HomeLearnModule 6👮 Uncensored

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    • 👮 Censorship Resistance
    👮 Censorship Resistance¶
    Vitalik has defined the ills of censorship and who are we to argue with the boy genius...

    Well, that's kind of the point, isn't it? We want to live in a society where we can engage in effective debate with anyone. While we enjoy freedom of speech in many places today, expressing an opinion is not the same as communicating it effectively. However, blockchains solve this by fusing money and speech, meaning that expression and (economic) action occur simultaneously. Moreover, if we cultivate a listening society, we can shift our freedom to speak away from the formal and towards the substantive.

    It's critical to speak truth to power; history is proof of this. However, history also shows how the existence of any kind of power structure influences what truths can be thought and enunciated in the first place. How can we free ourselves from this constraint? With programmable incentives!

    When the incentives which define the structure of power in society can be programmed by anyone, anywhere; censorship resistance becomes an engineering problem, not an ideological one. This is clear if you read Vitalik's post - it's all about implementation details, not ideology.

    "Don't fight the system. Just abandon it." We can literally engineer more expressive solutions.

    Q: We must speak truth to power. However, power structures define to some extent what kinds of truth can even be thought. With what can we more effectively free our minds?

    Reveal the answer

    A: Programmable incentives.

    Didn't remember
    Economic proof¶

    Recall that trust is only possible once you have encoded what it means to cheat. Similarly, we're not interested in debating the evils of censorship. We're interested in building clear and complete threat models which allow us to understand all possible benefits for potential censors.

    Instead of using legal code to uphold the supposed good of free speech, we can use economic code to make censorship prohibitively expensive. This has profound second-order effects: i.e. even if you have the economic-computational power required to revert history, there is still no benefit in doing so because any economic benefit you stand to receive will be eclipsed by the loss of trust, and therefore, value in the network as a whole.

    Censorship can be more insidious than overt reversions of history though. So, we need to develop even clearer cost models. Proof of Work actually fails to ensure that censorship is not profitable, since if you censor a block you can (i) take all of its transactions for yourself, and (ii) in the long run take its block reward.

    Q: Instead of making censorship "illegal", we can encode effective economic penalties that simply make it what?

    Reveal the answer

    A: Prohibitively expensive.

    Didn't remember

    Quasi Turing-complete object models (i.e. Ethereum) already provide interesting means of making censorship costly outside the actual consensus mechanism. For instance, we prevent the Halting Problem and denial of service attacks by assigning a "gas" cost to each operation and limiting the amount of gas per block to ensure all programs terminate. Much Eth2 research is about both higher fault tolerance and stronger censorship resistance based on more complete threat models and cost analysis. Such research and implementation indicates why economic engineering is orders of magnitude more effective than legal lip-service.

    Higher Stakes¶

    In Understanding Ethereum we discussed how there are, for instance, no technical limits on what can be put in the

    field of an Ethereum transaction, though there are economic ones: it costs 68 units of gas per byte. This feature crops up over and over, and takes on new dimensions in a full Proof of Stake architecture. No behaviour is technically impossible, though we carefully encode what we define as malicious, and institute clear economic penalties.

    Bitcoin uses mathematics in the form of elliptic curve cryptography to route around the need for human regulation and thereby ensure some degree of censorship resistance. Ethereum does this too. However, Eth2 will use a different kind of mathematics - game theory - in addition to cryptography to ensure not just censorship resistance, but to prove objectively that censorship is asymmetrically expensive for those who would attempt it.

    We'll be using value created on a public network to secure that same public network. This is the kind of profound economic feedback loop which lays the foundation for what comes after the central bank of the internet; what we have called digital gardens in which time flows differently.

    Q: True or false: economic cost is the only limit on what can be put into the data field of an Ethereum transaction.

    Reveal the answer

    A: True.

    Didn't remember

    Further References¶

    Integrity assurance

    Levels of resistance

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