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Blockchain Emergencies and Open-Source Software Governance: Is 'Rough Consensus' a Suicide Pact?

Blockchain Emergencies and Open-Source Software Governance: Is 'Rough Consensus' a Suicide Pact?


Angela Walch

April 01, 2021


  1. Blockchain Emergencies and Open-Source Software Governance: Is “Rough Consensus” a

    Suicide Pact? Angela Walch @angela_walch Professor of Law St. Mary’s University School of Law Research Associate UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies The Impact of Blockchain on the Practice of Law NYU Law School March 25, 2021 1 UCL CENTRE FOR BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGIES
  2. How We’ll Proceed • Protocol Governance & Why it Matters

    • “Normal” Protocol Governance • Governance in Emergencies • Open Questions 2
  3. 3

  4. Of BIPs and EIPs 4 Proposals Vetting Community Discussion More

    Community and Dev Discussion “Rough Consensus” reached on release Devs finalize new software release New version of software released Nodes & Miners upgrade or not Network forks or stays together
  5. Power (In Theory) is Decentralized in Non-Crisis Times • Checks

    and Balances • No one can force anyone to upgrade. • Code is transparent – anyone can review and decide for themselves. • Ability to fork protects people who don’t like the proposed changes. 5

  7. Past Emergencies • Bitcoin Inflation Bug – Sept. 2018 •

    Zcash Cryptographic Flaw – Revealed 2019. 7
  8. Departure from Standard Governance Practices • A few people were

    told about the flaw/emergency. • Determined severity how to handle it. • The public was not told the “truth” about the flaw. • Key mining pool operators told to upgrade first (to save the network). 8
  9. Open Questions • What is a blockchain emergency? When do

    we enter into a ‘state of exception’ and forego standard governance practices? • Who decides this? • What practices are okay in a state of emergency that are not in normal times? Can one forego transparency to save the system? • Who needs to be informed about the problem? • Who needs to be told the truth? • What obligations do those running emergency protocols owe to users and the public? 9
  10. Angela Walch angelawalch.com Twitter: @angela_walch awalch@stmarytx.edu UCL CENTRE FOR BLOCKCHAIN

    TECHNOLOGIES Thank you!