INTERNAL POLITICS IN CRYPTO SPACE – (PART THREE)

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by Lumai Mubanga; mlumai@gmail.com

In part three of the internal politics in crypto space, we tackle the current and perhaps one of the most heated debates on the Ethereum network. It can be described as both the “ASIC resistance,” and/or as the “centralization prevention” depending on the angle, you look at it from.

It is still an ongoing debate. It has the potential to split the Ethereum network, as did the DAO hack in 2016 that resulted in the birth of Ethereum classic. What is this debate centered on?

As indicated earlier, it is about those working hard to prevent the decentralization of Ethereum (ASIC resistance) and those bent on protecting ASIC (centralization prevention). Simply put, in a non-ASIC-resistant system, ASICs tend to dominate the network, suppressing regular people. This creates an artificial voting power imbalance that effectively gives some people more power than others do. This, as the argument goes decreases mining centralization in the network.

The actual “war” though is being waged on what is termed as the ProgPow, short for programmable proof of work. ProgPow is a proposed piece of code that will drastically empower Graphics Processing Units – GPUs. This will imply that GPUs will not only be
used in the mining of Ethereum but also will can be used in other processes. This is unlike ASIC, which is mining specific only. While ASICs are expensive and only available to big corporate companies, GPUs are cheaper and will be used by many in the network. This will increase users and help to decentralize the network currently dominated by a few big conglomerates.

Another counter-argument is that since ASICs are designed solely to solve a cryptographic puzzle, they are incapable of anything else, allowing miners who own them to be committed to the network unlike the divided attention to be experienced by
those who will make use of GPUs. ASIC owners wish to keep the status quo ProgPow Developers wish to empower GPU Capabilities
Additional fears for those propagating ASICs resistance is that their hardware only has value in the network designed for ASICs. If a system with a large number of miners relying upon ASICs switches to an ASIC-resistant algorithm, miners will be left with useless electricity-gobbling hardware. This idea of useless hardware and wasted hash power will spell terrible losses.

Proponents of this software upgrade though feel the change if effected is more about empowering more people and breaking the centralization that seems to be holding the network today. Thus, they feel the resistance is more about protecting a few investors.

In a nutshell, ASIC miners seem to have already committed to the network by buying their ASICs. Therefore, they do not want to be disrupted. ProgPow proponents, on the other hand, seem to be determined to implement the upgrade to help decentralize the
system and empower many with cheaper mining options.

As the debate rages on, we begin to see how governance issues still plague this part of the ecosystem. Like any other development, we can only be certain that a wellbalanced solution and agreement will be reached as another split could diminish confidence.

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