Some 52,000 eth, currently worth around $30 million, attest to the non-fakable views of their holders regarding the question of whether 500,000 eth, frozen due to a multi-sig bug exploit in ethereum’s second client, Parity, should be restored.
In this day two of the week long vote, the results are in flux, but at the time of writing there is a complete split in the middle, with 51.9% voting in favor of restoring the coins and 47.3% voting against.
While some 463 eth, that’s nearly a quarter of a million dollars, have bothered to say they don’t care. Why that option is there, we don’t know. It should be just a yes or no in our view, but here are the results:
It remains to be seen how this will change in the coming days, or whether it will change at all considering the vote has now been going on for 48 hours.
A slight majority is still a majority, but really the results so far show there’s a complete split. Quite in contrast to the Slockit DAO vote which had 97% support in day one and some 87% support in day two.
Such votes are of course not binding. They don’t make the protocol automatically do something as some projects in development, like Tezos, plans to do.
The vote instead is an unfakable indication of general sentiment regarding the question, therefore we think it is highly persuasive and in certain circumstances as good as practically binding.
We should clarify the only aspect that can not be faked here is the number of eth. That is determined by the eth amounts held in the address that has voted, and if that eth amount changes then the “ether voted” count changes accordingly.
The votes numbers here can be faked because that’s based on the number of addresses and one individual can of course hold many addresses, but they can’t fake the number of eth involved.
That does make it 1 eth, 1 vote, rather than one individual, one vote, and thus does leave it open to criticisms of the rich making decisions, but so far the “rich” have not yet made what we could objectively say is a wrong decision, so until a better way can be found then this method will probably be a highly persuasive factor when the results are clear.
As far as the result in question, we can’t say the matter is clear at this point because it shows a complete split at this stage.
That may change, but if we assume this is the end result, then it is probably unlikely even supporters would think it should nonetheless go ahead on the basis that there is a slight majority.
The main reason for that would be practical considerations. Making an exception does have a very high bar because there is quite a bit of distraction to the entire ecosystem and without a clear “mandate,” we don’t quite know what that disruption would be.
Alex Van de Sande, an ethereum dev who was against the Slockit DAO fork, lays out some of the potential disruption to the dapps and tokens ecosystem.
The points he makes apply to chain-split forks in general, rather than specifically to the matter at hand. So we don’t agree with his conclusion that “splits are bad.”
We don’t agree with it because without the potential, willingness, or ability to split, then developers would have far too much power, and that power would necessarily corrupt.
Markets have moreover shown they do value such splits when the circumstances warrant it, and while disruption to dapps or other aspects is one factor to make the risk of such splits a fairly high barrier, that disruption is merely the cost of freedom.
“Imagine if Google employees could vote on some political stance and then every single android developer would also have to explicitly take an action agreeing or disagreeing,” Sande says.
His conclusion is that would be bad, but we do think Google would have upheld far better their “do no evil” motto had such democracy been incorporated into their corporate world.
Ethereum is of course no Google, but a commons, and that means collective decisions need to be taken sometimes, and such collective decisions can also involve a split, and in our view that’s a very beautiful thing as the market has now proven through its ultimate decision making process.
However, in this particular case, although we have said we are in favor of restoring Parity’s eth to encourage innovation, if the current results are the final results, then we would no longer be in favor despite the slight majority.
That’s mainly because of practical considerations. In such tight split, a lot of time, if nothing else, would need to be dedicated to the matter by the entire ecosystem. That would set-back Casper, sharding, all the dapps, everything, by certainly months but maybe even years.
That cost would be far too high, we think, for the benefit, and perhaps this case can be seen as the exception that proves the rule.
Immutability does have exceptions, but they are exceptions. There would need to be a very good reason for such exception to apply, and the best way we can currently judge if there is such very good reason (minus obviously logics and common sense) is the result of the token-holders vote.
If the result is so close, then it is probably not a “very good reason,” but just a “good reason,” which has to then be balanced with other factors.
That’s what we think is the current approach in any event. There is no reason why a new blockchain can’t have as its selling point a far more flexible approach whereby such things, like the Parity matter, or indeed other smaller scale like-wise matters, are not really up to a vote but sort of incorporated into an if/then process.
That is, a blockchain which does not have strict immutability as its selling point, but complete flexibility or more flexibility in a sort of reverse ether classic ecosystem.
We think that would be an interesting experiment and perhaps now is the time to start it by Parity intentionally and amicably splitting into a minority chain that would have an if/then process to semi-automatically restore coins, whether accidentally frozen or hacked, with the sole condition being they do not affect other coins/smart contracts, rather than also needing community support in an exceptional basis.
Because as far as eth is concerned, it does appear to us the matter should be closed in the circumstances, with this event standing as the exception that proves the general rule.