From ASICs to Paperweights: Interview with Vertcoin Developer
- ASICs and Bitmain have received a lot of attention lately, and so has ASIC resistance.
- Vertcoin has been determined to be ASIC resistant since its genesis – here we will interview Vertcoin Developer, CryptoPlankton on his thoughts regarding recent events.
ASIC resistance has gotten a lot of attention recently. Vertcoin called for action with #FairMining, Monero hard-forked in order to prevent ASICs and Ethereum is leaning towards “no action” after Bitmain released their ASIC miner for the network. The increased interest for ASIC resistance has also sparked heavy debates within the entire crypto community. As ASICs have recently been created for Ethereum and Monero, these coins will be focused on as well as Vertcoin.
— Vertcoin (@Vertcoin) March 29, 2018
I asked CryptoPlankton, the most recent addition to the Vertcoin development team, on his opinion.
Interview with CryptoPlankton
Monero strives to be ASIC resistant. However, an ASIC was created for Monero anyway. What do you think of this?
So far, ASIC manufacturers have made ASICs for algorithms in order of most profitable to least profitable. Monero was just next in line.
What is more worrying is that Bitmain has now started forking coins upon releasing their ASICs to keep coins ASIC mineable. It’s up to the community to show which Monero is the real chain.
Monero’s hard fork has created several chains, one controlled by Bitmain. Do you think such chains are a threat to the network? If so, is there any way to avoid them?
I do not think the forks are an immediate threat to the security of the network. However, as we have witnessed with Bitcoin Cash, a fork could try to impersonate the original chain. This is misleading to potential investors and miners and creates room for scams.
Moreover, I believe this behavior has a negative impact on the entire cryptocurrency space. We really do not need another overvalued currency with poor development. Especially if this chain is controlled by Bitmain.
The hashrate of the Monero network dropped massively after the fork. What, if any, are the implications of such a sudden drop?
The major implications from such a drop in hashrate are related to network security and mining viability.
From a network security perspective, if we would assume that there were 0 malicious actors on the network (which is nearly impossible), the network would get much less secure due to a drop in hashrate. However, it is safe to assume that majority of the hashrate shaken off was due to ASICs becoming invalid. The network is likely to be more secure than ever because of the greater decentralization of mining operations (people mining from all over the world). Despite the drop in hashrate, it is probably safe to say that the network is still secure.
Since the fork kicked ASIC miners out of the network, the mining difficulty went down. Without ASICs in the picture, anyone with a decent computer can mine Monero and still turn a profit with it. With Monero being more profitable to mine for “regular joe”, I see this as a great win for decentralization.
ASICs were recently developed for Ethereum. Despite many Ethereum developers calling for a fork, Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin recently said he was not in favour of a hard-fork to prevent ASICs. He is calling to put more effort to Casper to prevent mining centralization. What is your view on PoS as a way to prevent mining centralization?
I can not comprehend this decision at all. One of the marvels of cryptocurrency is that everyone has the same potential power to strengthen the network and to participate in consensus. I can turn on my PC right now and participate. I do not need permission and I do not need anything I don’t already own.
Ethereum’s Proof of Stake solution requires you to stake 1000 ETH to make your own stake pool, which is required to make it profitable. I honestly can’t think of a better way to centralize the network. You often hear the response “but what about a GPU farm?”. The big difference here is that with a solution like Ethereum’s Proof of Stake, there is a minimum (which is unattainable for many) amount of coins you have to hold to be able to participate. The second issue is that the only way to gather enough Ethereum to participate in consensus is by purchasing it from someone else, which requires permission. Secondly, these holders who I would purchase from do not really have an incentive for selling their fortune to me to begin with.
Finally, when you are talking about cryptocurrency, Proof of Stake is quite an illogical system. The more you hold, the more you earn. This sounds more like an investment than a currency, as it does not encourage spending at all.
Is Vertcoin’s algorithm technically resistant to ASIC?
No algorithm by itself is ASIC proof. An ASIC can always be created but the costs required to make an ASIC for a specific algorithm vary.
This is due to the memory requirements of each algorithm, some don’t require as much memory as others. Using a memory dependent algorithms like Lyra2REv2 acts as a deterrent to ASIC manufacturers as it makes the ASIC more expensive to produce.
As ASICs have the mining algorithm hard baked into their circuitry, a change to the mining algorithm would be catastrophic as it unable to adjust to the new format (turning it into a useless paperweight).
Vertcoin has a number of backup mining algorithms at hand and constantly monitors the network for any spikes in hashrate. Any significant spike would initiate a proof-of-work change via the development team. As the network is mined predominantly by GPU’s, the GPU’s would be able to adjust and keep working whereas the ASICs would not.
Vertcoin also keeps another algorithm at hand that will be introduced to the network at a random time that will further deter an ASIC manufacturers from making ASICs for the network.
Is a regular algorithm change enough to prevent ASICs?
Yes. ASICs are designed to do only one thing as their name suggests. Even minor tweaks (easily implemented) will turn the machines into very expensive paperweights because they simply cannot cope with changes.
Are there any concrete plans to keep ASICs away from the Vertcoin network?
There is no way to keep the ASICs away from the network. You can develop an ASIC for any algorithm and use it on the network. However, the most straightforward plan that Vertcoin has is a planned algorithm switch in the event an ASIC ever enters the network. Backup algorithms are already in place, and can be put up easily.
In addition to that, Vertcoin has history of changing its algorithm. Back in 2014, Vertcoin changed its algorithm to battle ASICs. We are very serious about preventing ASICs and I hope that our past actions will send a clear message to manufacturers.
It costs us relatively little effort to turn ASICs into paperweights.
As cryptocurrencies become more profitable to mine, there will always be malicious actors to aim to game the network in a way that can be disadvantageous to others, as has been proven by Monero and Ethereum ASICs being created by manufacturers such as Bitmain. In an attempt of keeping these ASICs profitable, the manufacturers are forking chains to use the same algorithm but it is up to the people to decide which blockchain is the true chain.
Furthermore, while tweaking the current algorithm is an option to effectively turn ASICs into paperweight, Ethereum is pushing towards a Proof of Stake system which doesn’t require any “work”. This however causes other problems such as disincentivising users to spend their cryptocurrency, or making it more difficult for an average user to earn cryptocurrency due to a high stake requirement.
While no Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm is in itself immune to ASICs, Vertcoin has always been determined to battle against ASICs demonstrated by previous forks as well as using memory dependent algorithms which increase the cost of developing ASICs. If an ASIC were to exist on the Vertcoin network, it would be a high priority to fork to a different PoW algorithm which are already backed up in the event of this happening. Doing this will render any ASICs created to be expensive paperweights with little to no effort on the developers’ behalf.
Thanks to CryptoPlankton on taking the time for this interview and thatmanontheright for conducting it and letting me share it on Cryptoble.