Coinbase clears up misconceptions about ASICs, ASIC-resistance and how Proof of work works in new blogpost


Coinbase clears up misconceptions about ASICs, ASIC-resistance and how Proof of work works in new blogpost

https://blog.coinbase.com/how-coinbase-views-proof-of-work-security-f4ba1a139da0

There has been a lot of discussion both in r/btc and the greater cryptocurrency community alike about the importance of POW and how it relates to the economic incentives that undergrid the day-to-day operation of cryptocurrency networks. I believe because so many people do not truly understand the innovation of POW that they become easily confused and fall for scams like POS and ASIC-resistance. Luckily, Coinbase has explained some of their rationale behind their decisions to accept certain coins after a certain number of blockchain confirmations.

Different cryptocurrencies add to their blockchains in different ways. In cryptocurrencies that utilize proof of work, the blockchain is extended by a process known as mining. Miners bundle newly announced transactions together into data structures called blocks, which are added to the blockchain.

A miner attempts to add a block by solving a proof of work puzzle unique to the proposed block. If the miner can find a solution to the puzzle, the miner will announce the block and its solution to the rest of the network. The rest of the network will recognize the valid proof of work solution and consider the proposed block as the most recent addition to the blockchain. Notice that there is no permission required for a miner to produce a block, a fact that allows miners to enter and leave the network at will.

Seems pretty standard, right?

Claim one: It is a security feature for a particular coin’s mining operations to be the dominant application of the hardware used to mine that coin.

This is important as we have seen for smaller coins with larger coins with the same mining hardware. As we've seen with BCH, its possible for larger coins to 'attack' coins with less hashpower, which is why the fliippening is so important for us as a community. As soon as the market prices in the fact that BCH has a superior user experience to BTC, then the miners will 'flip' their hashrate to BCH and BTC will maintain a minority position.

I contend, however, that for this to happen, we first need accurate pricing mechanisms so that when we assess how the market is responding, we are not being mislead by exchange price manipulation which I contend is very heavy currently in this thread: The REAL reason for the price decline or the anatomy of a shakedown! Exchange price manipulation is behind the recent 'decline'. If we use fair value instead to price our coins, we can see an actual, objective comparison. For example, BCH is now only $294.9 to BTC's $9,068.75 or only 3%, but how much of this is exchange manipulation? According to fair value, BCH is actually worth $528.24 while traditional BTC is only worth $6,096.09 for a ratio of ~9% which is 3 times better than exchange price would have you believe!

Owners of the hardware lose the value of their investment if the primary application of the hardware loses value.

Hardware owners are incentivized to consider the long term success of the main application of their hardware. The longer the lifetime of their equipment, the more invested they become in the long-term success of the hardware’s primary application. At time of writing, Bitcoin ASICs are beginning to have significantly longer useful lifespans as efficiency increases of newer models are diminishing.

Another thing they point out is that ASIC resistance is a fool's game:

Algorithm changes to “brick ASICs” simply allow the massive general purpose computational resources of the entire world to mine, and potentially disrupt, a cryptocurrency at will. Coins that have implemented “ASIC-resistant” algorithms have been, empirically, very susceptible to 51% attacks for this very reason. Notable examples of ASIC-resistant coins that have been successfully 51% attacked include BTG, VTC, and XVG. To date, there is not a single case where a coin that dominates its hardware class has been subject to a 51% double spend attack.

As I pointed out earlier this year in this thread, Further evidence that, despite what's detractors desperately want you to believe, fair value is accurately tracking the wealth in the market in real time! Monero's fair value decreases by 40% as miners leave network, Monero also was under a unique, far worse form of 51% attack this year that nearly completely destroyed their community. As further evidence I was correct above, only fair value accurately reflected the change in Monero's worth. The price, on the other hand, remained sky-high. This is heavy evidence of exchange price manipulation and another reason why ASIC resistance doesn't work.

By actively forcing and keeping ASICs off the network, the monero community continued building an ASIC-free ecosystem and economy based on low-hash CPU and GPUs. Which meant that when an asic was actually developed as we know they always will be that economy would be destroyed. You went from a 'large' community of solo miners on CPUs and GPUs to a single entity getting the majority of the hashrate and bankrupting the entire community. This happened wtih every coin when they moved to ASICs. The difference with Monero? Monero's move to ASICs will have been artificially delayed until the community is so large that the introduction will BANKRUPT the majority of economic participants mining! This is worse than a traditional 51% attack and it succinctly summarizes why ASIC resistance is bad idea.

The main takeway:

No algorithm is ever ASIC-proof, merely ASIC-resistant

For any particular computational problem, hardware specialized to solving specifically that problem will always be more efficient than general purpose hardware. In addition to the advantages of writing application-level logic directly into the circuitry, specialized hardware does not need to be burdened by other requirements of general purpose hardware, such as security isolation, clock interrupts, context switching, and other tasks required to support multiple applications. Thus, no proof-of-work algorithm is ever ASIC-proof, merely ASIC-resistant.

Empirically, ASIC-resistant algorithms have repeatedly failed to prevent the development of ASICs. Prominent examples include scrypt (LTC), equihash (ZEC, BTG), ethhash (ETH), and cryptonite[sic] (XMR).

So the takeaways from this are:

  1. If we want to have accurate, objective pricing information, we must use fair value to levelize the supplies between different coins, and to remove false price influences like Tether, whale movements and the fact that exchanges price all coins in BTC, which allows BTC the uncanny ability to move and negatively affect the entire market.

  2. ASIC-resistance is and always has been a fool's game. ASICs are a natural progression of cryptocurrencies that have grown sufficiently in size and popularity, and 'resisting' this move is a form of arrested development akin to 'puberty-resistance' or 'potty-training-resistance'. Its just nonsensical.

In order to make money in cryptocurrencies, we have to keep our heads on straight and not be swept away by popular opinion without good cause. ASIC-resistance is a red-herring that does nothing be destroy the value on your chain. Luckily, most communities like ZCash, Dash, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin accept and understand this basic fact. Thanks for reading!

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