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Researchers wonder what “no trust” really means for blockchain

October 27, 2020

Members of the crypto community are likely to be greeted with mantras like “Don’t trust, check!” Be familiar. or the “Law of the Code”. Both refer to the promise of more transparency and audibility as well as a technology that offers to replace the fallible and corruptible powerful actors with a truly functional rule-based order that is secured by deterministic computing.

The desire to forego the need to trust third parties is a mainstay of many cryptocurrency creators and users. After all, Bitcoin (BTC) was invented right after the 2008 financial crisis, and the abuse of authority by powerful actors and institutions continued to be felt throughout the Great Recession. Cryptocurrencies are attracting more and more enthusiasts against the backdrop of the social, political and economic crisis.

However, a document that was first published by a research group in August this year, and posted on the Oxford University Law School blog on October 27th. rejects the conceptualization of the blockchain as a matter of trust or its absence.

Researchers wonder what “no trust” really means for blockchain
Researchers wonder what “no trust” really means for blockchain

Instead, The document suggests understanding the blockchain as a “trust machine”: a technology designed to maximize the level of trust in the system in order to only indirectly reduce the need for interpersonal trust. The paper’s argument is based on a careful analysis of the distinction between trust and security, each of which is a complex set of ideas in its own right. Despite its internal complexity Trust and security each imply a fundamentally different interpretation of the nature of the social environment.

Due to its various definitions, trust presupposes an acknowledgment of risk and uncertainty: One can consciously decide to trust another agent by means of a “leap of trust” or an “obligation”. or as the result of a rational decision based on the calculation that a third party is interested in acting in a certain way. It can also be trusted more tacitly through routine actions that are less explicit about the background to the risk.

On the other hand, trust presupposes the predictability of systems or institutions. In the case of the blockchain, these predictable systems relate to the technological design of a protocol (i.e. one designed to mint a certain grade of new coins at a certain interval), A repository of open source code and the mathematical properties of hash functions and public and private key cryptography.

Blockchain systems also seek to maximize the predictability of a network of agent decisions through theoretical game mechanisms and economic incentives.and by providing a collective verifiable record of the sequence of actions in a particular ecosystem.

However, In the course of their argument, the authors of the paper complicate this view of trust, which they believe is based on the rejection that blockchain systems are irreducible hybrids with both social and technical components. They present their arguments by examining the actual asymmetries of resources and knowledge – and therefore power – between the various actors in blockchain networks and discovering the mix of trust, security and even belief that interferes with their day-to-day functioning.

“The governance of most blockchain-based systems is highly centralized: on-chain governance is inherently plutocratic and is dominated by a few large operators or individuals who control most of the mining resources and / or token stocks. Off-chain -Governance usually works like a technocracy, with some influential actors dominating both in front of and behind the scenes. “

Rather than evoking an alternative and ideal scenario in which relationships of dependency and domination could magically be removed, the paper concludes with an examination of what blockchain governance really involves, is understood, and what it could. develop, when we fully recognize the power groups that inevitably make up the infrastructure.

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