‘There’s nothing new in this world,’ says Yusko on blockchain rivalries

“We’ve talked about this over and over,” says Morgan Creek Capital founder Mark Yusko. “You can go back 2,600 years. Humans do what humans do. A thousand years ago, same thing. A hundred years ago, same thing. Now, the same thing.”

“And that is where we are.”

Speaking on the On the Margin podcast (Spotify/Apple), Blockworks co-founder Michael Ippolito notes that the numerous rivalries between blockchain ecosystems are not a unique phenomenon in human behavior. 

As has happened so often in the past, the distinctions between factions are usually based on subtle differences that eventually spiral into broader competitions.

“When it expands to the level of something like Bitcoin or Ethereum or these sort of inter-ecosystem competitions,” he says, “the vast majority of people don’t even understand what originated the argument to begin with.”

Ippolito points out that the “single biggest argument” centered on blockchains is based largely on a question that traces back to the original Bitcoin block-size wars: “How expensive should the requirements be for users to validate the network?”

Blockchain network participants have to choose hardware to validate computations and ensure the network’s integrity based on agreed-upon rules for a shared database, which leads to a fundamental challenge, Ippolito explains. 

“If you want people like you or me […] to [participate in securing the network],” he says, “I’m not going to go buy some fancy piece of hardware that costs tens of thousands of dollars and pay a bunch of electricity.”

“Civil wars” have broken out across ecosystems over hardware requirements — whether to keep them accessible and how to do so in a scalable environment, Ippolito says. He admits he’s being “a little reductive” in his argument, “but that is the biggest difference between different ecosystems.”

Fewer differences than similarities

Yusko observes that debates of this nature often take on a “religious fervor.” The process resembles the continuous branching of monotheistic religions into carefully delineated subsets — divided by what would be considered minor differences by the outside observer. 

“Methodists and Episcopalians and Protestants and Catholics and Jews […] there’s less differences than similarities,” he says.

Ippolito points to the example of a range of religions evolving from Judaism to Christianity and then branching into Protestantism and Catholicism — all while adhering to many of the same core beliefs.

A comparison can be made, he says, to rivalries between Bitcoin and gold communities, both founded upon principles like hard money, personal autonomy and a healthy wariness of authoritarian overreach and corruption. “The core belief system is really, really similar,” he says.

Yusko notes that, whether it’s a religious sect or a newly broken-off fragment of a blockchain community, it usually boils down to humans creating distinctions that are driven by personal motivations. “They kind of want to be popular.”

“They want to have a following,” he says, “so there’s a lot of oration and preaching and you know, stimulating followership, even if it borders on exaggeration or hyperbole.” 

“Or,” he emphasizes, “saying the other one is wrong. But you were part of that [community] before you left,” he says. “You were part of that.” 

“There’s nothing new in this world.”

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