Tribalism in Cryptocurrency
Preface: I’m going to stay as neutral as possible with this piece. I will simply present the facts as I see them (which anyone is free to correct me on) and I will not be giving my personal opinion on anything. I do not hold any Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash.
Tribalism is at the core of every human being. It is programmed into our DNA from birth and it stays with us until the day we die. It plays a huge part in forming our world views, opinions and relationships in life. It dictates whether we align ourselves with one group or another. Taken to the extreme, tribalism leads to violent physical clashes — whether that be localized revolutions or world wars.
Tribalism's Effect on Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency naturally lends itself to tribalism. There is a strong incentive to be loyal to certain projects; that incentive is, mostly, monetary. People who have invested money into something will obviously have a strong inclination to ensure it’s success. Of course, money isn’t the only incentive people have. Strongly held beliefs and ideologies play a huge part in cryptocurrency just as it does in real life. Some people don’t even care about money but they still want to see a certain project fail because they believe that it deserves to.
This all creates a strong reason for people to spread misinformation and deceit among the ‘rival’ communities in order to prop up the value of their own cryptocurrency. This happens with every single cryptocurrency. They all have loyal followers who will constantly talk about (shill) their own investment while simultaneously attacking anything that could be seen as a threat. Not everyone does this, but big players have loud, far-reaching voices in the cryptocurrency space and a lot of them have a very loyal following. These prominent members exploit this power just as politicians would to further their own agenda.
Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash
The most extreme case of tribalism exists in Bitcoin. The conflict mainly stems from opposing views regarding how to scale the Bitcoin blockchain. On one side, you have Bitcoin Core who wish to scale the chain via technologies such as Lightning Networks, which doesn’t exist in a workable form. On the other side, you have the ‘big-blockers’, who wish to scale the blockchain via increasing the block size limit in addition to Layer 2 technologies when and if they are shown to actually deliver on their promises, as they currently cannot and have not been able to for the last two years. There are many arguments on both sides as to which solution will work better but unfortunately, from what I have seen, the Bitcoin Core vs big-blockers debate is more like a bunch of monkeys flinging shit at each other and hoping that somehow resolves the issue. From the vitriol and constant attacks on social media to the outright suppression of opposing views (via censorship) to unfounded accusations aimed at prominent members in both communities — the Bitcoin community continues to be firmly divided.
The division within the Bitcoin community resulted in Bitcoin losing it’s very strong foothold among Cryptocurrencies and was almost overtaken by Ethereum in June 2017
Ultimately, the politics within Bitcoin became so bad that many began to look for alternatives. Those alternatives came in the form of Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. Many people were completely fed up with the ugly politics within Bitcoin and wanted change. Then, on August 1st 2017, the ‘big-blockers’, decided to fork to their own version of Bitcoin called Bitcoin Cash. This would allow both parties to scale their blockchains as they saw fit and then the community could settle the debate once and for all by using practicalities instead of theory. Unfortunately, this only exacerbated the ugliness.
The entire Bitcoin scene went from in-fighting to an all out war between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. It reminded me of the 2016 U.S presidential election. Both sides were so blinded by their hate for each other that a lot of logical arguments were thrown out in favor of personal attacks, deception and propaganda. All it takes is to spend a little time on Reddit or Twitter going through posts from prominent members of both the Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash communities to see how bad it has gotten. Reading the replies to these posts is both saddening and eye-opening. Rather than work on the technology and prove, with facts, that a solution works better, a lot of people just decide to constantly attack each other.
The fighting within the Bitcoin community doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Many people had hoped that once the big-blockers forked off of Bitcoin, the communities would go their separate ways and work on their own technologies in relative harmony. In hindsight, this view was one of delusion.
The Free Market
Free market economics dictates that the market will choose the ‘best’ outcome. That outcome is, in this case, the most secure and efficient way to scale Bitcoin. A similar thing can be seen within the Ethereum and Ethereum Classic communities. The market and community have very clearly decided that they want to follow the path of Ethereum. Though, keep in mind that Ethereum Classic came about for a completely different reason to Bitcoin Cash. There are, of course, still believers in Ethereum Classic and they are free to follow that path. Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash will eventually share a similar fate.
In the end, one of the key points of Bitcoin and blockchains is to disrupt the status quo and bring forth a revolution in which we give power back to the people. If we have to rely on propaganda, smear campaigns and outright lies to advance this revolutionary technology, are we really any better than the society we are trying to change?