Referencing a 9-month-old Medium post by Ethereum developer Vlad Zamfir, libertarian attorney Preston Byrne took to Twitter to chastise, pointing out Nick Szabo’s stature in the space.
— Preston Byrne (@prestonjbyrne) October 15, 2019
The post in question spent several hundred words dismantling what Zamfir refers to as “Szabo’s Law” and arguing for the establishment of a “new crypto legal system.”
Like any intellectual pursuit, cryptography and cryptocurrency are filled with people who disagree with each other.
Vlad Zamfir: Idiotic?
Szabo believes that Zamfir has taken liberties in his assertions, and calls his approach “idiotic” in a response to Byrne.
He makes up so much stuff about me and my views that is at turns idiotic, preposterous, slanderous, malicious, or just plain ludicrously false. Even worse, there are pseudo-intellectual idiots who style themselves as legal scholars who take him seriously about all this.
— Nick Szabo ? (@NickSzabo4) October 15, 2019
Under normal circumstances, and with normal crypto personalities, a flame war would ensue from here.
However, at press time, hours after the incidents, there is no such flame war taking place.
It’s possible that the two programmers have each other blocked. Zamfir did respond to someone else in the Twitter thread.
— Vlad Zamfir (@VladZamfir) October 15, 2019
Nick Szabo is credited by Byrne with having “invented” the “space.” Szabo is suspected, among others, of having actually created Bitcoin. Not long before the publication of the Bitcoin whitepaper (and subsequently, the code itself), Szabo released an idea he called “bitgold” into the wild.
Neither Bitcoin nor “bitgold” were the first attempts at digital money. Not by a long shot.
The question of transferable, digital cash has been at the forefront of the minds of cryptographers and cipherpunks since basically the beginning of the internet.
Back to Basics: Crypto Governance
Once you can network two computers across the world together, the first thing that is built is a layer of communication. But the second thing is a layer of commerce.
For Internet technologies, this has meant a great deal of work in security aimed at keeping money and financial information safe.
Once SSL came along, a whole new world came to life, as people felt significantly safer entering their credit details online. The bad old days of setting up your order and then calling in the payment were over.
Bitcoin is merely an extension of these ideas, bringing money into a computing environment the same way that words, pictures, and sounds have entered it.
It’s one thing to connect two financial institutions and create a transaction record.
It’s quite another to securely connect any two people in the world, and allow them to transact in a permissionless fashion.
Szabo “Invented This Space”
Ethereum, like all cryptos since Bitcoin, is built on the giant’s shoulders.
Bitcoin established a web of money. Ethereum developers, including Zamfir, are working to do even more with that new layer of connectivity.
In his tame rant against Szabo, Zamfir writes, in part:
“Nick’s crypto law is responsible for a lot of the talk (and law) around the blockchain being immutable, and needing to remain immutable, and has justified decisions by developers to refuse to make changes to the blockchain protocol when they are engaged in blockchain governance disputes (for example in the Bitcoin block size debate). The DAO hard fork was a clear violation of Szabo’s Law, and it offended Nick enough that he disowned Ethereum in favor of Ethereum Classic. But Szabo’s law has been cited in Ethereum blockchain governance disputes after the DAO hard fork (specifically, in the still-unresolved stuck funds dispute). Indeed, Nick Szabo’s law is often cited by core developers to justify their choices in blockchain governance disputes. Szabo’s law is therefore crypto law.”
Zamfir is best known for his work on Casper, an Ethereum-related tech stack.
From there, Zamfir goes on to propose that immutability and other elements of “Szabo’s Law” are not so important.
Zamfir believes that having a more robust crypto legal system than one based on “proof of work” will lead to a better ecosystem for cryptocurrency. He writes:
“If the response when a legal system brings a dispute to blockchain developer is “sorry, we can’t do anything for you”, as it will almost always be under Szabo’s law, then it has two natural reactions (assuming that the legal system believes that the devs can’t do anything). The first is for the legal system try to handle the disputes without any recourse through changes to the protocol. The second is to minimize the damage caused by unresolved or irremediable disputes by making the use and development of the blockchain protocol illegal.”
Governance is very important to Zamfir. It’s one of the primary things he talks about.
Anti-governance-minimization is better for civil disobedience than governance minimization https://t.co/IKfOqvFXuD
— Vlad Zamfir (@VladZamfir) October 16, 2019
Cryptocurrency, like any other industry, has a wide variety of viewpoints.
Zamfir, at this point, would appear to represent a minority view — one better represented in the design decisions of, for example, EOS, which has an arbitration court for disputed transactions.