[Bitcoin-development] Addressing rapid changes in mining power

Andy Parkins andyparkins at gmail.com
Wed Nov 23 12:54:41 UTC 2011


On 2011 November 23 Wednesday, Jorge Timón wrote:
> With the current system, the timestamp can also be cheated, but miners
> have no direct incentive to do it. With your system, they increase
> their probability of mining a block by putting a false timestamp.
> Also, where's the network clock you're talking about? Isn't it the
> timestamps in the blockchain?

(1) The "probability of mining a block" is old-think.  The probability of 
mining a block is 100% in my system.  Instead, it becomes "the probability of 
your block being the hardest" and that requires actual hashing power 
regardless of the timestamp you write on the block.  I could write that my 
block was generated next year; but I can't fake the hashing power it needs to 
generate one year's worth of hashes.

If chain difficulty were summed correctly (sum(log(difficulty)), I guess), 
then time makes not the slightest difference anyway.  You can issue blocks at 
any time with any difficulty, and the "hardest" chain always wins.  The block 
period can be anything, and it is only the block reward that makes it 
necessary to pick a particular period for block issuing (even that could be 
worked around I guess with a variable reward, but why bother?).

(2) For the network clock; see util.cpp:GetAdjustedTime().

(3) Current clients do have an incentive: more time.  The more time they get, 
the more hashes they can try.  The current client already checks the 
timestamp:

  main.cpp:CBlock::CheckBlock()

    // Check timestamp
    if (GetBlockTime() > GetAdjustedTime() + 2 * 60 * 60)
        return error("CheckBlock() : block timestamp too far in the future");

My suggestion only requires that the two hour window be reduced; and a lower 
limit to be added.  Also: while the miners have an incentive to lie about the 
time, the nodes they broadcast to have an incentive to reject mistimed blocks, 
so you won't gain much by lying to your peers since your block won't be 
accepted -- the incentive is therefore removed.

Note: my system also prevents an attack that is possible with current bitcoin: 
recalculating the entire chain.  Let's say Visa want to take over bitcoin.  
They buy enough computing power to significantly beat the current bitcoin 
network; then they start recalculating the entire block chain; since early 
blocks were low difficulty, it's not that hard to do.  Once they overtake the 
real chain, they have effectively undone all previous transactions.  (I'm not 
suggesting this is likely; and it's actually mitigated by the hard-coded block 
hashes).  The point is that blocks are only generatable for the time when the 
rest of the network is willing to add them to the chain.



Andy

-- 
Dr Andy Parkins
andyparkins at gmail.com
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