Litecoin’s Savior: …Centralization?
The recent Litecoin Roundtable decision has released a flurry of excitement as well as the oft-heard claim of “Centralization!” At a cursory glance it sort of appears that way. We see a small group of influential players in the crypto space, gather together to “decide” what Litecoin is going to do. The outcome of which (the decision to implement SegWit on Litecoin) I believe was undoubtedly the best path forward. But it leads us to ask, “why is their decision considered the final word?” and does it mean that “Litecoin is centralized?” Let’s explore…
As a community, the high percentage of cypherpunks, libertarians, and anarchists makes the cryptocurrency world endlessly fascinating. Crazy shit happens around here on the daily. But with such a prevalent anti-establishment sentiment comes an ocean of distrust. It’s basically in our slogan, “Don’t Trust, Verify.” This is a brilliant rule for judging a technology or system, but this has no useful application for judging people. People can be crazy, insensitive, insecure, spiteful, defensive, and outright assholes sometimes. And our judgement of peoples’ ideas and proposals are absolutely influenced by how much we trust them as a person, no matter how much we think its “all about the code.” This may be part of the reason why we seem to have such a difficult time as a community. Being a diverse and cohesive community is incredibly hard. It is even harder being one that is global, has multiple language barriers, many different cultures, and a significant number of people who are either paranoid (libertarians), distrusting (anarchists), or downright socially inept (most programmers). It makes it easy to understand why such a community would immediately and seriously consider evicting anything and everything that even began to resemble a centralized point of decision making. But with that comes a tendency to overanalyze and misunderstand the difference between productive organization, and centralized decision making.
Did The Roundtable Decide For Us?
It is critically important to differentiate between organizational leadership and centralized control. The most amusing thing about this concern is that nearly all of the users who claim the LTC roundtable is a sign of centralization are pro-SegWit. Meaning the roundtable has sided with the community, but some of the community is now angry at how the decision appeared.
Let’s put this in perspective with an analogy: Imagine we have a neighborhood of 100 people who all want to widen the road, but doing so requires a unanimous vote. 95 of the people have voted to widen it, and the last 5 have to sit down and thoroughly discuss or argue it with a few influential representatives of the neighborhood. Afterward, the last 5 individuals finally agree to vote for a wider road. This scenario does not demonstrate a small group of people making a decision for the rest of the neighborhood. It is the neighborhood addressing the last 5 in opposition and convincing them to reach consensus instead of resorting to name-calling, bitching, and fighting. What you end up with is a system where a minority of the community may be able to prevent an action or decision, but is unable to force one on everyone else. Meaning the neighborhood gets a wider road because a vast majority wanted it, and the last 5 guys had to be convinced it was a good idea. Convincing them simply took sitting down, discussing, and respecting them as people and equal members of the community.
It is also important to take notice that the miners in the Litecoin space opposing SegWit likely felt they had very limited power. Within minutes of new mining power turning on to block Segwit, the UASF drums began to beat. Within just a few days the sentiment had become so accepted as to be treated as obvious and almost a necessity. The explicit purpose of which was to show that a small group, particularly one interested more in political posturing than Litecoin’s success, would not hold sway over the vast majority of users, node operators, developers, and businesses that clearly wanted to implement SegWit. This is when the many requests for discussion and coming to an agreement were brought back to the forefront, and a meeting scheduled months out was immediately moved forward to the following day.
The Decentralized Outcome
To put it simply. The Litecoin example, I think, demonstrated very well that the system is decentralized. And that powerful players, even those with possibly a majority hashrate, cannot simply decide the future of the protocol. This was unquestionably a result of a cumulative consensus between every segment of the industry, including the developers, node operators, businesses and services, social community, and the miners.
Despite power within cryptocurrency being distributed somewhat haphazardly and unevenly, it still proves to be distributed among many groups. Bitcoin’s protocol stalemate is just as much proof of this as Litecoin’s consensus. I think this will set a precedent moving forward that hopefully maintains a decentralized and distributed money that becomes hardened like a cryptographic stone. Stone that we can use to build an entire kingdom, one where we do not invite any kings.