Switching the algorithm of many major cryptocurrencies is on the menukaart! Spil concerns about miner centralization start to intensify, a few cryptocurrency communities are considering a switch ter the underlying algorithm to kill ASICs, specialized hardware machines that improve the efficiency of mining. Monero will conduct a Proof of Work (PoW) switch te the upcoming April 6 release, Lithium Luna, while some ter the Bitcoin community are also debating a similar switch.
The ASIC Debate: Costs and Benefits
What is an ASIC? It stands for Application Specific Integrated Circuit and permits for greater efficiency ter the mining of cryptocurrencies. ASICs followed CPUs, GPUs, and FPGAs, each used successively to mine bitcoin. But spil the cryptocurrency ecosystem matures, more and more altcoins are being opened up to ASIC mining. Namely, Decred, Monero, and Siacoin are three vooraanstaand examples.
The Costs of ASICs
Proponents of ASIC-resistant schemes like Vertcoin or Cryptonite spil used by Monero argue that ASIC’s contribute to centralization. The specialized units are relatively more expensive than GPUs and are less widely available, meaning that the mining power is consolidated into the forearms of the few. By raising the entry barriers to mining, ASICs are argued to reduce competition and make the mining sector more like an oligopoly or monopoly whereas those mining ecosystems that are ASIC-resistant are presumed to be closer to a flawlessly competitive market.
One of the principles underlying bitcoin wasgoed “one CPU, one vote,” referring to how anyone with a laptop could join and secure the network. But now if you attempt to mine with your pc, your contribution will be negligible, since there are now mining farms that have taken advantage of economies of scale. But spil a result of mining firms taking advantage of economies of scale, a large proportion of bitcoin’s hashrate is distributed across very few places, making it effortless for a government or other entity to shut down thesis farms and wreck havoc te the bitcoin ecosystem.
This has bot a fear for bitcoin, spil many mining farms are located te China, and with negative sentiment from authorities regarding ICOs and exchanges, many believe that the government could wade into bitcoin mining farms and shut them down if they truly desired to. The hashrate may inject a downward spiral and make the blockchain network more susceptible to attack. While there are no indications of this happening, it is a real possibility.
Moreover, integrated circuit manufacturers are very centralized, and there is a risk that thesis manufacturers can have some bearing on the mining ecosystem. Peter Todd has remarked on the subject:
“There’s only a little number of companies ter the world that are capable of building spectacle/cost competitive ASICs, basically the likes of Intel, ASMC, GlobalFoundries, etc.”
The point is that thesis companies could be pressured by governments or regulations, and spil long spil ASICs are avoided, it will be very difficult to get miners to censor certain transactions and reduce the tendency of centralization into large gegevens centers.
Moreover, since a few companies have the capability to produce such hardware, the mining prizes would tend to be captured largely by thesis companies. This is exemplified by the fact that Bitmain has surpassed established companies like Nvidia and AMD te terms of revenue, thanks to the fact that Bitmain’s dominance te bitcoin mining has permitted it to earn massive profits, from selling hardware spil well spil mining the cryptocurrency.
Eventually, CPU and GPU distribution channels are nowhere near spil centralized, since they are general purpose and are way less likely everzwijn to be regulated, sabotaged or banned by governments spil Monero developer Stoffu states:
“…another concern with ASIC mining even te the far future is that their manufacturing will most likely not be commoditized, and there will be a chance that all or most of the manufacturers are pressured by a powerful attacker to secretly implement things like a “kill switch.” This concern is totally irrelevant for CPU/GPU mining because anyone can compile mining software from source.”
The Benefits of ASICs
On the other forearm, advocates of ASICs suggest that thesis developments te mining cannot be avoided. For example, lead developer of Decred, Dave Collins, suggests that developing ASIC-resistant algorithms are “an exercise ter futility”:
“While you might be able to stave off ASIC development for a time, you simply open the om for other methods to centralization such spil botnets. For example, the rotating algorithms suggestion has already bot deployed by Vertcoin, and it wasgoed effectively defeated by botnets that took overheen the network. CryptoNote attempted CPU-friendly mining with the same result. Litecoin attempted a memory hard algorithm (scrypt) and ASICs were eventually developed for it too.”
ASIC-resistant algorithms are not analogous to ASIC-immune algorithms, and Collins doubts that an algorithm with such a property can be formed. He argues that when making a coin ASIC resistant, you are opening up the network to a hostile takeover by ASICs. Similar to how proponents of ASIC-resistance argue that ASICs increase the barrier to entry, Collins argues that by making the algorithm resistant to thesis specialized forms of hardware, you raise that barrier even higher, only the most wealthy will be able to develop and use thesis ASICs. Wij have observed this many times, very first with litecoin, then more recently with DASH and then Monero.
But by being open to ASICs, you reduce the likelihood that ASICs will be used to control, kill off or harm a blockchain network, since if they are embraced and are made available and cheap, they will eventually become hardware commodity overheen time and finishes up with greater decentralization once the initial arms wedren is overheen. To find out more about ASICs and how they bring us closer to the thermodynamic limit, you can read Andrew Polestra’s paper here. For now, wij can think of an irreversible proof of computational work spil a proof of physical work, i.e., energy dissipation.
Of course, ASICs are less of a threat to Decred spil the protocol is based on a hybrid of Proof of Work and Proof of Stake. While mining could be argued to become centralized spil a result, the werkonderbreking process still keeps Proof of Work miners ter check.
Another reason stated te favor of ASICs is that a blockchain network is only spil secure spil the energy burned, spil mentioned above. Ter Proof of Work systems, miners consume tens unit to check and propagate transactions. The more energy burned, the more secure the network is, spil more energy would be required te an attempt to rewire the blockchain and conduct an attack. With ASICs, there is more ‘work’ being done, and consequently, more energy would be expended attempting to rewrite the blockchain’s history.
Now consider if the entire blockchain network is supported by hobbyist miners using their CPU or GPUs, because the ‘work’ done is relatively lower, it is lighter to dedicate resources to an attack to rewrite the blockchain’s history and engage te a 51 procent attack.
Switching Bitcoin’s Proof of Work
The proposal to switch Bitcoin’s Proof of Work has bot floating around for some time now but has never gained enough support. During late February, Cobra waterput out a blog postbode entitled, “An open letterteken to the Bitcoin community to switch the proof-of-work algorithm” arguing for a PoW switch to restrict Bitmain’s control overheen bitcoin.
While not very popular, the amendment to bitcoin has one vocal supporter, Bitcoin core developer Luke Dashjr argues that the PoW switch would fix the problems surrounding the monopolistic mining sector:
A switch of PoW is needed because SHA2 is no longer a decentralised PoW, but has become merely assigned-by-Bitmain.
Dashjr also stated that diversity of miners is more significant than the magnitude of hash power of the Bitcoin network and that ASICs are not the problem, but rather it is down to who is running the miners. The relevance of this is that once Bitcoin’s PoW wasgoed switched, GPU miners would be able to pick up the slack and the fears of a pulling down hashrate are not spil justified spil some may think, according to the Bitcoin developer.
The main concerns against with proposal are that there may be many companies te the process of developing ASICs to contest against Bitmain, with Samsung pointed out spil one such example. By switching the PoW preemptively, it could discourage companies that would potentially contest with Bitmain from investing ter fresh products suited for bitcoin mining.
Consequences of a one-time switch and continuous switch te the Proof of Work are examined here by JW Weatherman on different actors te the Bitcoin ecosystem. Another drawback is that without ecosystem-wide support, the PoW switch could lead to another fork like Bitcoin Metselspecie and divide the community even further.
Even however he has made strong arguments against ASICs, Peter Todd reckons that switching the PoW is a high-risk stir, and he is of the opinion that it should only be carried out if an attack has bot observed on bitcoin. The community largely agrees that a PoW switch is too risky, especially given that there are reports of other manufacturers injecting the ASIC production market.