Proposing an explicit social contract in support of POW mining

October 6, 2019 by Bob Summerwill

Introduction

In the years since the DAO fork and the unexpected birth of Ethereum Classic, strong social consensus has emerged in support of ETC remaining POW mined into the indefinite future.

In order for Ethereum Classic to remain self-sovereign, merge-mining ETC would not be acceptable either.

There is very little appetite for proposals of POS at the ETC base protocol layer, though POS sidechains or L2 solutions on top of POW are generally well received within the ETC ecosystem.

This consensus was evident at the recent ETC Summit 2019 conference in Vancouver, Canada, and this proposal seems to make that consensus explicit.

Proposal

There is a broad perception that ETC has an implicit social contract in favor of POW mining. This ECIP seeks to transform that implicit assumption into an explicitly written social contract, as an ECBP which is adopted using the ECIP process.

This adoption could occur as part of the next hard-fork (just to “batch” discussions), or it could happen independently of that timeline. This proposal is a formalization of an aspect of the ETC social layer, not a technical protocol consensus concern. Because of that, it does not need to be synchronized with a hard fork.

How would this be adopted?

This proposal would be adopted by means of the ECIP editors moving it to Final state, if they are convinced of broad ecosystem consensus in its favor.

The Editors should use all signalling mechanisms at their disposal to assure themselves of broad support. That could include polls on social media platforms, miner votes, coinvotes, public debates at meetups and events, testing the water with “opinion pieces”, repeated discussion during the ECIP community calls, and anything else which seems prudent to them.

They should not rush this decision.

Potential downsides of adopting this proposal?

Unlike a protocol-level consensus change, dissent against this proposal being adopted would not result in a chain-split - just in dissenting voices grumbling about its adoption. That is not problematic. The ETC ecosystem generally welcomes dissent, and the people who would oppose this proposal’s acceptance already likely oppose sticking with POW mining. They will be dissenters irrespective of the result of this process.

If they choose to exit the ecosystem as a result of this proposal being adopted then that is probably a good thing.

Intended benefit of adopting this proposal?

This proposal would give stakeholders in the Ethereum Classic mining ecosystem (miners, pools, ASIC manufacturers, GPU manufacturers, etc) certainty that any investments they make are not going to be negated by rash future decisions by the Ethereum Classic ecosystem to change course on the current implicit social contract.

Making the implicit explicit, as Kirk Dameron would often say, is a simple but immensely powerful means for coordination. Ambiguity is often as bad or worse than any decision, even if that decision is not the one you would have wanted. Like the ECIP for Monetary Policy, adoption of this proposal will attract entities with long-term aligned incentives to Ethereum Classic.

Bitcoin is likely the single project which has a strong enough implicit social contract around SHA256 that businesses can assume that it will not be changing course - barring a situation where the Bitcoing hashing algorithm had reached end of life, with collisions signalling that it was time to upgrade.

Ethereum Classic would have a uniquely strong social signal with such an explicit statement.

What if we “change our mind”?

If some future unforeseen event or change of participants in the ETC ecosystem leads to broad consensus that it is necessary for the good of the network to break this explicit social contract then that decision would have to go through the exact same ECIP process as this proposal. That will not be an easy process.

Even if it that new proposal did get approved, the chances are that such a reversal of an explicit social contract would be seen as so divisive that a chain split would likely result. This guarantee would still be respected on one of those chains (likely the majority chain).

Whatever the case, adoption of this ECIP would be an unmistakeable sign that the Ethereum Classic community is a very strong ally of the POW mining ecosystem, in a way which likely on Bitcoin can match at the moment.

Isn’t this proposal running counter to “The Manifesto”?

Some people may feel that adoption of a proposal which seeks to make explicit social layer matters goes against elements of the "openness" and “neutrality” points of Arvicco’s “A Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto”. This document is broadly seen as a “Founding document” for Ethereum Classic. There may indeed be such a perception about the manifesto, but in truth the document is inspiration, not gospel truth, and certainly not law.

The need for a written Consitution and Bill of Rights for Ethereum Classic.

There is no written “Consitution” or “Bill of Rights” for Ethereum Classic. No proposal for such documents has ever been submitted to the ECIP process. We have never explicitly defined our social and ethical baseline assumptions - only the hardness of the protocol itself.

We depend on implicit social conformance and watchdogs to reject proposals which breach those baselines (ie. ProgPOW), but social comformance to unwritten baseline assumptions is not a safe approach.

We pride ourselves on our conservatism and our focus on security, but we have nothing but subjective humans standing in defence of Ethereum Classic’s unique value. We depend on particular individuals and their “toxicity” to defend Ethereum Classic. This approach is not socially scalable. Those individuals may not be around in the future. Social trends may shift. Social attacks may grow.

This kind of loose arrangement is how British government works. They refer to the unwritten "Constitution" which it is expected that governments will conform to. Essentially just precedent and an expectation that people will “play fair”. This is an incredibly weak basis for governance. Do we want that for Ethereum Classic? That is what we currently have.

The author would advocate that Ethereum Classic needs to be a Republic, not a mob Democracy, and that we need a written Consitution and Bill of Rights to ensure our mutual future freedom.

We need such rules to avoid the “Permissionless Fallacy” which Donald McIntyre has explained. There are certain proposals which would undermine the very shared assumptions which make Ethereum Classic “Decentralized, Unstoppable, Immutable”.

The Monetary Policy ECIP was somewhat akin to proposals which could be adopted into a Constitution, because that policy also provided long-term certainty for all ecosystem partipants. The difference for the Monetary Policy is that it was also a protocol-level consensus change, not purely a social contract.

In actually broke immutability by changing the future emissions schedule, but that exception to our unwritten guiding principles was made with broad social consensus. It had the explicit goal of locking that economic policy in stone forever.

So is this proposal a Constitution?

Not really. It would just consist of a single sentence. Something like:

“Adoption of this proposal by the ECIP authors is an explicit social contact between the Ethereum Classic ecosystem and the POW mining ecosystem that ETC intends to stay with POW mining (not merged mining) into the indefinite future.”

Such a contract could easily be adopted into a future Constition for Ethereum Classic though.

If there is consensus that ETC needs a written Constitution then the author will partner with suitable co-authors and will propose one.

IP Protections for Ethereum Classic

This work is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license. The author, Bob Summerwill, attests to his sole authorship of this work, and that he is able to contribute this work to the ECIP process under the Apache 2.0 licence.

He further attests that he neither holds nor is aware of any patents, trademarks, copyright issues or other IP hinderances associated with this work.

Archive Previous posts

October 19, 2019Bob Summerwill

Bob Summerwill to speak at Global Digital Assets (Vancouver) Summit 2019

October 19, 2019Bob Summerwill

Alison Alexis CPA joins ETC Cooperative as Financial Controller

October 18, 2019Bob Summerwill

ETC Cooperative joins Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

October 17, 2019Bob Summerwill

ETC Cooperative extends Yaz Khoury's contract

October 6, 2019Bob Summerwill

Proposing an explicit social contract in support of POW mining

April 11, 2018Christian Seberino

The Ethereum Classic Blockchain Is INCOMPLETE & Why That Is OK

April 5, 2018Christian Seberino

An Introduction To Tries

March 19, 2018Christian Seberino

Ethereum Classic Recursive Length Prefix Encoding

March 19, 2018Anthony Lusardi (pyskell)

ETC Roundup — What’s happened last week (3/19/18)!

March 15, 2018Christian Seberino

A Walk Through Ethereum Classic Digital Signature Code

March 12, 2018Anthony (pyskell)

ETC Roundup — What’s new this week (3/12/18)!

March 6, 2018Anthony (pyskell)

ETC Rundown — What’s new this week (3/6/18)!

March 2, 2018pyskell (Anthony)

Long Term Outlook for Ethereum Classic

February 22, 2018Christian Seberino

On Ethereum Classic Mining Rewards With The New Monetary Policy

February 14, 2018Christian Seberino

Why Multisig Smart Contracts Will Likely Take Over Ethereum Classic & The World

January 31, 2018Christian Seberino

A Simple Interpretation Of The Ethereum Classic Mining Difficulty Parameter

January 26, 2018Christian Seberino

Implicit Ethereum Classic Blockchain Information

December 20, 2017Christian Seberino

The Dexaran Interview

December 13, 2017Christian Seberino

Toll Equality

December 4, 2017Christian Seberino

How Ethereum Classic Light Clients Can SECURELY Operate

November 11, 2017pyskell (Anthony)

Who's Talking at the Classic Summit

November 5, 2017Christian Seberino

The Mining Game: Explaining Blockchains

October 25, 2017pyskell (Anthony)

All that's new in Classic - October Edition

August 27, 2017Prophet Daniel, Tyler West

社会币的崛起

August 27, 2017Prophet Daniel, Tyler West

The Rise and Rise of Social Coins

July 28, 2017Christian Seberino

Web 3.0 And Ethereum Classic

July 23, 2017Prophet Daniel

Development forces arriving

June 17, 2017Christian Seberino

Should The Ethereum Classic Community Be Ashamed Of Promoting Privacy?

June 17, 2017Christian Seberino

ICOs & Custom Cryptocurrencies On Ethereum Classic

June 17, 2017Christian Seberino

When Absolutely No One Can Steal Or Return Lost Ethereum Classic Funds

May 19, 2017Prophet Daniel

Stand up from the crowd

May 11, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: Dev Update 10!

May 1, 2017Christian Seberino

Why You Should LOVE Proof Of Stake Systems — Hybrids!

April 28, 2017Christian Seberino

Ethereum Classic World Computer Transactions Explained

April 28, 2017Christian Seberino

Ethereum Classic Blocks Explained: The Three Categories

April 19, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: New all time highs as ETC surges!

April 18, 2017Christian Seberino

Ethereum Classic Public And Private Keys: A Little Enlightenment

April 13, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: New devs on ETCdev Team.

March 30, 2017Christian Seberino

The Ethereum Classic World Computer Accounts & States Explained

March 29, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: Dev Update + News from Bitkio.

March 24, 2017Christian Seberino

How To Improve Ethereum Classic Immutability Discussions

March 16, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: Dev update and more

March 13, 2017Christian Seberino

Ethereum's Vitalik Buterin Discusses The New Viper Smart Contract Programming Language

March 8, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter: Dev Updates + New Discussions

March 2, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Monetary Policy Statement.

February 28, 2017Christian Seberino

An Interview With The Anonymous Individual That Started Ethereum Classic

February 28, 2017Christian Seberino

How To Create A Censorship Resistant Domain Name System On Ethereum Classic

February 20, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Treasury Proposal

February 13, 2017Christian Seberino

Should We Make ⟠ The Ethereum Classic Currency Symbol?

February 10, 2017Christian Seberino

Serpent: Introduction To The BEST Ethereum Classic Smart Contract Language

February 10, 2017Christian Seberino

Proposal: Ethereum Classic Currency And Logo Conventions To Improve Communication And Avoid Expensive Mistakes

February 10, 2017Christian Seberino

Hashes: An Introduction & Why They Are Foundational To The Internet & Blockchains

February 10, 2017Christian Seberino

Why Bloom Filters Are So Cool (+ Useful!) For Blockchains & Beyond: An Introduction

February 10, 2017Christian Seberino

Why Ethereum Classic Uses An Incorrect SHA3 Implementation

February 1, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Another Great Month Ahead

January 24, 2017Prophet Daniel

Ethereum Classic Harmony

January 17, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Protocol Update Successful!

January 6, 2017Prophet Daniel

Sustainable Development Goals

January 4, 2017Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Happy New Year!

December 29, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : End Of 2016!

December 28, 2016Christian Seberino

Zero Knowledge Proofs For Dummies

December 20, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : In Case You Missed It

December 16, 2016Christian Seberino

How To EASILY Set Up An AMAZING Ethereum Classic Node & Talk To It With Your OWN Code

December 14, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : ETC Meetup in London + The New Team

December 12, 2016Carlo V

Introducing The Grothendieck Team

December 6, 2016Christian Seberino

Why Would I Choose To Run My Application On Ethereum / Classic Instead Of The World Wide Web?

December 6, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : The Grothendieck Team

December 4, 2016Arvicco

ETC End of Year and Monetary Policy Event: London, December 13th

December 1, 2016Christian Seberino

Why InterPlanetary File System & Its Ilk Are A Big Deal For Blockchains & Beyond

November 29, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Network Update

November 23, 2016Christian Seberino

The Skinny On Smart Contracts: An Introduction & Why You Should Care

November 22, 2016Carlo V

ETC Weekly Newsletter : Monetary Policy Update

November 15, 2016Carlo Vicari

ETC Newsletter

November 15, 2016Christian Seberino

The Bare Basics Of Money And Monetary Policy WITH A FEW WORDS FROM SATOSHI NAKAMOTO

November 8, 2016Carlo Vicari

ETC Newsletter : 2016-11-01 - 2016-11-08

November 4, 2016Christian Seberino

Let's Admit Blockchains Are Weird: An Introduction To The Strangeness

November 1, 2016Carlo Vicari

ETC Newsletter : 2016-10-24 - 2016-11-01

October 31, 2016Carlos Graterol

Instead of The Halvening, A Tithing for ETC

October 17, 2016Arvicco

Gas Reprice Hard Fork on ETC block 2500000 (October 25)

October 14, 2016Christian Seberino

Why Another Hard Fork To Deal With The Recent Denial Of Service Attack Spam Shouldn't Be Controversial

October 13, 2016Christian Seberino

Ethereum / Classic Denial Of Service Attacks & The Estonian Cyberwar

October 12, 2016Christian Seberino

Cuban Piracy & Why Merkle Trees Are So Awesome For Blockchains

October 11, 2016Christian Seberino

Navajo Indians Help Explain Ethereum / Classic Replay Attacks

September 18, 2016ProphetDaniel

The Invisible Field

September 9, 2016Arvicco

Code is Law and the Quest for Justice

September 1, 2016Ethereum Classic

CHBTC contributes funds to foster growth of Ethereum Classic

August 18, 2016Arvicco

Ethereum Classic Kickoff (London)

August 16, 2016ProphetDaniel

Nature Inspired Ethereum Classic Community Dynamics Proposal

August 14, 2016DaxClassix

New Website Created

August 11, 2016ProphetDaniel

Decentralized anarchist governance system

August 10, 2016ProphetDaniel

Couple Values That Forked Ethereum Broke

July 27, 2016Arvicco

Getting things done in a decentralized way

July 25, 2016Arvicco

What can I do to help Ethereum Classic project?

July 24, 2016Arvicco

ETC exchange trading and other news

July 22, 2016Arvicco

ETC - new Ethereum Classic ticker symbol

July 15, 2016Arvicco

Let's keep the original censorship-resistant Ethereum going!

July 11, 2016Arvicco

A Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto