The recent meeting of bitcoin power players in Hong Kong was intensely followed by bitcoin believers, with the crowd anticipating hearing the future roadmap for the digital currency. The past 12 months have witnessed dramatic twists in the bitcoin world: developers leaving the team, debates over blocksize shaping the future of the entire bitcoin project, and price and confidence swinging to match the fury of the debate. What did we learn from the meeting in Hong Kong? Bitcoin is moving in the wrong, very centralized direction.
A few big-name developers have been intimately involved with bitcoin from the start, and perhaps most prominent among those is Mike Hearn. Late in 2015, with competing proposals for how bitcoin should scale blocksize under review by the community, Hearn called it quits. In a lengthy explanation he expounded on what he sees as the failures of the community. The response in turn was the demonization of Hearn by the same community that benefited from his labor for five years. So who is developing bitcoin now? The bitcoin core team lists dozens of programmers, but in practicality only a few are responsible for the majority of the work. One of the most vocal and involved contributors is “lukejr,” a youthful programmer located in Florida.
The handle “lukejr” is owned by an aggressively Catholic, and increasingly influential bitcoin programmer who first rose to prominence for inserting religious messages into bitcoin. The community has apparently forgiven “lukejr” for his early indiscretion, and absolute views on Catholicism, due to his more recent populist sentiments. Nevermind that “lukejr” focuses more on creating ways for tonal numbers to be utilized that in finding practical compromises with established developers. In order for bitcoin to become mainstream, the minds that decide the course of bitcoin should have enough mainstream understanding to produce an end state that will benefit users. How will a group of anti-establishment techno-geeks unseat the current system when their chief product is idealistic vitriol posted on the internet? It isn’t just that “lukejr” is a problem in bitcoin, though. The community in general has turned away from what originally made bitcoin so unique: decentralization.
The meeting in Hong Kong was described as a meeting to discuss the future plans of bitcoin. What it really was, was a gathering of a few individuals, the resident power brokers in the bitcoin ecosystem, who hold significantly more power over how bitcoin operates and progresses, than anyone else. Mining organizations have, through the centralization of mining efforts, created a quasi-cartel that will decide the future of bitcoin. In fact, they’re already started deciding the future, and the Hong Kong “ consensus ” is clear evidence that the desire for decentralization in the bitcoin experiment has met with failure. The experiment is now ruled by a few Chinese mining conglomerates and their assistant – an abrasive, wonkish, and inexperienced programmer in Florida. Is this what Satoshi intended for bitcoin? I find that doubtful.