, which is even worse because the flaw that allowed was already known for quite a while.
What happened afterwards, and is continuing to happen is even worse, and it seems to confirm an even more worrying flaw: the people running Ethereum don’t seem to get they are part of a social organisation and don’t seem to understand (or want to understand) the power they wield.
Figureheads, leaders, role models and anything similar are not self-created. They are instilled with these powers by their admirers and followers, not the other way around. You only have to listen to the sometimes anguished interviews with artists that suddenly became famous who have no clue how to deal with this to see how disconcerting it can be to be thrust into this position.
However, the power that comes with it is real: it can move whole communities one way or another, whether you want that power or not.
The people at Ethcore seem to think they can decide by themselves to not be these role models. They even seem to think that they can stay outside fight and offer guidane *without tainting the consensus finding process*
It is important to note that throughout this process the developers are not expected to remain agnostic or indifferent. They are important players in the ecosystem and will likely voice their opinions on how best to evolve the network. However, assuming they wish to protect their own existence and relevance, they will inevitably provide support to as much of the userbase as possible, even those who do not share their opinion.
There is news for them: they cannot. The position they have had thrust upon themselves precludes them from entering the debate if they truly want to have an honest consensus. Welcome to the frustrating and hellish world of the constitutional monarch. Your word is so powerful it will destroy what you want to preserve.
Unfortunately, a lot of the damage has already been done, and I don’t mean the draining of the DAO. That is worth a post by itself. What I am referring to is the core already has chosen very openly or in veiled language a message that they support a fork that will lock in the siphoned Ether in anticipation of further action. That basically puts anyone who doesn’t go along in the camp of the “thieves”, “community destroyers” and what have you.
It feeds further rethoric from slock.it’s Stephen Tual branding heretics
2/2 – I'd be VERY interested to know the identify of anyone coordinating an effort to oppose a hardfork. PM me firstname.lastname@example.org
— Slock.it (@slockitproject) June 17, 2016
or the same gentlemen claiming the decision is already made
1/3 TL;DR #theDAO attack: a hardfork will retrieve all stolen funds from the attacker.
— Stephan Tual (@stephantual) June 17, 2016
Like I said in my interview two years ago: it’s up to the people in charge of forming the consensus, ie. miners (in PoW) or stakeholders (in PoS) to decide. But only if the consensus finding process is not tainted by power dynamics that are too large to ignore.
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