Don’t Trust. Verify.
I’ve been inspired to write a post about something that occurred recently on Bitcoin Twitter that is important to document. What happened was a clash of Bitcoin values and thing-that-isn’t-Bitcoin values. This is important to document because it shows a few things.
But before I can explain why it was important I have to tell you what happened.
Without diving into all of the people involved and all of the individual tweets, I can sum the exchanges up into the following:
- Pierre Rochard asked an Ethereum fan if they knew the total ETH supply
- Ethereum fan basically said, “Yes of course, I know the supply. Check Etherscan.” (Etherscan, being an Ethereum block explorer)
- It becomes apparent this person did not check independently using their own node
- Pierre starts asking other ETH fans for the total ETH supply
- It becomes apparent no one knows the total ETH supply
- ETH block explorers have discrepancies as to what the ETH supply is too
- Pierre starts a bounty for a verification script
- A separate ETH fan writes one, but has bugs that lead to incorrect(?) ETH supply
- Vitalik tweets a screenshot of Coinmarketcap’s total ETH supply as proof
- Days go by
- Lots of negativity from Ethereum promoters over this
- ETH fans saying “ETH supply doesn’t even matter” start to appear
- Finally one Ethereum node implementation has what appears to be a proper verification script, but that node is used by ~no one
- This is where we stand as of writing
So, the key takeaway here is that self-verification of the Ethereum blockchain is not appearing to be part of Ethereum culture by and large. This leads to several issues.
If the issuance of ETH is unchecked, then there can be concealed inflation. While ETH nodes do validate blocks, they do not expose an interface or UX element to the human user to display important information like the total supply of ETH at the time of issuing the request for it.
Setting aside the issue of Ethereum nodes being incredibly burdensome to run for a myriad of reasons — excessive usage of bandwidth, I/O operations, CPU time, etc. — the inability for the user to check an important aspect of a purported “currency” of the internet is quite frankly a misstep that has to be documented and examined, and not left to be buried on Twitter.
In a world of increasing fiat money printing, more and more people are looking towards digital money as a store of value. Bitcoin is the only option as far as I’m concerned. No other project is as scrutinized, validated, and secured by as much hashing power as Bitcoin. Empowering nodes are intentionally engineered to be as easy to run as possible, so that their node operators can avoid trust and middlemen. Don’t Trust, Verify is the ethos. Alternative data streams have also been developed such as Blockstream Satellite, goTenna, Lochamesh, and others so that users are always able to check for themselves. Tor support is built-in so users can improve their privacy.
So for a project to not optimize for, actually no, to intentionally dissuade self-validation in this new post-pandemic, two-trillion-dollar coin world, should signal to any eager investor looking at the project to avoid it at all costs.
This project is Ethereum unfortunately. ETH is the illusion of decentralization and self-verifiability. Actors in the Ethereum community historically and more recently actively discourage running nodes to check ongoings in the Ethereum network.
Up until recently no one even really bothered to self-check the total supply of ETH, because they simply couldn’t. No Ethereum node developer thought it was a good idea to empower the end user to be able to self-check something as important as what the current total ETH supply is. A block explorer called Etherscan, which is the most popular by far, couldn’t even be bothered to open source their proprietary method for calculating the ETH supply.
It took five entire years until someone bothered to take a deep dive into this issue. The entirety of Ethereum’s existence went independently un-auditable without developer skills. This is unacceptable, in my opinion. This is uninvestable.
This contrasts with Bitcoin in so many ways. Actors in Bitcoin promote running your own node and to actually use it for sending and receiving BTC — and for verifying how many BTC there are currently. Any new investor is encouraged to do this (at least from what I’ve seen). Encouraging this practice is paramount to maintaining Bitcoin’s decentraliztion.
If we allow Bitcoin to rot like Ethereum has rotted, then the movement is dead and we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Bitcoin is the only project that improves self-sovereignty to the degree it can. As fiat money printing is accelerating, and our freedoms are eroded worldwide, we have to maintain the ability to self-verify or all is lost. Thankfully, there are some great people involved in Bitcoin that understand this. I can’t say the same about those involved in Ethereum.