The 2008 bank bailouts came as a result of greed, arrogance and the systematic exploitation of those least able to protect themselves. As you all know, these banks were “bailed out” by the taxpayers. Their bad behaviour was not punished, and the rest of us had to foot the bill.
The term “bailout” is therefore not only semantically inaccurate, it’s clickbait propaganda designed to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt within a community which should be uniting in solidarity to foil an attack on itself.
The concern is that a foundation mandated hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain undermines the fundamental premise of decentralisation upon which it is built. That forking will break confidence in the integrity of the system and therefore negatively impact Ethereum in the future. That it will establish a precedent wherein the onus is placed on the Foundation to act as police force.
This is compounded by the fact that this is not an issue with the protocol itself, but rather a single dApp. The question becomes, if a hard fork is OK for this, when else is it OK to hard fork? Are we going to do this every time someone gets scammed? If not, what is the threshold?
I would argue that this is well meaning, but misguided and myopic thinking. Loaded language like “bailout” and “too big to fail” undermines the position of those raising a valid concern which calls for dispassionate and balanced debate; not partisan rallying cries.
Unfortunately, deciding when is it OK to hard fork is not something to which we can meaningfully apply an objective test. I think rather like defining what constitutes hard core pornography, we’ll know it when we see it.
So, while this is not an issue with the Ethereum protocol itself, The DAO has received a huge amount of mainstream attention. The way in which we handle the serious crime currently in progress has profound consequences for the future of the technology and the community.
Do we want the narrative to be that we stood idly by and let it happen? Do we want it to be that we tore each other apart in an ideological war just like the Bitcoin community’s block size debate? Or do we want it to be that we stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with those who were victims of the crime, and those who tried to build an innovation (however flawed), which they hoped would push the ecosystem as a whole forward?
If we are worried about the political and economic implications of a hard fork, let’s first worry about the political and economic implications of the tacit concession that we are able but unwilling to support our own community in their hour of need.
The wider world does not understand the technical details of hard forks. What they do understand is the theft of tens of millions of dollars.
Ethereum is in its infancy. Those developing dApps are working by candlelight. We have no detailed understanding of what ‘correct’ is yet. We are literally making it up as we go along. There will be mistakes, and we should think about what is best for Ethereum, its ecosystem and the better future we are working towards holistically rather than trying to claim that this isn’t Ethereum’s problem.
We need to be able to demonstrate that as a project and as a community we have the ability to protect ourselves against attack. If we allow it to happen, the mainstream will perceive this to have been a failure of Ethereum, not just a single contract. Its impact will be severe. If we put a stop to it, it can be turned into a powerful endorsement of the strength of the community and the security of the network.
If we are worrying about there being central control let’s remember this whole problem and the potential devastation which may ensue are the actions of a single entity. We must prevent them from having the unilateral ability to control funds within the DAO, and learn from this to never make the same mistakes again.
Ultimately, the Ethereum Foundation find themselves in a catch-22; not forking is as much an act of control as forking. They must listen to the community at large when making this decision, and not fall into the trap of themselves being a point of central control by virtue of inaction.
There exists a method that will reverse the most obvious effects of this crime. I for one trust the Ethereum Foundation to enact that plan and maintain confidence that we have the ability to handle any attack upon us, together.