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The Cryptocurrency of Theseus: What is our Identity, and why are we fighting?

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Avatar for micropresident
Written by   103
1 week ago

Greetings and Salutations from Shammah Chancellor; micropresident within the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem. For the first year of Bitcoin Cash, I worked directly with Amaury Séchet on Bitcoin-ABC. I stress my identity because I was the point of contact for many miners and exchanges for Bitcoin-ABC for the better part of a year, and that’s relevant to the content of this article -- I provided support services, and notified them of software upgrades directly.

I started working on Bitcoin Cash shortly after the August 2017 hardfork. I had known Amaury for many years beforehand, and saw that he needed help on his project. One of my primary passions has been monetary reform since the first time I asked where money came from at the age of 8 -- why shouldn’t an 8 year old have the privilege to print money too; what makes the Federal Reserve so special?

Cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin Cash, has the potential to be the biggest equalizer of man (apart from guns with rifling) in history. It has the potential, I believe, to stop cyclic societal collapse; which by my estimation is caused by debt cycles. It can do that, because Bitcoin Cash is not based on creation of debt. And, it will be just that, assuming we can get over ourselves and work together; armed with the knowledge that there are many powerful outside forces which do not want to see their privileged positions, of monetary control, taken away.

The invention of Bitcoin enabled anyone to mint new Bitcoins just by providing some electricity, and this invention also allowed anyone to create new currencies entirely. It allows you to use your own money from the privacy of your own home; away from bankstate enforcers who would demand you use their money. 

But to return to the topic of this letter, recently there has been a lot of social pressure to depose Bitcoin ABC -- specifically Amaury (nobody has a problem with the software as far as I am aware) -- from the hegemonic position within the Bitcoin Cash cryptocurrency network (BCCN; which I will continue to use instead of “community”). They are doing so for two main reasons. Firstly, Amaury has pissed off nearly every software developer, and investor, in the BCCN because he has an upside-down value system for a lead maintainer -- a value system which leaves many other participants feeling insulted, unheard, and unvalued. Secondly, there has always been external pressure, of those who currently print money, to destroy alternatives like Bitcoin Cash. One of the best ways to do that is to sabotage the leader, and rouse a coup.

While the external factors are inescapable, and we should remember these propagandists will always be around. Amaury has done little to help himself. Not everyone has known him for as long as I have, and is sure of his motivations, commitment to truth, and his desire for monetary reform. Despite my large personal differences with him, I have no questions about his motivations, or his technical leadership. He is not “evil” nor is he trying to “co-opt” Bitcoin Cash (assuming such a thing were even possible to do).

Amaury has overvalued doing, at the expense of consensus building. He feels a great time pressure to get things done quickly; an urgency that requires someone with his expertise to do rather than oversee. His, often self-imposed, time clock does not leave room for teaching other novice developers, and developers without firm professional software development experience. Although I do not agree that we should remove Automatic Replay Protection, I do think we should have more network upgrades that contain nothing so we can slow down and get people working together (who want to work together if they could just get the tiniest amount of positive reinforcement and attention.) His value system never underwent the mandatory patches to move from Principal Engineer to a leadership role of CTO or Benevolent Dictator.

Yet, Amaury is indeed extremely talented as an engineer. He is arguably Bitcoin Cash’s greatest asset. If he could just learn some lessons from some of the more respected and positively viewed projects we would be in much better shape (no not Linus Torvalds, Linus gave more productive feedback than Amaury, and even then he apologized recently and went to counselling). Culture is set from the top; and Amaury, whether he likes it or not, whether he will admit it or not, is the top of the BCCN. He was the one who led the production of Bitcoin ABC, and coordinated the hard fork on August 1 2017 -- his work led to the creation of Bitcoin Cash.

Though, this is not to make Amaury responsible for all the communication problems within the development community. He cannot be expected to endlessly battle with people suffering from Dunning-Kruger syndrome. The Lead Developer at Bitcoin XT once remarked to me that Amaury was too pedantic for requiring linting and auto-formatting as they were of “no value” -- his pull request should not be subjected to formatting standards.The phrasing leaves no room for discussion, that developer knows best, and Amaury is just wrong. Although, any professional software engineer will understand, just from that statement, that the developer needs to be upgraded. If this is the start of the disagreements, there was never any common ground to work from.

It ought to be obvious to anyone that when you contribute to any project you follow the guidelines set by the project. These guidelines are never large requests, and certainly setting up a development environment is less difficult than contributing anything worthwhile to the project itself. These kinds of occurrences -- demands that Amaury conform to their way of doing things -- were far too prevalent from developers while I was still involved.

Seemingly, technologies like Kubernetes, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, C++, and Go are easier than figuring out how to use Phabricator . That time spent learning how to participate in a project is not worth the effort. The maintainer of the project should conform to their desires and use Github (and then gitlab) instead. These trivialities were the start of the disagreements, and they have only magnified since then.

Still, much of the problems within the development ecosystem are due to Amaury’s frenetic pace. Communicating with individuals who are trying to contribute, but flailing, is often not seen as a worthwhile task due to self-imposed overloading. Coding sessions, traveling, speaking engagements, and snarky tweets are all more important during the perpetual time crunch. This freneticism causes him to be terse with people who do genuinely deserve more attention, explanations, correspondence, and praise. And this is unfortunate, because when Amaury is not stressing himself out, he is a genuinely wonderful human being and fun to be around.

And all of Amaury’s faults -- and none of anyone else’s -- have led to this situation we are in now. The situation where other developers are creating new Bitcoin Cash clients in the belief and hope in deposing him from the position of lead maintainer for the Bitcoin Cash reference client. Only focusing on that one problem within Bitcoin Cash, that would certainly be a good solution. Although, in reality there is no suitable human replacement.

But the desire to depose someone from leading Bitcoin Cash demands the question: What is Bitcoin Cash? What is the thing which they wish to gain control of?

This may seem like a metaphysical question, but there are practical ramifications due to what Bitcoin Cash is. It’s easy for us to pragmatically observe what these ramifications are, and determine the identity of Bitcoin Cash -- what makes some numbers Bitcoin Cash, and not other numbers.

Are Bitcoins just numbers? Is it a network protocol? Is it the software network that runs it? Is it the tokens produced by miners? It might be just numbers. It certainly isn’t a network protocol, as we make breaking changes to that every 6 months. It also can’t be tokens that miners produce, as that simply isn’t specific enough -- there are lots of different mined tokens.

Things are nominally defined, and identified, in terms of their use. I propose this definition then:
A Bitcoin Cash is a measurement that defines a specific and standard arbitrary unit of value, that people use to measure the relative worth of “good and services” and the representation of that unit, which people use to exchange with one another to make trading more efficient. A specific instance of a “currency.” [1]

I’m not entirely happy with the end of that definition, but it should suffice for understanding the identity of Bitcoin Cash; which hangs on the fact that people must be exchanging it for it to be Bitcoin Cash. As such, both parties, in an exchange, need to share a common understanding of what it is they are exchanging. 

So that is to say, Bitcoin Cash is the thing which the users agree is Bitcoin Cash and can be used as currency. If we all were brainwiped tomorrow to believe Bitcoin Cash was seashells, and we started exchanging those, then they would be Bitcoin Cash. But, that’s not true, we instead believe that Bitcoin Cash is what cryptocurrency exchanges sold us, or what people initially gave us.

When I bought my first Bitcoin Cash, I bought a token being represented by data that was produced by the Bitcoin ABC software and catalyzed by the Bitcoin Cash miners. If you did not buy or work for your Bitcoin Cash, then you were gifted tokens by the rest of us who chose to exchange them with you.

I did not buy numbers produced by any other software. Nobody else did either. Even if they did not know they were buying coins produced and verified by Bitcoin ABC, they at least have the expectation that the exchange and wallet they use is not going to switch out this software underneath them. They also either explicitly or implicitly bought into the roadmap, and the upgrade schedule advertised on BitcoinCash.org. They bought tokens that allowed them to exchange value with a specific network of people, via a computer network.

Exchanges must maintain the implicit expectations for customers they set when they sold them those coins. Attempting to replace the Bitcoin ABC on some exchanges would necessarily create a social network fork, while attempting to claim that something that didn’t exist prior is now the “legitimate” Bitcoin Cash. Yet, the network supported by Bitcoin ABC, that did exist, would still exist. You cannot take ideas, and a name is an idea.

If in November, there is a network fork and Coinbase installed Bitcoin Cash Node there will be serious consequences for them. When the first customers buys “Bitcoin Cash” from them, and it doesn’t appear as a valid coin under Bitcoin ABC software, there will be a lawsuit. A lawsuit those customers will win. It will not matter what percentage of the BCCN thinks Bitcoin Cash should flow from the Bitcoin Cash Node software!  Most people who buy and sell BCH do not care about, nor pay attention to, the internal squabbling of r/btc. 

But this leads to another Ship of Theseus problem, what is the Bitcoin ABC software? I would argue it is compiled out of the source code repository “blessed” by Amaury Séchet, compiled, and distributed either by Amaury or one of his representatives. This is simply a complicated way of saying that nobody else can make Amaury’s Bitcoin Client, but Amaury himself. (Now, I do not want to get into the question of the identity of Amaury, I think we can all agree on common sense here.)

This means that exchanges are going to run the software he makes, regardless of what rules he decides. They must in order to avoid lawsuits. This is why every forked client has always been listed as a separate token: S2X, BSV, ETC, the plethora of Monero forks, and many others. Amaury Séchet is the only person who decides the network rules on Bitcoin Cash, and what code is in the mainline client. Not miners, and not users. I know this because I was the one who communicated with exchanges during the 3 hardforks immediately after 1 Aug, and the CashAddress migration. The reasoning should also make it apparent.

I don’t say this because I want it to be that way. After I left ABC, I considered launching my own node client because I believed that Amaury’s leadership was detrimental to his project.  However, I came to understand that it would not only be wasted time, but counterproductive towards my goal of monetary reform. The repository is over here.

In my blog post regarding Bitcoin Unlimited, I was careful to say “I still believe Amaury is the best person to lead the technical direction of the Bitcoin Cash protocol.”  I, specifically, did not say he was the best leader of people. I also did not say that his leadership style was not absolutely destructive to his project -- it is.

At some level, the rabble rousers in the BCCN understand that Amaury is “in charge”, that’s the entire premise of this perpetual revolt. “Amaury isn’t allowing us to do something.” Intuitively, we understand that Amaury has effectively absolute authority over Bitcoin ABC and thus Bitcoin Cash. However, some of us are unwilling to acknowledge it consciously. To acknowledge it would be to admit our mythologies about Bitcoin are wrong. Bitcoin isn’t working out as it is supposed to: there are no privileged positions in Bitcoin Cash! Some cling to this belief despite 10 years of evidence to the contrary, starting with Bitcoin Core.

But all is not lost! In reality, the cryptocurrency marketplace subjects these privileged individuals to market pressure and makes them compete with each other. When they have to compete for business, their privileged positions become subject to user preference, and their accountability is restored to order. No longer can the Bank of Amaury do whatever he wants -- but it is still his bank.

In fact, this is why the IFP didn’t pass. Amaury could have hardcoded it, but he didn’t. Instead, he let miners vote on it with user input. Reasonably anticipating the coin depreciation was worse than any potential gain, it did not pass voting. This is how users keep Amaury accountable.

Now we can continue to live in our delusions of deposing Amaury from the position of “Leader”, or we can choose to interact with the world as it is. We can continue to fight a non-existent unwinnable battle, wasting all our time, damaging the project, and causing uncertainty in the market which depreciates the price of Bitcoin Cash for us all, or we can accept reality. Prominent whales who,  to be sure have done great things for BCCN, but nevertheless are human and fallible, have let themselves be fooled into funding an unwinnable war -- instead of more productive endeavours.

I don’t want to see Amaury removed, I want to see him improve his communication. I want to see the community help out more, and understand his deficiencies. I want people to understand that not every adult lived a childhood that equipped them with the interpersonal skills required to run a multi-billion dollar transaction network. I want to see the people who continually antagonize him leave and not come back. And, I want block-reward based funding, because that’s the right way to incentivize developers; and if they misappropriate those funds, the market will punish them.

The people who continue to battle over who gets to be “in charge” can reasonably be assumed to be: unthoughtful and ignorant, stupid, or malicious. I will be referring to this letter in all future discussions that draw into question Amaury’s right to lead his own project. Those of us who want to move forward cannot endlessly spend time debating people who are willfully ignorant, stupid, or malicious. At some point it has to stop.

If someone really doesn’t want to see Amaury as the Lead Maintainer anymore, they need to find a different cryptocurrency where you’ll see someone else as the Lead Maintainer.


Endnotes:

[1] It should flow from this definition that in order to be a currency, it must be a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of value. The last one being required due to the delay between two symmetric trades exchanged with the same tokens (i.e. it cannot be a unit of account, unless that unit is reasonably consistent over time.) I point this out because this has been a hot point for debate in recent years in the cryptocurrency intelligentsia. However, this debate shouldn’t exist, since these three statements are actually equivalent. A store of value is also a unit of account and a medium of exchange. A medium of exchange is a store of value and a representation of a unit of account. Again the same for the unit of account. These properties are inseparable because they are different only perspectives on how humans use currency. Anything humans use for one of these functions they will also use for the other two.

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Avatar for micropresident
Written by   103
1 week ago
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Comments

To be honest I've not seen much fighting but anyway,

Here's the TL;DR of the article:
'Amaury is incontestably the most important guy in ABC and BCH, although he has his flaws.
we are fighting because we don't recognize Amaury Sechet as such and as our Leader.'

(I don't share this opinion)

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Nope, that's not my point. My point is that people are wasting energy and resources fighting a losing battle. They need to find a better way to fight if they have real goals that they want to see succeed in their war.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

We can never ignore the concept of funding in any worthwhile and developmental projects. It is very essential and important. The issue of IFP in BCH ecosystem shouldn't have generated negative issues within the communities, rather it should have been filtered well and fortified with some pluses which could have helped the BCH full node software's success.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Oh I agree for sure. I did not agree with the actual last implementation, but I think some infrastructure funding plan is needed.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I appreciate you taking your time to write this, but I heavily disagree with most of your conclusions. Defining Bitcoin Cash as whatever data Bitcoin ABC produces is just silly, and only hardcore ABC supporters would agree with you there.

Response here: https://read.cash/@noise/bitcoin-cash-is-nobodys-project-a-response-to-micropresident-7a42dd44

$ 1.00
1 week ago

Very thoughtful article .. up until I read:

Intuitively, we understand that Amaury has effectively absolute authority over Bitcoin ABC and thus Bitcoin Cash.

WTF u talkin' bout? The only person I'm aware of that has "absolute authority" over a crypto currency (well two in fact) is Justin Sun .. an look how that's working out..

(sigh) you would do well to check your ego, or the ego that you choose to impart onto others, at the door..

$ 0.00
1 week ago

You are conflating control with free-from-consequences. And not even Justin Sun is free from market pressures.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

You are conflating control with free-from-consequences.

i don't really understand your point here, if you wouldn't mind clarifying a bit?

fwiw, I find all of this "protocol" development discussion to be old news, now that 5/15 has passed and the IFP has not been activated .. imho, focusing so heavily on "merchant adoption" and "scaling technologies" when BCH is flailing around at like 3-4% hashrate is absurd .. I plan to HEAVILY start advocating for discussions on BUIDLing and DEPLOYing NEW SERVICES on top of BCH .. I realize that I'm in the minority on this, but I just don't see much growth potential any other way..

$ 0.10
1 week ago

Useful thoughts, thank you Shammah!

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I liked this. There was a lot of wisdom in it. But...there is one thing:

Citing from the article: "And, I want block-reward based funding, because that’s the right way to incentivize developers; and if they misappropriate those funds, the market will punish them."

How can you be sure the market will punish them? And would that happen without destroying the value of BCH? I think a lot of people that are afraid of accepting a block-reward based funding, is what damage it can cause exactly on the network if it is misappropriated. ZCash might have gotten some tech results, but the investment-case for ZCash has been really bad.

$ 7.05
1 week ago
  1. The market will punish them if there are better alternatives -- as has been the case for the last 3 years.
  2. Money is not an investment vehicle.
$ 0.00
1 week ago

Money is not an investment vehicle :D

Hear, hear, let me cite what I got from you "you are so wrong, in so many ways"

$ 0.00
1 week ago

You are wrong Marc.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Shammah Chancellor you seem to me exactly like a suppliant of the court of Elagabulus, wandering around after his public disgrace, preaching the virtues of a bygone reign.

$ 0.10
1 week ago

Nice article and very interesting

$ 0.00
1 week ago

If you say it how it really is, and ABC = Bitcoin Cash then Bitcoin Cash is officially dead. This decentralized peer to peer network, that carries on the ethos of Bitcoin as envisioned by Satoshi CANNOT have a dictator for life like this. The decentralization of the node softwares was supposed to be what separated us from the captured and corrupt Bitcoin Core/ Blockstream coin.

We failed.

$ 6.00
1 week ago

Nobody shares the same definition of decentralization. Software development is never decentralized. The network, however, is.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I DO NOT agree that ABC = Bitcoin Cash no matter how you spin it.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

ABC is the most utilized BCH node software by a LONG SHOT. Without miners and ABC software, there is literally no BCH (EDIT: at minimum, a very, very minority BCH without ABC software).

Disagree? Run a different node, and then mine BCH blocks with it.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Reality doesn't require you to agree with it.

$ 0.10
1 week ago

Yes the reality of Bitcoin Cash being completely centralized as it seems is the reality

$ 0.00
1 week ago
$ 0.00
1 week ago

Actually, I think you should read it. ISO specs are centralized via the ISO.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

My point is there should be a process similar to standardization for protocol changes. It should start with a draft, RFCs etc rather than direct implementation.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Until we have the protocol finished enough to allow BCH to scale for massive worldwide adoption we need a team funded to make that happen. So far, we do not have even one team funded well enough to do that. The partial centralization of BCH is the result of underfunded development resources. Your doom assumption could turn out to be correct, but, we still have a chance to become less development-centralized in the future.

I think the ABC team believes in that goal and the claims of greedy power-tripping by ABC are just attacks on BCH. Those who support the unfounded allegations are attacking BCH even if they do not intend to. BCH is the only current Bitcoin project that is still likely to become sufficiently decentralized in the future and provide peer-to-peer electronic cash for the world's people. Yes, I am assuming benevolent dictatorship to some extent. I may be wrong, but, I see no real evidence Amaury has evil intent as many claim. Many who say this sort of stuff may be here to create infighting or have an axe to grind that is clouding their judgment.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Bitcoin BTC = Core/Blockstream

Bitcoin Cash = ABC and friends

🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I don't really care if the IFP is in BCH or not, but we have empirically seen dozens of projects, most notably EOS, XRP, ZCash, Dash, Tezos, Cardano, all have tons of protocol funding and exactly nothing to show for it... Why would the BCH IFP be any different? -- This seems like the definition of insanity if you ask me.

$ 5.00
1 week ago

There are many necessary conditions for success. Funding is one of them. It is not a sufficient condition.

$ 0.05
1 week ago

Has giving the ABC team funding resulted in nothing? Until we test that, your logic is not on point.

$ 0.05
1 week ago

Your memory is faulty.

What I (the "Lead Developer of Bitcoin XT") said to you in a personal conversation was that Amaury Sechet's numerous formatting changes, touching virtually every file, made research and cherry picks more difficult, and that these costs were not justified by any benefits, and that they would confuse the casual observer about the quantity of actual useful or innovative contributions Mr. Sechet had made.

You might disagree, but how you can think your continued attempts to blame BCH's challenges on BU and XT will find any serious audience is quite beyond me, since ABC has fully controlled the process from 2017 until very recently.

$ 1.10
1 week ago

I am an ABC supporter and think we should be able to come up with a win-win automated (block reward based) funding mechanism supported by 100% of BCH miners. I think we need something that effective to fund development of scaling so BCH can be ready for "going viral" and experiencing massive worldwide adoption. Until we can handle that load, IMO, we are not really Bitcoin yet. We can't really ask the world to adopt BCH and we can't advertise our coin as ready for that.

I think ABC is our current best hope for making that happen. If another node was funded at a level that allowed it to do the work ABC has been doing and to also develop the epic scalability we need, I would be fine with letting them prove it in parallel (rather than replacing the current reference client) first so we can check it is not a hidden attack on BCH. If I am not mistaken, that's what new nodes usually do. Any new node that tries to take over exchanges, removes safety features like Automatic Replay Protection or tries to force a fork over a miner issue like upgrade timing is not proving itself as a BCH team-player.

I see no current node that is doing the real work to take over for ABC (not take over ABC, take over FOR ABC). If we had that kind of node available, we could consider making it the "reference client". Currently, if people do not like ABC's way of doing things, too bad. I am not always thrilled with ABC either, but, it is hard to find good help and ABC is the best we have so far.

Until we have the protocol finished enough to allow BCH to scale for massive worldwide adoption we need a team funded to make that happen. So far, we do not have even one team funded well enough to do that. I believe the partial centralization of BCH is the result of under-funding of development resources. I believe we still have a chance to become less development-centralized in the future.

I think/hope the ABC team believes in that goal and the claims of greedy power-tripping by ABC are just attacks on BCH. Those who support the unfounded allegations are attacking BCH even if they do not intend to. BCH is the only current Bitcoin project that is still likely to become sufficiently decentralized in the future and provide peer-to-peer electronic cash for the world's people. Yes, I am assuming benevolent dictatorship to some extent. I may be wrong, but, I see no real evidence Amaury has evil intent as many claim. Many who say this sort of stuff may be here to create infighting or have an axe to grind that is clouding their judgment.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Got something new into my head from you.Thank you @micropresident for the upvote

$ 1.00
1 week ago