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Author Topic: Starting a new block chain  (Read 2458 times)
grondilu
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May 19, 2011, 09:08:36 PM
 #1


 Cheesy  just not noticed Gavin's new avatar.   It is so true that he looked like Spock in the Forbes article!
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tubro
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May 19, 2011, 09:26:42 PM
 #2

+1 Fleembit: It's not common ground that without bitcoin the world will die of evil inflation, so let's just skip that argument when talking to "common people".
unk
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May 19, 2011, 09:30:47 PM
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@vladimir, my argument isn't about fairness. but as i said at the start, i knew it would be misconstrued and wouldn't be warmly received.

i don't really disagree with mike. but as an aside and as an attempt to counteract the bubble mentality, it is interesting (particularly for speculators) to note that a word from gavin here that he is considering my proposal would probably influence the bitcoin/dollar exchange rate far more than most words from bernanke would shake the dollar/euro exchange rate. that would be less true without mass propagation of the hope of retiring on 2100 bitcoins and the speculation that arises from it.

there will be other block chains; none of us can stop it. my idea was that the core dev team could use knowledge of that fact strategically to aid their public relations. mike is perhaps right that it would be counterproductive for them to do so. my fear, however, is that the bitcoin technology will be co-opted by the same centralised banking forces that it could have readily helped to limit, and it would be sad if it did that in part because you and i decided to bank on retiring on a few thousand bitcoins in the current block chain, rather than some other speculative asset.

ideally, bitcoin can lead to a more open banking system that is more consistent with populism and direct democracy than closed, private oligarchy. that is its promise, and it's grandiose enough. we're also, probably temporarily, at a good moment in history for that. the more extremist stuff from fringe groups is counterproductive to that goal, and it was never even slightly realistic. bitcoin will not topple governments or taxing authorities, and of course most people don't think it should.

gavin's pragmatism is terrific, and i agree wholeheartedly with it. i'm just suggesting that his pragmatic reasoning be open, in concept, to favoring the technology over speculators (rather that merchants and entrepreneurs) hoping to get rich using it. it's unlikely we'll be able to retire on 2100 bitcoins anyway, so what i'm proposing isn't even that radical.
rezin777
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May 19, 2011, 09:48:02 PM
 #4

I would go so far as to say that anyone who has exchanged Bitcoins for other currencies and goes along with resetting the block-chain is committing fraud. Real fraud, not the pretend kind that people confuse high risk investments with.
ribuck
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May 19, 2011, 09:50:22 PM
 #5

Quote from: ribuck
Those who like the idea of restarts might find happiness if they mine the testnet.
Not sure about that, testnet can be reset.
That's what I mean. People (such as unk) who think restarts are a good idea can mine on testnet.
davout
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May 19, 2011, 09:51:23 PM
 #6

Quote from: ribuck
Those who like the idea of restarts might find happiness if they mine the testnet.
Not sure about that, testnet can be reset.
That's what I mean. People (such as unk) who think restarts are a good idea can mine on testnet.
Oh I see !

unk
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May 19, 2011, 10:04:00 PM
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@rezin777, it's absolutely not fraud. a new block chain does not compromise rights of anyone intending to continue to use the old one. it's not fraud to start up 'inflacoin' and suggest that people use it. it wouldn't be fraud for gavin to do so, or for him to release a client that simply started a new 'bitcoin' chain.

and there's no fraud in telling people that their entire speculative investment in the main block chain can disappear at any moment. gavin could perhaps emphasize that in dealing with the public, though not with quite that language. the risk should certainly be emphasized. 'it's going up forever' or 'the exponential growth is going to continue' is much closer to fraud.

maybe the dev team's client should be modified to handle arbitrarily many block chains (beyond prodnet and testnet). we shouldn't have anything to fear from competitive block chains, or else they're far too great a 'systems-security' threat given the economic context of the main block chain. because they will exist.

that said, in case you're still concerned that i'm doing anything fraudulent or have any ulterior motives, i can accurately state my 'financial' position in the main block chain as follows: with trivial, experimental exceptions, i have mined for a long time and done nothing else with bitcoins except to accumulate them. i have not short sold them or even sold them. i profit if the main block chain succeeds. my concern, however, is for the technology.
Tsudico
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May 19, 2011, 10:09:03 PM
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there will be other block chains; none of us can stop it. my idea was that the core dev team could use knowledge of that fact strategically to aid their public relations. mike is perhaps right that it would be counterproductive for them to do so. my fear, however, is that the bitcoin technology will be co-opted by the same centralised banking forces that it could have readily helped to limit, and it would be sad if it did that in part because you and i decided to bank on retiring on a few thousand bitcoins in the current block chain, rather than some other speculative asset.
If someone tries to create another block chain then it will compete against bitcoin and gain market share only if the merits of that future block chain exceed the merits of bitcoin. There will be plenty of people who will try a new block chain hoping to get in at the beginning. There is a risk in that, just like there was/is a risk for those involved with bitcoin. But people will likely exchange between the block chains and pricing relative to the chains will develop.

As for restarting the bitcoin chain, I see no reason to do so. The success of bitcoin depends on it's continued evolution. A reset would set everyone at square one and the value that people have determined for bitcoins would disappear. My trust in bitcoins and any future block chain would also be shaken since there is no determining whether the same thing would occur in the future.

Considering that bitcoin's value is based on trust, I can't see bitcoins succeeding if the block chain is restarted.
rezin777
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May 19, 2011, 10:12:51 PM
 #9

@rezin777, it's absolutely not fraud. a new block chain does not compromise rights of anyone intending to continue to use the old one. it's not fraud to start up 'inflacoin' and suggest that people use it. it wouldn't be fraud for gavin to do so, or for him to release a client that simply started a new 'bitcoin' chain.

I have no problem with anyone and everyone starting as many block-chains as they wish.

This is not what you originally suggested when you spoke about restarting the block chain. And I stand by my statement.

EDIT: If I've misunderstood, perhaps reset (restart) is a bad way to explain what you are suggesting. Just say start a new chain.
jimrandomh
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May 19, 2011, 10:14:34 PM
 #10

Restarting the block chain could work, if you bought out everyone who owns coins on the current block chain at market price. That currently costs about $50M, in exchange for a one-time chance to make incompatible changes and set a new mining schedule. If someone tried to restart the block chain without buying out current coin holders, however, they'd fail, and probably destroy all confidence in the Bitcoin concept in the process.
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May 19, 2011, 10:26:18 PM
 #11

Quote
it's absolutely not fraud. a new block chain does not compromise rights of anyone intending to continue to use the old one. it's not fraud to start up 'inflacoin' and suggest that people use it. it wouldn't be fraud for gavin to do so, or for him to release a client that simply started a new 'bitcoin' chain.

It can be seen as fraud if you'd be pretending that chain will be successful because the original one is, which you are implying. Anyways, if the newcomers were so eager for a brand new chain, I don't see why they can't start it on their own. This is open source, Gavin doing it himself won't bring power to it, and will serve to discredit the original chain. Also, central bankers starting their own block chain is preposterous.

The concept of 2 alternate chains coexisting is unrealistic anyways. 2 pure e-currencies coexisting is borderline impossible, what's left for 2 instances of the same commodity.

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markm
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May 19, 2011, 11:49:55 PM
 #12

Trashing the blockchain to start over is crazy. It was bad enough that testnet suffered that horrible fate, at least with testnet we were warned not to expect that it would not happen. I still see that as a horrendous waste though. What the heck was so awful about testnet's blockchain that it had to be trashed? I don't know but I hope it was truly godawful as wow that was such a horrible waste.

I do think we should have more blockchains, and I regret that the ones I have had a hand in starting up are all such carbon copies of bitcoin that their backers have not been able to figure a reasonable way to simply open them up to the public like bitcoin and testnet are open to the public.

Basically I went with too simple a hack, I should have changed more, maybe not to the extent of creating 21 million coins in the genesis block, but certainly something that would have speeded up the initial creation of coins and brought much much closer in time the day that there would be no more minting of coins.

The problem though has been backing. The groups I have been working with want to back the coins they issue, not millions of coins created by people who have no intention of actually backing them. If I had hacked more I could have gotten the majority of the coins into their hands fast so they could open the blockchain building to the public sooner.

I have seen comments that if Gavin started a chain in which he had all 21 million coins there ever would be, that would be a problem.

I do not think it a problem IF the person who mints them, and thus who issues them, BACKS THEM.

Someone recently wrote about a bunch of ecological electricity generating folk he was thinking of using a blockchain based system for. To me it would make more sense for those people to issue enough of their coins for customers to use to buy the eco friendly electricty they generate than for them to issue coins they "mine" simply because they "mined" them without any intention of honouring them with actual eco friendly electricity to "back" them. So I suggested to him that instead of letting the electricity generating people mint the coins he mint them himself and, in effect, issue to them as many as their customers would require in order to buy the electricity.

That way the coins are backed. They only give out as many coins as they are prepared to accept back in return for electricity. The problem of not having merchants is avoided by having the merchants be the issuers of the coins and only issuing as many as are needed to buy what they are selling.

Basically instead of just saying hey I will sell you a pair of alpaca socks for X dollars, I say hey I will instead give you sockcoins sufficient to buy those socks, if you would prefer those to actually taking the socks today. You can turn them in for actual socks any time, these coins you are buying are backed, they are tokens I am willing to accept back from you.

It seems likely to me that a whole bunch of alternate blockchain coins none of which are actually backed by anything would likely tend toward zero value, as it would always be easier to start a new chain of difficulty one than to mine an existing chain whose difficulty has risen higher than one. But if the initial bootstrapping of a blockchain involved something actually backing the coins, wow, that seems to be a big feature over any arbitrary un-backed new blockchains.

That is part of why I came up with the idea of BitNickels as fractions of a bitcoin: I wanted them to basically be backable with bitcoins, or with any other currency amenable to division into twentieths or to comparison with / exchange with twentieths of some other currency unit. The idea was simply not to give anyone any BitNickels unless, and until, enough actual nickels or bitcoins or *something* was on hand with which to BUY THEM BACK.

That is why I designed my IRC bots to actually deal with the currencies in a way that amounts to backing them with each other. Any bitcoins spent to buy bitnickels resides in the NickelBank's bitcoin account ready to be used to buy back bitnickels. Any bitcoins used to buy CDN (Canadian Digital Notes) resides in CDNbank's bitcoin account ready to buy back CDN, and so on.

The technical problem around this has been that one probably cannot rely upon arbitrary tom dick and hairy out on the net "mining" any of these coins themselves to actually "back" the things, therefore the blockchain building has to be limited to a private network of "branches" of these "banks". Hopefully when "thin clients" come along this will seem less of a problem. If not maybe more hacking is needed to come up with versions wherein tom dick and hairy can "mine" transaction fees but not "mint" coins...

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unk
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May 20, 2011, 01:13:18 AM
 #13

@rezin777: there's no such thing as 'absolutely resetting' a block chain, versus simply encouraging people to use a different one. if there were, bitcoin wouldn't be even remotely secure or decentralised. what i said ought to have been clear.

It seems likely to me that a whole bunch of alternate blockchain coins . . . would likely tend toward zero value, as it would always be easier to start a new chain of difficulty one than to mine an existing chain whose difficulty has risen higher than one.

exactly! my central point is that we face this situation now, even if people don't realize it yet. my encouraging one new chain doesn't change anything conceptually.

the problem that we are both describing is why (1) i am concerned about how the current block chain is being promoted to potential long-term holders, (2) i am concerned for bitcoin as a technology if it becomes too closely associated with that block chain, and (3) i was proposing the idea that gavin and the core dev team, rather than others, take control of the process of developing and promoting something more robust.

one solution to the problem - and i believe the problem is very serious for adoption - is to try to raise barriers to entry against new chains. for example, you could get lots of popular informational sites, merchants, and exchanges, which aren't easy to set up and which benefit from network effects, to collude to prevent future block chains. distract the press, imply people who offer my suggestion in the future are filthy communists, etc. but that's expensive, dishonest, and fragile.

a better solution is to develop block chains that discourage people naturally from producing further block chains except for niche applications. as a simple (and possibly unworkable) example, some have explored the idea of 'constant difficulty' as a way to reduce the incentive you describe. that's too simple because it doesn't take into account changes to technology that could lead to rapid inflation; that was one feature of the world that motivated satoshi to tie difficulty to the (roughly) present hashing power of the network. but 'constant generation' (e.g., 300 btc an hour, unchanging, forever) would very likely address many problems and align future mining and security incentives better than the current chain. it would have many other properties that make it more appealing for the public too, compared to the current chain.

i really do think someone should set it up. if nobody does, i'll volunteer to spearhead it, but i won't have time until about a month from now, even though it's not much work. (i write almost all of what i write to the forum in between, or during, meetings. i long for the days when i used to just be a programmer.) if the bitcoin core dev team doesn't want it, we can fork the code, call it 'credits', and market its very clear advantages to the present block chain to the public. it would, if adopted, be a huge success for bitcoin. i think it would be better if gavin did that than i or others, but i'd prefer to do it than not to see it exist at all. we could incorporate intelligent pending 'breaking changes' to the protocol offered by mike, jeff, and others, too.

lastly, i think 'backing' of coins is probably a red herring. it does provide some of the advantages you describe, but it's theoretically not necessary, and bitcoin was aiming to solve some of the problems you're describing more elegantly, based merely on the trade-utility of the coins.
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May 20, 2011, 01:23:59 AM
 #14

if nobody does, i'll volunteer to spearhead it, but i won't have time until about a month from now, even though it's not much work.

No worries bro, we can wait. I look forward to seeing your superior block chain.
rezin777
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May 20, 2011, 01:24:17 AM
 #15

@rezin777: there's no such thing as 'absolutely resetting' a block chain, versus simply encouraging people to use a different one. if there were, bitcoin wouldn't be even remotely secure or decentralised. what i said ought to have been clear.

Indeed. I though you were suggesting that the current client be changed in some fashion to ignore the current block chain and use a new one. Obviously the current one would still exist as long as people mined with it.

If anyone wants to advertise a new client with a new block chain, I say they should go for it. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
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May 20, 2011, 01:31:54 AM
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yeah, we'll get back to ya ....

edit: RestartaCoin ... thatsa good one (below)  Cheesy

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May 20, 2011, 01:40:56 AM
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It's hard to believe that people are replying to the idea of "restarting the chain" with something other than LOL, ROFLMAO! Cheesy

Those who wish to do that are free to do so at any time. The technology is out: since you think it's inevitable anyway, write a new client, fork the chain into Inflatacoin, RestartaCoin, or whatever! Cheesy

I can't believe that someone would actually propose "restarting" the original chain as something other than a bad joke! Cheesy Takes all kinds to make the world...  

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May 20, 2011, 03:16:21 AM
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It's hard to believe that people are replying to the idea of "restarting the chain" with something other than LOL, ROFLMAO! Cheesy

Those who wish to do that are free to do so at any time. The technology is out: since you think it's inevitable anyway, write a new client, fork the chain into Inflatacoin, RestartaCoin, or whatever! Cheesy

I can't believe that someone would actually propose "restarting" the original chain as something other than a bad joke! Cheesy Takes all kinds to make the world...  

I think that was misunderstanding. People are talking about starting another chain, which is still silly imo, but it needs to be done for learning purposes.

There will only ever be one chain that is similar to the Bitcoin chain. It's where all the incentives point.

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May 20, 2011, 03:25:04 AM
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It's hard to believe that people are replying to the idea of "restarting the chain" with something other than LOL, ROFLMAO! Cheesy

no offense to you personally, but as far as i can tell, this is just instinctive conservatism or tragedy-of-the-commons-style fear of change. most gold traders would give exactly the same response to the current bitcoin block chain as a potential substitute for gold, and there are many more of them than there are of us. are you already on the side of those who think everything is perfect as it is and doesn't need  innovation?

the current block chain stores very little 'value'. it mostly stores 'hope', with an appreciable dose of 'manipulation'. if that undermines the bitcoin technology as a whole, that would indeed be a significant tragedy of the commons. i'm trying to push back against (1) fixation on one block chain and (2) the notion that we should fear all breaking changes in the technology, even at this early, overtly 'beta' stage. that argument should not be met with ridicule.

@freemoney: i think that's potentially very wrong. many incentives, long-term and en masse, point in exactly the other direction. it will sort itself out empirically in the end, not according to any grand theoretical model. but it would be wrong to assume all incentives point to keeping exactly one public block chain based on the current client's rules. they simply don't. i avoid making predictions about the speculative value of a bitcoin, but one prediction i can make is that the notion of alternative block chains will be more prominent by the end of the summer.
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May 20, 2011, 03:31:19 AM
 #20

Quote: "I can't believe that someone would actually propose "restarting" the original chain as something other than a bad joke! Cheesy Takes all kinds to make the world... "

Yeah well I had a hard time believing they were seriously going to scrap the testnet blockchain, too, but they did it.

I have now implemented seven new blockchains each one being implemented by hacking only the -testnet switch section of the bitcoin code, so that each of the new blockchains can be run using software that does the normal bitcoins normally but does one of the new blockchains when you set the -testnet switch.

I only need seven variants because I don't bother with the actual testnet at all. If it is subject to restarts, it is useless to me. So I don't bother having the normal version that does the normal testnet when its -testnet switch is set.

I think to make one to release to the public though I would hack it to re-calibrate difficulty twice as often, halve the number of coins minted per block at least twice as fast maybe four or eight or sixteen times as fast, and start with more coins minted per block so that despite the faster halving it will still end up at 21 million coins.

The objective of this would be to very rapidly leap into a future in which mining reward is mostly the transaction fees. I would want to get the coins out to people fast and without regard for how much processing power they have available to them. So that from a mining company's perspective it would be as if an entire already-populated far-future blockchain suddenly showed up looking to pay them to build a blockchain, not to mint coins.

How to distribute the coins is a begged question though. One advantage of having many blockchains is each can choose a different method of initially distributing coins. Maybe we could build at least one into an open source virtual reality game, much like Lindens were built into Second Life. Maybe we could give some to every one year or more old facebook account that wants one, Heck we could try all the crazy methods various people have suggested.

It would be fun to have even literally hundreds of new currencies with a nice big exchange where they can all be traded against each other, like a stock market / forex game kind of thing.

Also instead of having to make their "shares" through some centralised exchange, anyone interested in issuing "shares" could simply start their own blockchain for them, with any "value" they are to have being provided by their willingness to buy back such shares (coins) as they issue. A whole lot of fun could be had. But so far I have seen very little interest, I don't think anyone at all has even "ident"ified themself to my NickelBot on the IRC channels that handles these seven new blockchains I have so far implemented.

-MarkM- (For hundreds, maybe the shared work ideas could be really useful of course...)

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