Vlad Zamfir from Ethereum: "code is not law" and immutability postponed
Vlad Zamfir is a researcher related to the Ethereum foundation. During an interview, he explains why his philosophy is contrary to the concept of immutability that the blockchain narrative has so far portrayed when studying this technology.
Involved in the heart of the ETH infrastructure, Vlad cares about following the research and architecture related to the great paradigm shift coming with Eth 2.0, the Proof of Stake.
As his research focuses on Casper‘s design, the consensus system for Ethereum 2.0, he could not fail to take an interest in the social sciences, law and culture applied to the crypto world.
Software that is launched within a distributed system is kept updated and implemented by engineers and developers who, day after day, make arbitrary choices about the design of the code.
Its use creates an impact on the external dimension linked to the reality of human beings who are bound by the regulations of each country.
The concept of immutability is an assumption that seems to replace the need for governance, whereas it itself presents a model of governance.
Applied technology has a political, social and economic character and often determines the morality on which a blockchain is based in order to function.
In the words of the person in charge of the Casper project:
“These types of structures represent a new form of institution”.
As such, it is subject to models and rules, even if not yet ratified by any power group, state or organization.
The dominant unwritten rule that prevails in Bitcoin and Ethereum communities is immutability. This paradigm of thought argues that the protocol, the contracts and the ledger cannot be changed except for technological reasons.
“One might think that it is an anarchist model but one would say more a hyper paranoid system fearful that the power of large companies or the state could take possession of the protocol”.
This is what Vlad explains while illustrating very complex concepts related to the evolution of this sector. To succeed in the enterprise, such a system should be completely autonomous, but since it is not, Zamfir argues:
“The right thing is a compromise”.
The same defence of the concept of immutability provides for an education that aims to maintain this immutability. Consequently, the need to defend it provides for the possibility that it may be abolished. A global order in the blockchain is therefore foreseen and determined by those who participate in it.
Immutability is a norm created in the blockchain ecosystem that determines how one should behave when faced with a dispute. According to Zamfir, immutability is not legitimate and states: it is not a legitimate rule:
“I do not agree with the fact that” as a rule “I cannot discuss the rule of immutability, I am philosophically opposed”.
His debate on immutability is strong and contrary to the trend
Imagine Bitcoiners, who have done a most spectacular job of decentralized governance, imagining that there is no such thing and instead that the blockchain is immutable lol
— Vlad “ETH is not money” Zamfir (@VladZamfir) March 9, 2020
On the one hand, there is the presumed immutability and on the other, the overwhelming power of a corporate or state (permissioned VS permissionless).
That is why talking about crypto law is not entirely senseless as long as the compromise is acceptable. It, therefore, seems that the assumption “code is law” is losing strength, leaving room for “code is code” and “law is law”.
Zamfir argues that a form of crypto law is necessary. Avoiding the growth of permissioned blockchain systems, which boast of being compliant thanks to the power of structures governed by a few entities, is a responsibility of the internal public blockchain industry.
To do so, international legislations will have to be established on which disputes between people connected by this sector can be based. Without it, adoption will be compromised.
“Without a better crypto law the demand for institutional blockchain will grow”.
The colonization of a system based on the power of a few must be mitigated by the presence of protocols that represent an international sentiment consistent with the interests of most.
In the case of a blockchain, says Zamfir, there will always be technical limitations to what we can and cannot do.
Changing the content of a block without breaking the chain and losing consent is impossible, but that does not mean that immutability is a rule applicable in every field of application.
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