Recently, Vitalik Buterin the Co-Founder of Ethereum, appeared at the San Fransisco Blockchain Week, wherein he spoke about on-chain governance and how it can be a threat. He also justified why Ethereum implemented an on-chain governance mechanism for determining the gas limit.
During the discussion, Vitalik Buterin criticized on-chain governance mechanisms. He stated that governance mechanisms like on-chain voting and the likes are “horribly vulnerable” to collusion attacks and bribe attacks. He went on to say that such mechanisms also tend to have “plutocratic incentives”.
On the contrary, there was a question raised about why Ethereum implemented on-chain governance mechanism in the form of miner voting that determines the gas limit if Buterin was against such mechanisms.
Buterin went on to tackle the question by stating:
“In Ethereum the gas limit is a setting that just can’t be adjusted up and down by miners, has arguably kind of saved us in multiple ways.”
The Co-Founder exemplified his statement by saying that during a Denial of Service attack in 2016, the miners were able to vote the gas limit down to one million which resulted in the safe working of the blockchain during that instance.
Moreover, he stated that the process allowed them to have multiple rounds of capacity increase without having to go through a complex process of a hard fork. Buterin revealed that the reason behind doing so was due to a suggestion put forth by Andrew Miller, an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Furthermore, he stated that Miller had proposed the idea before the genesis of Ethereum. According to Buterin, at the time, the Ethereum community was trying to form algorithms that had the ability to dynamically adjust the gas in response to actual levels of activity.
He went on to say:
“We discovered that like basically all of these algorithms that we could think about were potentially attackable. And, its suggestion is, well let’s just have miners vote on it and the default strategy will be using one of these algorithms.”
Buterin gave two primary reasons for following the mechanism. The gas limit is not a fundamental part of the Ethereum contract, he said. The second reason he stated was that the team had no idea from the beginning what gas limit was optimal. He also said that if a gas limit was set to a fixed number it would be 41592. The transaction fees would have shot up by five to ten times than the current, he added.
The Co-Founder concluded by stating that instances where it was just one single number that really did not affect anything if the number went up or down, were the instances where on-chain governance can be applied. Particularly in cases where there were no large incentives and where there was no shift in the wrong direction, it can be applied, he said.
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