Even the most trustless system on Earth is about trust between people


What if you’d hear that even the most decentralized, trustless, and far-reaching blockchain-based system, which is Bitcoin today, initially relies on trust relationships between people? In order to get things clear, let’s dream up an unconventional, in the context of Bitcoin, example.

Alien invasion

It’s not about the real invasion and, say, enslaving people. Quite the opposite, aliens turned out to be cool folks who came to our Earth just for sharing the experience. We showed them Bitcoin. They got so excited with the idea of digital independent mankind-currency that copied its initial code, established a superfast communication channel between Earth and their planet and flew away.

Alien scientists immediately caught the idea. Little by little, they started proposing some intelligent network updates that were significantly improving capacity, security and privacy of Bitcoin. Earth scientists were very excited and thrilled about the Alien updates, for as long as they could understand them… Each new update was hundreds, later thousands of times more advanced than the previous one and, very quickly, even the most brainy Earth mathematics could no more understand what’s behind the improvements.

The moral of the story is…

If scientists on Earth are unable to figure out the underlying of changes in Bitcoin — all they can do is simply trust the Aliens, which doesn’t sound like an option really. But if you expand this idea, you’ll come to a conclusion that regular people (not the developers who can, themselves, verify the correctness of Bitcoin upgrades) are in the same position as the most brainy scientists on Earth, who are unable to make sure that network is secure, so the only thing they can do is TRUST.

It’s obvious that if the Alien situation really happens, people will leave Bitcoin behind. Because we do not trust aliens. But, we trust each other and this is specifically the reason why Bitcoin is alive and well.

People trust people — is the basis of our ‘trustless’ relationships in Bitcoin.

Imagine you suggested your mother to keep all her savings in Bitcoin and she agreed. Who do you think she trusts: Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin Core developers or you? The answer is obvious.

So, it is more proper to consider Bitcoin from the perspective of a social consensus, the result of which is backed up by mathematics. The consensus can only be reached among people who trust and understand each other.

Pavel Kravchenko

Pavel Kravchenko

Founder & cryptographer