It’s a massive problem that Bitcoin is facing today. The Bitcoin blockchain cannot support thousands of transactions per second like Visa or Mastercard do without technology like the lightning network.
Just like our forests and Oceans cannot be exploited indefinitely, the blockchain is a finite resource. Bitcoin blocks cannot be bloated and hold all the transactions that some people wants in it without consequences.
The tragedy of the common is when individual actors spoil a common resource in their self-interest. In political terms, this is commonly called “kicking the can down the road.”
This is exactly the situation we are facing in Bitcoin.
Let’s have a look at what history, science and neuroscience can to tell us on the current Bitcoin crisis.
Humans Arrival to Australia
History is littered with example of humans totally mismanaging their shared resources. It was 50 000 years ago, that we totally decimated the megafauna of Australia as we first set foot on it.
Within a few centuries of our arrival, unseen creatures like the Diprotodon, a giant wombat that could weight up to 6000lbs, a three meters high bird called the Dromornis and dozens of other giant species had all disappeared.
This exact scenario played out again 12 000 years ago, when we first colonized America using the temporary dried out Bering Strait.
Within a few centuries, all the horses that were once native to the continent had all been decimated. We had to wait the arrival of european 10 000 years later to see horses on the continent again.
Mammoths and giant ground sloths were also some of the numerous species that were made instinct from human colonizing the virgin American Continent
The Fertile Crescent and Easter Island.
Even more recently, the fertile crescent in the middle east was once the cradle of civilization. It’s the over grazing and the poor management of the land that turn this once luxurious area into an arid desert.
There’s many more example like this one. Easter Island in the pacific ocean was once a green and fertile island but was turned into a desert by it’s inhabitant.
Every single tree was cut down and today, the only thing that is left, are the statues that remind us how societies can be blind and careless with their resources.
Scientific Denial or Plain Stupidity?
Our thinking has proven itself utterly wrong in the past concerning very simple problems.
There is undeniable proofs that the earth is getting warmer, yet some people just dismissed it thinking that all those scientific study are hoax and that we’ll find some sort of magical solution in the future.
Who are the biggest global warming deniers? They are not the nobel prize winners or acclaimed thinkers of our time but the CEO of energy company… how could it be otherwise? Tragedy of the common at his best.
Over Fishing and Water Polution
We started hunting whales massively starting in 1800’s. By the early 1900’s, we had factory boat decimating whale populations all around the globe.
In 1985, all the big whale hunting countries had to come to an agreement to stop the hunt because it was clear that there would be none left soon. Today many whales species are still at critically low number.
Water pollution is also a very real problem. We are dumping in the ocean and other water bodies tons of polluants. It’s easy to think that one person won’t affect much the total balance of the oceans but because everyone is thinking the same, the accumulated pollution is devastating. This is a cataclysm.
Bitcoin and The Tragedy Of The Common
Our brain hasn’t changed in 100 000 years since we were living in small bands of hunter gatherers but we have to deal with ever more complex problems.
All those examples show that we are really bad at evalutating how we can transform our shared resource by our actions.
Some people want to follow the same mistaken path for Bitcoin today and assume that future generations will find a solution to the bloated Blockchain problem. We are effectively kicking the can down the road and this has proven a very regrettable path to follow in the past.
Some businesses in the Bitcoin industry want to increase the blocksize limit to a point where all of THEIR transactions can go through at zero or very low fees. Then at this point, all would be fine.
But what is likely to happen? Everyone will want to have THEIR transaction on the blockchain and we’ll be back to point zero where fees would increase because it’s impossible to have an infinite amount of demand on the blockchain at zero fee.
It’s the tragedy of the common at his best. Why would people not put junk on the blockchain knowing that they won’t have to pay for it.
Short Term Price Increase VS Long Term Sustainability
That would probably boost adoption in the short term, more businesses would want to use the Bitcoin blockchain because of it’s low fee. But we would have soon completely destroyed the usefulness of the blockchain.
No independent nodes operator could support this humongous bitcoin blockchain. Only big data centre could support such blocks. We would have to rely on google or Amazon running Bitcoin for us. Then we would be back to a centralized system.
But why can’t we all agree on a path forward?
The Reason We Think Differently is Biologic
The neuroscientist Robert Spolsky in his book “Behave” explain the differences between the brain of different people and shows interesting data on liberal vs conservative way of thinking.
Conservative are shown to have bigger amygdlia which regulate fear and agressivity responses.
Liberal on the other hand, have a bigger anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) which is in the frontal cortex (where we do the important thinking)
Conservative Thinking VS Liberal Thinking
Conservative people tend to make surface judgment without thinking about deeper consequences. Liberal people tend to come to the same early conclusion, but then refine their judgments through causation and consequences.
Conservative thinking: The earth is too big and there’s no way we can affect the ecosystem.
Liberal thinking: Yes the earth is really big but if we don’t affect the earth, why have we made so many animal species instinc? Certainly we must have an impact. And what about the CO2 level in the air that increased dramatically over the last 100 years. What about the melting of the ice caps?
Those differences in thinking seems to be driven by biological differences in the brain. So this could explain why some people still believe today that the earth is flat or that the government spray chemical in the air with airplanes…
One ray of hope is that the brain is very plastic and can be biologically modified at any age. The study also doesn’t show which one came first, the thinking or the brain shape.
Bitcoin for The Next Generation
We need to keep our blockchain clean so in 10-15 years from now, it is still censorship resistant and future generations can benefit from it.
Is it our brain shape that forbid us to see the proper consequences of our acts? Is it just how humans are as a species and we just cannot imagine the consequences further in the future?
We all want Bitcoin to be worth 1 Million dollars, but some people seem to be unwilling or unable to to wait a few years for the second layer technology to be created.
Cutting down the Amazonian forest is a great way to boost the economy in the short term but how long before there’s not a tree left?
They’d rater jeopardise the blockchain of future generation so they can profit today…
Well let me ask you something: How are the fertile crescent farmers, the whales fishermen and the fur mommoth trader doing today?
I don’t want to be saying this about bitcoin in 10 years from now because we weren’t responsible. Let’s avoid the tragedy of the common and manage Bitcoin for the future generations.