Former Blockstream CTO Greg Maxwell and MIT’s Cory Fields have shared their views on possible threats that could cause Bitcoin to fail. Both of them are very unlikely to have a 51 percent attack and are more concerned about a social attack or potential new bug. Her thinking was described in a Forbes article on October 8, 2019.
How to kill bitcoin
Over the past 10 years, Bitcoin has become the honey badger of money as people think that the digital currency is destined to take over the financial world. Bitcoin has survived so many technical attacks, so much internal turmoil, and so much outside criticism that it has earned a reputation for antifragility.
However, some speculators often choose to pursue the difficult task of finding methods that would kill Bitcoin, or at least compromise its security. One of the most celebrated is certainly the risk of a 51 percent attack, in which a single miner manages to take control of more than 51 percent of the mining power, which poses a significant threat to the decentralization of the cryptocurrency.
Another popular option is a coordinated move by governments to ban the use of Bitcoin, which then no longer exists in any meaningful form. The economist Nouriel Roubini is certainly an advocate of this point of view.
However, these two threats are hardly feasible and are more likely to be driven by a bias towards Bitcoin.
Gregory Maxwell and Cory Fields, two well-known Bitcoin contributors, instead presented more concrete ideas that could effectively end Bitcoin’s life.
Shared his thoughts on the Reddit forum, stating that the 51 percent attack was pretty unlikely and people were overly obsessed with this potential threat. More emphasis should be placed on what he calls Social Attack, an action that would jeopardize the decentralized nature of Bitcoin in favor of a more centralized model.
This threat is much more real than it seems, as it has appeared in the past with cases like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV. The problem, according to Maxwell, is related to the public’s understanding of Bitcoin’s value proposition, which is decentralization.
In his opinion, people will “fail to understand, care about, and protect the decentralization properties that make them valuable over centralized alternatives.”
This would be the first reason fake decentralized projects could succeed at the expense of Bitcoin.
Cory Fields agrees with Blockstream’s former CTO on the risk of a 51 percent attack. However, during a talk at the MIT Media Lab Cryptoeconomic Systems Summit, Fields explains how an accidental mistake could be the Achilles heel for Bitcoin.
This type of threat is relatively common in cryptocurrency projects and also very difficult to get rid of as it requires a lot of work from the developers. For this very reason, the conclusion of Cory’s talk was a call for other Bitcoin developers to form a working group to reduce the incidence of this type of attack over the next 10 years.
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