nChain’s chief scientist explains why orphans should not be “fixed.”
Recent debates have seen developers bringing up the issue of orphan blocks—the blocks that have been abandoned in a chain as a result of two miners discovering a block at the same time, or when an attacker attempts a double spend.
In his Medium post titled “Iron and Steel,” nChain’s chief scientist Dr. Craig Wright asserts that orphan blocks are not flaws that need to be fixed. Making an analogy between forging steel and processing Bitcoin transactions, he compared orphan blocks to the iron needed to make the steel.
“Many developers think that Orphan blocks are a primary concern that needs to be address and worse, fixed. Orphans are not a flaw; they are the carbon introduced into the Iron that makes Bitcoin steel.”
Wright insists that orphan blocks are not a “flaw,” but rather a necessary part of the system. Miners dread the thought of blocks being orphaned since in Bitcoin, mining orphan blocks yield no reward. But Wright insists that regardless of the orphan rate, the incentive structure remains the same—that theoretically minimizing or even eradicating orphan blocks will not result in more rewards either.
“The amount of orphan blocks produced is of no consequence to the reward structure, or the system as a whole.”
And thus, seeing orphan blocks as a “loss” is merely a perception—and a false one at that.
“…in Bitcoin, when they (miners) do (assemble), miners talk of their perceived losses, not that which is real, but what they see and note and feel through a single loss and do not consider the whole.”
“In Bitcoin, miners talk of Orphaned blocks as they do not see that this is the desired state and they have been taught that it is not desirable. That, if these are removed, then somehow, they will earn more. That is the lie and the falsehood we must address.”
He says that not only are orphan blocks not a “flaw that needs fixing,” but that fixing them could actually collapse the system.
“The simple truth is that Orphan blocks and the supposed flaws are a key element that makes Bitcoin work. It is not a thing to be fixed, to make it more efficient, it is a critical aspect, that if removed will allow the collapse of the system.”
Wright goes on to explain that “orphans align miners,” as it obliges miners to constantly invest in resources that would help keep them in the game. “Miners need to compete,” he reiterates.