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Craig Wright: The problem with anthropomorphism and personification

In his latest blog post, “The Problem with Anthropomorphism and Personification,” Dr. Craig Wright gives clarity to the passages in the Bitcoin whitepaper that address voting.

“I used the word vote in the Bitcoin white paper three times,” said Dr. Wright. “I used the notion of anthropomorphism in explaining the concept of proof-of-work.” However, Dr. Wright goes on to explain that even though he personified nodes in the whitepaper by talking about them having the ability to vote, he did not mean that nodes vote in the same way that people vote.

“…computer systems or nodes are treated as if they had agency. The use of the word “they” personifies nodes, treating them as if they were people—with the ability to make an independent decision. The truth is more nuanced.”

Blockchain is not about democratic voting

Dr. Wright goes on to explain why it would not be beneficial if nodes could vote in the way that people vote. 

“If you think about the system explained in the Bitcoin white paper and consider what would make an excellent democratic system, you will start to understand that Bitcoin is not about democratising finance and decentralising society as some people claim. The last thing you want in a democratic society is to have voting based on the level of investment made by each node…Importantly, if you gave societal control and power to Bitcoin operators, you would not be giving either to the people, but instead take it away from them and give it to a small number of wealthy investors…The voting by nodes is a form of plutocracy. What keeps the system honest is that there are only two choices: follow the rules or become an attacker. “

With that in mind, it becomes clear that a Proof-of-Stake consensus model has several vulnerabilities. 

“Some alternative blockchain structures, such as in the form of proof of stake, are effectively based on a technical scheme that is equivalent to one of bearer shares,” said Dr. Wright. “In a system such as one of bearer shares, or proof of stake, it is possible to obscure the identity of the node operator, easily. By holding multiple shares or stakes, an attacker can split their operations across numerous virtual operators, in a manner that would allow an operator to pretend to act as an alternative system, or to be made up of multiple entities when they are one.”

In a proof-of-stake system, the power to vote that staking-nodes have has more similarities to the power that people have when they vote in a democracy. That being said, the more capital an individual has staked on the network, the more voting power (votes) they will have when it comes to making decisions on the network. Unfortunately, this can easily lead to collusion and coerced outcomes.

However, with a Proof-of-Work system, in particular, Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work system, a node can only vote in one of two ways, honestly or dishonestly; and It is in the node’s advantage to vote honestly because if they don’t “the operator forfeits the capital they have invested in their nodes.”

By only giving node operates the ability to vote on whether they are following the unchanging rules of the network or not, consensus can be achieved while making it nearly impossible to manipulate a network. Opposed to consensus models that let node operators vote on the future of the network, including its governance model, which can lead to orchestrated outcomes.

To learn more about what Dr. Wright meant when he wrote “Proof-of-work is essentially one-CPU-one-vote” in the Bitcoin whitepaper, where Proof-of-Stake consensus has attack vectors, and why consensus models that aren’t stable fall short when it comes to voting—you can read Dr. Wright’s full blog post, “The Problem with Anthropomorphism and Personification” at

See also: Dr. Craig Wright’s presentation at CoinGeek Live, From the Internet to Bitcoin: The Digital Ledger to Advance the World’s Technology Infrastructure

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