The Honest Path vs The Business Decision — To Fork or Not to Fork, that is the Question

In a previous post I wrote how immutability of any blockchain is a dream in a human world (https://medium.com/@lemurvanstar/immutability-of-any-blockchain-is-an-unrealistic-attempt-at-perfection-that-will-never-be-possible-4e4fcae59804#.rnj6hytb4). After more research and more thought, I’ve done a 180 on my position. Immutability is the only hope of achieving a better world through decentralization and a sharing economy, forking should not be considered an option at all, and should be thought as the most forbidden sin in any blockchain ecosystem.

What has brought me to this conclusion, and to change my mind so drastically? Well, I think, for one, watching Epicenter Bitcoin’s podcast #134 with Vlad Zamfir and Emin Gün Sirer has changed my mind about a few things. For one, these guys are talking out in the open about all of these vulnerabilities, inconsistencies, and basic lack of programming sense (and common sense) in the structure of The DAO before anything ever happened! If these vulnerabilities were apparent before the hack took place, they should have been dealt with immediately by Slockit and Ethereum.

If you look closer you find a conflict of interest: there is a (marketing) need to hype and make popular an evolving technology in order to help it grow…and at the same time there is a need for responsibility when dealing with the public and the community, to be sure that what you are hyping is safe and structurally sound. The problem is that money corrupts people, and the more money involved, the more corrupted people are willing to become.

Stephan Tual is a sales guy, he is very good at sales. In sales, it is important to save face if the product has a fault, and try to sell it anyway. My questions after watching Epicenter Bitcoin #134 are, why did Slock.it let weak and vulnerable programming hold so much money, even after its faults were discovered and exposed and the danger was real? This was no longer a small danger, this had become like a dangerous product that needed to be recalled immediately. Why did they not act appropriately and quickly? Why didn’t the Ethereum team act? They were aware as much as anyone else of the dangers of the situation. The closest thing I saw to acting was Gavin Wood’s resignation as curator and a strange blog post containing a very vague warning. That’s all.

Everybody is talking about how civil the Ethereum community is and how mature they are for not resorting to name-calling or childish arguing, however, where is the maturity in allowing this known danger to other people’s investments…sit…and wait…and saying nothing…and doing nothing…until it was already too late? Did they put investors first or did they say to themselves… “knowledge of the vulnerabilities could hurt The DAO and Ethereum…so we better just keep quiet about it and hope we can fix it before anything bad happens?” I think they opted for the second, less honest course. That’s how it seems to me.

So now there is a decision to be made. To fork or not to fork. By forking, Ethereum will clean up the mess they made. And yes, I hold the Ethereum team accountable as much as the Slockit team because the Ethereum devs were curators of The DAO and The DAO would have been the source of the funds that would go to building the Ethereum world computer, a platform for running the IoT, which was the vision of the entire Ethereum community, and the selling point to companies like Samsung, IBM, and Microsoft.

If Ethereum forks their chain, do not be mistaken, it is not for humanity, it is a business decision. It is not based on what is the healthiest thing for the Ethereum blockchain, and that’s disappointing, because as I understand it, the Ethereum dev team supports the hard fork, meaning that they support what is best for short-term business gains over what is healthiest for the Ethereum blockchain in the long run.

I have personally been struggling very hard to understand the ‘fork or no fork debate’, and its implications. It initially seemed like a no-brainer. You can’t let innocent investors be hacked. But I got confused when I started to read the opinions of long-time community members like Anthony Di Iorio, a man who’s opinion I respect very much, who is against forking. This issue is obviously much more complicated then it seems at first glance.

The key is to understand exactly what forking is and what it does. If you can do that, you can see how it should never even have been considered as an option. It should not have even been mentioned. It is just wrong. Anybody who believes in the power of blockchain technology to change the world and make it a better place would never consider forking as a solution to recover funds.

I know it sounds very harsh, if you still don’t get the importance of the issue. But the whole future of blockchains and cryptocurrencies and decentralized economies rests on this one principle. It is like performing a lobotomy on a person because one of their opinions is not in agreement with the majority. It’s like re-dealing a round of poker in a high stakes game with many players just because one player exposed one of his cards. It’s like that Adam Sandler movie with the remote control.

The truth is that the Ethereum blockchain performed perfectly and did its job in a neutral manner. The Ethereum blockchain should not be forked, it is not responsible for correcting the faulty code of a contract running on its platform. I am also starting to think that this DAO hack is really poetic justice. The bugs were exposed, the chance was there to do something. No one did. This was human error, not the fault of the Ethereum blockchain, and the chain should not be adjusted to be made responsible for correcting the poor human decisions which led to this theft. It is sad but I think the best and most honest decision is to let it be and to continue on a POW system for a while longer than planned. The stolen ether will eventually enter back into the ecosystem.

The truth is this, the only reason the Ethereum team is even considering forking is because this is such a hard business blow to them. And I am severely disappointed by that. I would like to conclude by saying that I am a DAO token holder, and I choose to lose my investment than to endanger the future of this exciting technology. Most people, especially mainstreamers, won’t understand, at first, but eventually after time, I feel that Ethereum will benefit by preserving its integrity and its commitment to science over business.