Should MKR governance get involved with Ethereum hard forks?

Hey all, want to shift focus for a quick second. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around ProgPOW, a new mining algorithm designed to favor GPU miners over ASICs. It has become a highly politicized discussion, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Ethereum could have another contentious split. Some worry how a contentious split might harm the DeFi ecosystem (could MakerDAO even survive on both forks?)

To what extent does MKR governance want to weigh in on this matter (and any other future Ethereum governance issues)? A lot of the wider Ethereum community might look to this community to throw support for one side or another (perhaps through a governance poll).

I think it could be interesting to preemptively have a light discussion surrounding the topic. I think, in any event, Maker will need to (somehow) choose a side in case something happens, so probably better to start talking about this sooner rather than later.

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I have been seeing more of this pop up in reddit subs I watch. My first reaction was is this really that important now? I think it is really important to try to avoid a serious community fork. I thought the whole point of PoS was that we completely avoid this. In effect in PoS I would be asking a different question - which is more secure and creates a more decentralized ecosystem. ASIC, or GPU mining?

I wonder why in PoS we couldn’t have both as possible block autheticator tech and let them both compete to complete blocks in some fashion since the verification in either model computationally simple even if different?

Thinking about PoS to me this really doesn’t matter because whatever the choice is - the entire eco-system will have to shift to using one or the other, but it is my expectation with PoS you would not need a GPU or ASIC to certify the block and why couldn’t we move back to being able to do it with any old cpu since basically the certification is based on putting up a stake and solving a basic problem using that stake so I honestly don’t know why we are even talking about this except in the context of ETH 1.0 which I agree may live on for a while.

IF as everyone is saying GPU mining is preferred over ASIC for decentralization I think we should try to move in a direction that gives the community the best chance at staying decentralized. I am pretty convinced with ASICs at least in Bitcoin this has given the ASIC manufacturers a distinct advantage with mining rewards and I’m not entirely thrilled about that.

In that vein I would be a supporter or ProgPOW or any other POW securing mechanism that offers the best chance of maintaining as level a miner playing field as possible for the sake of decentralization. I honestly have not seen data regarding miner centralization in PoW blockchains with respect to the PoW alogrithms chosen. If anyone has anything please do post here as it would be useful information when trying to weigh in on this.

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I believe the problem is that there was not much discussion, at least that was the perception, haha.

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I believe this perception is driven by a small group of very loud people. Listen to the Eth 1.0 recordings for the last year or two. Based on these recordings, anybody can realize that there has been exhaustive discussion of ProgPOW.

Exactly. If Maker wants to signal support of ProgPOW then that’s great, but I’d hesitate to make a poll or try to judge sentiment because I don’t want to argue with loud, aggressive ASIC advocates. I don’t know; maybe a poll is unavoidable. I guess a poll where we vote with MKR is more scientific than a Reddit or Twitter poll where nothing is at stake.

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In the event of a hard-fork, we will need to choose a side.

Disagree strongly with this. You mentioned correctly that the discussion is currently contentious. If MakerDAO takes a side on the issue before a hard-fork has been ‘confirmed’ then I think we risk triggering said hard-fork (especially if we end up disagreeing with the majority opinion.)

Personally I think our highest priority should be to minimise the risk of a contentious hard-fork, we do not want to deal with that situation. We don’t want to have to make a choice on behalf of the ecosystem, realistically any fork with MakerDAO running on it will continue to be used versus one that doesn’t, we need to be very careful of what we appear to publicly support. This provokes a problem, mainly in that all our discussions are public, therefore it is difficult for us to discuss this issue without it being picked up by members of the ethereum ecosystem with a strong agenda toward either side.

Put simply, our goal should be to ensure that there is no contentious hard-fork. As soon as a group credibly commits to a contentious hard-fork we have serious problems. If possible, I would like to focus this discussion on how we can prevent a hard-fork, rather than which side we should take in the event of one.

It is possible that MakerDAO publicly supporting either side could prevent a contentious hard fork (it could also have the opposite effect), but that confers a level of responsibility and expectation on us in the future that I don’t think we want. We should be governing Maker, not Ethereum.

I think it’s fair to say at this point that we have fairly robust governance. Is there anything we can do to promote better governance and communication at the Ethereum protocol level?

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I could not have stated this better myself. I think the day will likely come when MakerDAO needs to choose a fork, but we should not speak as one until it’s absolutely necessary. Taking a position too early can only lead to poor decision making in the best case, and in the worst case our position in the ethereum community could have a chilling effect on much needed debate on the topic.

On this particular topic I am reasonably knowledgable, and I am still learning things that factor into my decision making every day. To choose one side or the other now would stop the much needed, albeit painful, exploration.

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On the other hand, if we wait around others may decide our fate for us, and we may end up on a fork that we don’t want to be on. Why not use our collective power to ensure that the side we prefer ends up winning? And by signaling our support ahead of time, we may avert a hard fork by dissuading the other side.

Additionally, if a contentious split happens, and both forks persist, the price of Eth could crater, leading to mass liquidations. It may be something to consider in terms of adoption and brand management.

I think we can do that by committing to operate on the pro- or anti-prog pow chains.

It’s rare that any application has influence over the underlying platform, but we have that privilege today (and may not in the future as the Ethereum ecosystem grows). Why not use that to our advantage in order to maximize the chance of Maker’s success?

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Or we choose the side that miners and/or community do not support, the price of Eth craters and leads to mass liquidations. Lets not overestimate our importance here. I believe our support could ‘close the deal’ for the favoured side. I do not think that our supporting the unfavoured side would prevent a contentious hard fork. Currently those sides are hard to perceive.

Because this makes us a political actor in Ethereum governance for the rest of time and risks harmful backlash from the community and/or miners. Just because we have the privilege does not mean that it is right for us to use it. The Foundation has the privilege of owning a large minority of the MKR supply, they choose not to vote with it on principle, even if voting with it could maximize the chance of Maker’s success. This is not so clear-cut as ‘we can, so we should.’

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Like Rune said on Twitter. Our goal should be to choose the fork that has the highest price (if it gets to that). How we affect that outcome in choosing a specific fork or collectively determine which fork that will end up being should be priority in discussions.

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HI Cyrus,
I think the scope of your great question reaches far beyond Maker.
This should be pondered and decided in terms of DeFi space holistically, not just individually per protocol.
Best,
d

Presumably there would be a poll to choose a fork if it came to that, which begs the question which fork would the vote be held on?

I think if we just look at goals for Maker unless someone can make a convincing argument that ASICs will increase decentralization over GPU mining I think (unless goals here have changed) that Maker must side where we end up with the greatest de-centralization of the protocol.

From what I have seen the finanial and political power of the groups behind ASIC production and use (primarily Asian/Chinese AFAIK) I think is a kind of slipperly slope to centralization of Mining and overall imho this has been bad, and is bad for the community overall. The problem here is two fold - financial interests pushing on both sides of this (one of these groups loses). I also don’t know if the Ethereum community itself has decentralization as a goal. Even in Bitcoin they are still stuck with ASIC mining centralization so based on what I saw/see there I honestly don’t think we get away from a potentially very contentious fight here.

I think all players in the communities of interest have not just a RIGHT but also a DUTY to make their views known. Ideally these should be consistent with the community goals and backed by some science and data backing up the science.

So I’m left with the following questions:

Is support of decentralization of the protocol still important to the Maker community (poll #1).
Do we have a real historical measurement metric of ‘decentralization’?
Is there a distinct advantage of changing the block work method (ASIC/GPU/other) to achieving advancing the decentralization goal?
Finally is this even important in the face of upcoming PoS or is this really a red herring issue to divide the community and weaken the space to the benefit of players in other spaces?

I do agree I think this may become an important topic if Maker ends up having to choose which fork to move to. :frowning: I consider a contentious hard fork of the Ethereum Ecosystem just before the major moves to ETH 2.0 to be one of the worst possible events that could happen here. I honestly hope the community can get on the right side of this generally so we end up with a single chain and not a forked one. Personally starting to consider that there are large interests here that have a vested interest in dividing these communities and it is turning out these communities have little to no defense to these kinds of divisive politics in general. Each time we end up getting our chains yanked and the community split by something related to securing the chain (mining).

I do not entirely agree with your premise. In my mind, (de)centralization is not the issue. The problem with ASICs is that they cannot be recycled for some other use, motivating a deferral of the move to proof-of-stake (PoS). I believe the ASIC community is making every possible disingenuous argument to oppose ProgPOW. For example, the ASIC community says, “No need to move to ProgPOW because PoS is right around the corner.” Translation: ASIC community wants more time to capture enough mining share to eventually oppose PoS. Or maybe the argument is, “Maker must side where we end up with the greatest de-centralization of the protocol.” Translation: ASIC community wants to muddy the discussion by misdirecting people that they care about (de)centralization to delay ProgPOW as much as possible.

In my opinion, you’ve got follow the money. ASIC investment is a dead-end, but the ASIC community wants to milk the the ASIC gravy train as long as possible.

I’m not sure what Maker should actually do. I’m sympathic to LongForWisdom’s arguments as well, that is, we should wait on the sidelines for the politics to play out. I’m just not sure. Maybe it would be worth publishing a formal statement that we cautiously support ProgPOW, but will adopt whichever fork is favored by most other projects.

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Our community’s decision of which fork to continue on is clearly important to the platform and the decision that the Ethereum community is making. But I agree that diving into contentious Ethereum decisions early is likely to bring a lot of distracting and potentially damaging activity into our community from folks who are interested in Ethereum not Maker or DAI.

So I think it’s worth having the meta-conversation about how we participate in decisions like this. I’m interested in working backward. If there is a hard fork, what would be our mechanism for choosing one? Then I think we can talk about what our community needs to do to prepare for that responsibility.

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Not necessarily. $MKR can be valuable on both chains, and if maintained could prove valuable in both networks. A contenteous hard fork might be worth the airdrop. Our MKR is more valuable if it serves the extra chain. Even for an ETC-sized split, it may be worth it for the airdrop alone for us to global-settlement certain forked collateral tokens to keep the forked MKR supply under control.

I believe one network will ultimately win but it’s better for the shareholders if we take some easy steps toward preserving our assets, regardless of what is going on in the community.

We might have dictatorial power over any contentious fork because we can choose to sabotage DAI, on which many protocols rely.

Miners do not have such a power. The real fork is what people think it is. Their mining is supported by purchases. They can only make what people will buy. I do not expect them to contend PoS as there has been community consensus on it for years.

Maker should maximize the value of MKR by maximizing its revenue. Decentralization is vital to our survival but we aren’t sacrificing it when we maintain the status quo.

ETH price is stronger if it costs less electricity to mine ETH because there is less cost-based sell-pressure on miners. The price of ETH bounds the amount of DAI it can collateralize.

GPU miners aren’t necessarily less-dedicated to Proof of Work since they also have large heaps of hardware that would lose value in PoS.

This thread might be interesting to you, at least as a reason why we shouldn’t support a fork of any kind. https://twitter.com/cyounessi1/status/1233505376886251522

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Looks like the sentiment in favor of ProgPOW has shifted. ProgPOW may not happen, https://hudsonjameson.com/2020-03-02-progpow-the-ethereum-community-speaks/

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Discussion with various voices of approval/dissent/somewhere in the middle is happening in the second half of the Ethereum Core Devs Meeting #82