[Bitcoin-development] Block Size Increase

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Thu May 7 00:07:41 UTC 2015

On Wed, May 6, 2015 at 5:12 PM, Matt Corallo <bitcoin-list at bluematt.me> wrote:
> the maximum block size. However, there hasnt been any discussion on this
> mailing list in several years as far as I can tell.

Well, there has been significant public discussion in #bitcoin-wizards
on irc.freenode.net which is available in public logs, specifically
about why increasing the max block size is kicking the can down the
road while possibly compromising blockchain security. There were many
excellent objections that were raised that, sadly, I see are not
referenced at all in the recent media blitz. Frankly I can't help but
feel that if contributions, like those from #bitcoin-wizards, have
been ignored in lieu of technical analysis, and the absence of
discussion on this mailing list, that I feel perhaps there are other
subtle and extremely important technical details that are completely
absent from this--and other-- proposals. I have some rather general
thoughts to offer.

Secured decentralization is the most important and most interesting
property of bitcoin. Everything else is rather trivial and could be
achieved millions of times more efficiently with conventional
technology. Our technical work should be informed by the technical
nature of the system we have constructed.

I suspect that as bitcoin continues to grow in all dimensions and
metrics, that we will see an unending wave of those who are excited by
the idea of Something Different in the face of archaic, crumbling
software and procedures in the rest of the financial world. Money has
found its way into every aspect of human life. There's no doubt in my
mind that bitcoin will always see the most extreme campaigns and the
most extreme misunderstandings. Like moths to a flame or water in the
desert, almost everyone is excited by ANY status quo change
whatsoever. This is something that we have to be vigilante about,
because their excitement is motivation to do excellent work, not
simply any work. For some who are excited about general status quo
changes that bitcoin represents, they may not mind if bitcoin
decentralization disappears and is replaced with just a handful of
centralized nodes. Whereas for development purposes we must hold
ourselves to extremely high standards before proposing changes,
especially to the public, that have the potential to be unsafe and
economically unsafe. We have examples from NASA about how to engineer
extremely fault tolerant systems, and we have examples from Linux
about how to have high standards in open-source projects. Safety is
absolutely critical, even in the face of seemingly irrational
excuberance of others who want to scale to trillions of daily coffee
transactions individually stored forever in the blockchain.

When designing bitcoin or even some other system, an important design
target is what the system should be capable of. How many transactions
should the system perform? What is the correct number of transactions
for a healthy, modern civilization to perform every day? And how fast
should that (not) grow? Should we allow for 2 billion trillion coffee
transactions every day, or what about 100 trillion transactions per
second? I suspect that these sorts of questions are entirely
unanswerable and boring. So in the absence of technical targets to
reach during the design phase, I suspect that Jeff Garzik was right
when he pointed out a few months ago that bitcoin is good at
settlement and clearing. There are many potential technical solutions
for aggregating millions (trillions?) of transactions into tiny
bundles. As a small proof-of-concept, imagine two parties sending
transactions back and forth 100 million times. Instead of recording
every transaction, you could record the start state and the end state,
and end up with two transactions or less. That's a 100 million fold,
without modifying max block size and without potentially compromising
secured decentralization.

The MIT group should listen up and get to work figuring out how to
measure decentralization and its security :-). Maybe we should be
collectively pestering Andrew Miller to do this, too. No pressure,
dude. Getting this measurement right would be really beneficial
because we would have a more academic and technical understanding to
work with. I would also characterize this as high priority next to the
"formally verified correctness proofs for Script and

Also, I think that getting this out in the open on this mailing list
is an excellent step forward.

- Bryan
1 512 203 0507

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