Jihan Wu is a founder of the mining company Bitmain and an influential force in the cryptocurrency space. He spoke on many topics at the Future of Bitcoin conference in Arnhem, Netherlands, which took place June 30 to July 1. The title of his talk was “Why Multiple Implementations are Quite Important for Bitcoin.”
One of the most powerful things Wu discussed was the psychology of authority that is
surrounding the bitcoin ecosystem. Wu talked about several popular social psychological experiments and how they may play out in the current unfolding drama. He opened, however, by discussing different ways society is organized by governments: aristocracy, monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny, and democracy.
Dictatorship in Crypto-Projects
He said crypto-project founders could potentially be tyrants or dictators. He said usually founders have contributed the most to a project, though. The founder’s skills are well recognized and he/she knows everyone who contributed…and is almost renowned. But Wu points out this could cause problems and create a platform for dictatorship. He elaborated:
“Why can’t we see other ways to organize as Aristotle described? Democracy is not possible in opensource software. That is because developer’s software is very complicated and abstract. And who is good and who is bad is most of the time obvious, and you cannot just vote to decide which way the software is going to go. So tyranny is there and lack of enforcement is there. It is not open source software then. It is Microsoft. It is Office. Maybe this is why Microsoft is so hated in the opensource software community.”
Human Nature and Obedience to Authority
Wu said tyranny crops up partly as a result of human nature, and the human tendency to be obedient to authority. He said there is a readiness for human beings to obey others. He defended his point by citing Stanley Milgram‘s Obedience to Authority Experiment. He also said that humans have inbuilt biases, such as the the Halo Effect. This means that if people have a certain quality or impression, then other contributors and people may be more likely to follow them. Lastly, Wu cited the Bandwagon effect. In this psychological effect, people are likely to follow the crowd or follow people merely because they are doing it.
He said all of these are social dynamic effects that everyone in the cryptocurrency ecosystem has to be wary of, lest we end up following a ruler in the form of a developer or programmer. Wu even applied his logic to Satoshi Nakamoto, saying he altered the bitcoin code multiple times and no one really questioned the move until Jeff Garzik came along. This is something that has to be watched, even if it is the creator of Bitcoin, Wu implied.
Many Implementations of Bitcoin; Smart Contracts and economic incentives
In order to solve this problem of protocol tyranny and hijacked implementations, Wu suggested that for the future of bitcoin to remain beautiful and grow, the community will need multiple implementations. Wu said:
“I think we need to encourage multiple implementations, so we do not have to be hijacked by the monopolistic implementations. I think if we have had multiple implementations earlier some of the miners in China would have been more comfortable switching to big blocks road maps. Everyone would have felt more comfortable switching software. I think we need to encourage multiple implementations because it will help bitcoin bring new innovations.”
Wu goes on to mention that Bitcoin has missed many great innovations, including smart contracts and the creation of decentralized exchanges. He mentioned that as a community bitcoin is a little late to the game in regards to innovation. He said the bitcoin ecosystem is also missing economic reward incentives in regards to inflation.
The reason why bitcoin has missed these innovations is because some bitcoiners, according to Wu, trash new innovations by always calling them scammy or leveling other judgmental critiques. Wu says getting the community outside of the follower mentality and convincing them to accept the possibility of innovation through multiple implementations will provide the network and ecosystem with the room to grow and thrive