ProgPoW Audit Delay Issue

Hey all :wave:
We would like to bring this topic of discussion up during Magicians Council in Berlin. Is anyone interested in to talk about it @greerso @fubuloubu @timolson or anybody else :slight_smile:

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Hi! :wave:
Which aspect interests you the most?

I unfortunately will not be in Berlin, but I would recommend a discussion about this audit and revisiting the topic of “ASIC resistance” and its importance to the Ethereum design as specified in the Whitepaper. This issue has many different opinions on both sides, with sentiment shifting and mutating over time, especially as we learn more about the nature of mining hardware and it’s manufacture.

Thanks for taking the initiative @anettrolikova!

More than simply “ASIC resistance”, the reason fixed function ASIC’s are currently considered undesirable for Ethereum.

ProgPow proposes to more efficiently convert energy into network security neutralizing the threat of not fixed function ASIC’s but also proprietary GPU and FPGA hardware and software innovations that are cheating the current PoW algorithm. A ProgPow fixed function ASIC should be welcomed as it would only further decentralize the hashing power because it would be no more efficient than 1.2x like cost hardware.

Ethereum has hard forks on the roadmap already. In the unlikely event that, like cost, fixed function hardware successfully hashes greater than 1.2x, Ethash-ProgPow has tunable knobs. Ehash-DaggerHashimoto has successfully kept fixed function hardware at bay this long, only now are weaknesses in the algorithm starting to be exploited, ProgPoW removes these known weaknesses.

The audit should be confirming that ProgPoW does not break anything/create security issue and no more. Trying to prove that something that does not exist could not do a thing does not sound sensible. Ethash-ProgPow is different to Ethash-DaggerHashimoto and is tuneable, that is already an improvement over status quo.

Core devs have already stated that for good reason this hard fork should be separate to any planned fork, discussion around Istanbul is irrelevant. There is no doubt the community want it, all is left is to make sure that it is bug free and secure then implement.

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@salanki @shemnon @Anlan @epic.henry@OhGodAGirl @bitsbetrippin @sneg55 @xazax310 all more qualified than I.

Maybe this guy? https://twitter.com/TrustlessState/status/1148359466070372352

Skip over my opinion in this thread for some links to interesting people on many sides of this discussion.
edit:
(oops, link) Is ASIC-resistance good for Ethereum?

The audit should be confirming that ProgPoW does not break anything/create security issue and no more.

Earlier in the audit process there was talk of including an analysis of whether the goals of ProgPow were worth pursuing / possibly counterproductive to Ethereum’s security. Is it pretty accepted now that this won’t be part of the audit at all?

There is no doubt the community want it, all is left is to make sure that it is bug free and secure then implement.

What is the best evidence that “there is no doubt that the community want it”?

I am concerned that because most of the objectors don’t have a personal stake in the outcome, most of them (including myself) stopped participating in the discussions due to fatigue long ago. Yet ProgPow advocates are continuing to push for this. This might give the impression that sentiment is becoming more favorable to ProgPow when it isn’t.

The data I’ve seen seems consistent with ProgPow being favored by a highly vocal minority, rather than the community in general.

If sentiment has shifted in favor of ProgPow, there should be people we can point to who used to oppose it who now favor it. Who are those people?

Btw, I will be in Berlin during the Magicians Council and am interested in discussing ProgPow as it relates to how decisions are made for Ethereum.

One thing we all seem to agree on is that Cat Herders need to do a much better job communicating what exactly is going on and give updates.

I strongly disagree with the ‘vocal minority’ in favor, the opposite is true as shown by evidence below. The few very big mouths against aren’t even against ProgPoW for technological reasons but more out of a want for an immediate switch to PoS and ignorance about the serious threat of centralization to the current PoW.

The developers decided 9/2018 then later, after the fore-mentioned vocal minority spoke up, asked Cat Herders to get community feedback. The signals that mattered were:

Hash voting 100% in favor (voter turnout 77.1%)

CarbonVote 93.6786% in favor (29,37,726.9575 to 198237.5702 ether)
Verifiable at https://etherscan.io/address/0x90a3aa83b0da90abe2c33fadbe829cf74dfa59d9 and https://etherscan.io/address/0x975f4ac23fcc9c39228cc20a2d4897c7b9bb39cc

Tennagraph, 73% in favor coin voting, 87% in favor gas voting

All this heavy favor despite many lies, false sponsored attacks, and blatant attempt to manipulate vote outcome by gpushack by adding a false statement and a link to vote to ethos distro’s dashboard (@5chdn deleted the screenshot but I’m sure I can find it if somebody wants to see).

Your previous posts link to outdated information about the benefits of fixed function hardware on a network, since those studies we have seen and had opportunity to reconsider and the discussion has never been about whether the Ethereum network has had a change of heart on its statements made in both white and yellow papers. Even if we were at a point where fixed function hardware had broad and fair distribution, see point made by @fubuloubu.

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I don’t find your evidence that those in favor of ProgPow are more than a vocal minority very convincing. Here’s why:

There are 18 entities that voted, all of them are existing miners who we should expect to be part of the vocal minority who wants to preserve GPU mining.

About 3% of total ETH was represented in this vote – an extremely small percentage. Likely people who really care a lot about this issue are over-represented in the sample. We know that existing GPU miners really care a lot about the issue.

Again, extremely small turnout: it looks like less than a couple ETH was probably spent on gas voting, and only a few hundred ETH seemed to have been involved in coin voting. It’s hard to tell exactly how tennagraph is reporting its results though.

All of this data is consistent with miners being extremely in favor of of ProgPow and being heavily over-represented in the metrics that you quoted.

The tennagraph data actually provides some pretty good evidence that should make us question the support for ProgPow among the broader community:

The one metric that’s hardest to skew with selection effects is the voting of top influencers. Among 27 top influencers who voted, 48% are against ProgPow, 22% are for ProgPow, and 30% abstained.

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I do not understand your point about 100% yes from 77% of the miners. Pools aren’t entities in the way you insinuate. Miners can switch pool if they disagree with the vote.

With most eth is locked up in contracts. The turnout wasn’t too bad and if the vote was a little closer you’d have a point.

“Influencers” are literally the definition of a vocal minority. They made up some ground for the nay but still in the minority.

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Existing miners in general are a minority of the community, so even if 100% of miners favored ProgPow it could still be disliked by most of the community.

3% seems quite low to me. The point is that when there are strong selection effects at work the distribution of votes doesn’t tell you much. Consider a national vote about whether one penny should be taken from every citizen of the US and distributed evenly among 15 people. Those 15 people are going to vote yes, and perhaps no one else will vote at all because the hassle of voting isn’t worth saving a penny to them. So you might see a vote of 15-0 in favor of this plan but can’t infer that it’s a good idea or that almost everyone supports it.

The point is about whether top influencers are more likely to be representative of the community as a whole, as opposed to these other metrics. It’s not completely clear, but there are arguments for why they would be: they’re more likely to weigh in on hot topics even if they have no direct personal interest in the outcome, unlike with the other metrics.

Why would we expect top influencers to be biased either for or against ProgPow?

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Because it’s like asking congressmen and women to weigh in on detailed tech industry issues – they have no clue what they’re talking about, and will probably make poor decisions if left to their own devices.

The voting situation in Ethereum is really bad, since it’s very difficult to identify who exact composes “the community”. That’s partially by design. We don’t believe in plutocratic coin votes making final decisions, although we do use it to help aid sentiment analysis. The most relevant vote here is the miner vote because they are the most affected by this proposal, and have the most to lose by it’s failure to be implemented. 77% have said yes, with 23% abstaining, which is probably about as good as it gets.

As you stated, the only metric that is down was the “influencer vote”, which is akin to representative democracy except we didn’t vote for these people and some of them don’t really have credentials to back their opinions. In fact, most if not all in the “no” camp reference a blog post written years ago by one person, which may or may not be accurate as it contains several unverified opinions and is not a peer reviewed paper. The influencer sampling also did not take into account the result of the audit, which I think is an important factor for many and would affect the results if it were done again afterwards.

I get it, sentiment analysis and understanding the “voice” of the community is hard. It’s made much harder by the psuedo-anonymous participation that defines public blockchains, especially when foregoing plutocratic on-chain voting structures. This is still a contentious issue, but I see more and more people moving in direction of support, even this late in the process. It seems to have a lot to do with education on the subject. Hardware design is an extremely complicated discipline, and difficult to describe simply. Most people understand the economic arguments better, and hearing about supply chain issues and access rights to purchase the underlying hardware is helpful too. It’s better to have permissionless entry to the market of mining IMO, and I think many agree as well.

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I may dissent, and a few more links for the studious among us:

  • Voting and Miners

It’s unfair to equate the ProgPoW team with miners. The ProgPoW team doesn’t represent the interests of honest miners at all, and voting was heavily rigged and manipulated in favor of ProgPoW.

One random example, a voice of the suppressed:

"Let’s take Ethermine for e.g. What’s they did?
They just took all availabale hashrate, without any notifications
for miners, and started voting YES. They promised provide dedicated
port for say NO, but didn’t provide it.
In this situation, miners were just hostages of pools.

If you want fair voting — at first prepare two different
dedicated ports for YES and NO, and then start voting.
Using default pool config for “YES” — it’s just fraud!"

James Prestwich got it

In PoW, lowest cost wins.
“Permissionless” access to hardware doesn’t help if you can buy GPUs at retail price in a lot of shops around the world, for a guaranteed loss.
Or you can be the one special partner of the chipmaker who helped the chipmaker exclude other chipmakers, and get the same GPUs at half the price or less in return.

  • Audit

The last audit proposal I’m aware of is still this one


Curious if that has changed.
What we’ve learned from the RandomX audits so far is that the first thing you want to see from an auditor is a one-page or more explanation of the difference between a PoW algorithm and a cryptographic hash algorithm, as seen by the audit team.
If the audit team doesn’t see any difference, or is just guessing a bit and largely thinks they are reviewing a cryptographic hash algorithm, that will lead to a disappointing result.

This is not enough.

EIP 1057 makes some key claims that are demonstrably false, and yet were used to rally support behind the EIP, for example

“These would result in minimal, roughly 1.1-1.2x, efficiency gains.
This is much less than the 2x for Ethash”

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of this fraudulent EIP, but one would hope that an audit can keep more damage away from Ethereum.

  • Reputation

The fact that the EIP 1057 author is a close business associate of Calvin Ayre and the nChain camp is public knowledge today, and seems to be accepted for now.
How do these guys make money?
Step 1: Sell ETH short on bitmex and other exchanges
Step 2: Put out press release saying Craig Wright co-authored and patented ProgPoW
Step 3: profit

  • Hardware Accessibility

I was seriously surprised (and learning!) that someone could turn around the positive idea of not wanting to sell PoW hardware to ponzi schemes, scammers or money launderers into a “blacklisting” argument, and use that to instill more ASIC fear! Amazing.

Here’s what happens if a PoW hardware maker acts irresponsibly:

A rogue megafarm is selling hashrate to unsuspecting retail customers at excessive setup and maintenance rates, and thus ‘inherits’ the capex for free after a few months when the difficulty goes up and the inability of their customers (victims) to calculate becomes apparent.
They then proceed to destroy or otherwise manipulate/dominate that coin since their focus is on short-term profits.
A hashrate owner that obtained hashrate for free, through whatever means, is a threat to the coin.

Responsible chipmakers don’t sell to these kinds of farms, because they act against the long-term interests of the coin that is being secured.
Nvidia focuses on the short-term, since everybody knows that GPUs stand no chance in a PoW algo in the long run.

Ethereum per se is a network of computers, maintained by a self-selected team of core developers. Our remit is the health of the network. The community is not a polity, but a loose and self-selected anarchy of people with some relationship to that network. What are called “votes” are not about democracy; they are about ensuring that network upgrades are not so contentious as to cause an unwanted fork.

The responsibility of the core developers to the community is ill-defined at best. They don’t elect us and they don’t pay us, so by ordinary standards they have no standing to tell us what to do. So I continue to believe we core devs can best serve the community by seeing to the health of the network as best we can. We are best served by the community when arguments are presented to in those terms.

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I don’t get how you can claim that those ranked as twitter influencers for Ethereum have no clue what they’re talking about.

I’ve heard some core developers dismiss twitter influencers with a similar attitude. My theory is that some people hear “twitter influencer” and start imagining Instagram models.

Let’s actually take a look at who some of these twitter influencers who are against ProgPow are:

Hayden Adams (@haydenzadams), creator of Uniswap.
Martin Koppelmann (@koeppelmann), founder of Gnosis
Ameen Soleimani (@ameensol), founder of SpankChain and MolochDAO
Georgios Konstantopoulos (@gakonst) Layer 2 / plasma researcher
Philip Daian (@phildaian) Researcher
Jorge Izquierdo (@izqui9) Aragon cofounder
Dan Robinson (@danrobinson) Researcher, creator of Rainbow Network
Mariano Conti (@nanexcool) Head of Smart Contracts at Maker DAO
Scott Lewis (@scott_lew_is)
James Prestwich (@_prestwich)

What justification is there for dismissing what these highly technical and capable people think about ProgPow?

In the Ethereum community people become influential on Twitter in part by being extremely good technically, founding companies, and building the Ethereum ecosystem.

If you claim the people I listed haven’t spent as much time as others delving into the details of the ProgPow implementation, that’s irrelevant to why it’s being opposed. Unless this has changed in the past few months, the core developers have made almost no effort (as reflected in dev calls that I reviewed) to actually determine if ASIC resistance is desirable.

Examples?

Consider a proposal to tax 100 million dollars of wealth from citizens of the US, destroy half of it, and give the other half to the McDonalds corporation.

You could say the same thing when someone questioned the importance of a poll of people who worked at McDonalds. “The most relevant vote here is the McDonalds vote, because they are the most affected by this proposal and have the most to lose by its failure to be implemented.”

It is irrelevant whether a particular group of current miners have a lot to lose if ProgPow isn’t implemented. There is no reason to favor incumbents just because they’re incumbents. What matters is the effect on security of the Ethereum network.

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This is absolutely the point.

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You told me that I would not be approved to purchase your hardware. You also accused me of being a paid shill (of who I’m not sure) and deemed me a scammer(?).

Clearly you’re not having much luck with your ethash chips. The fpga’s are already exploiting the known weaknesses in ethash. The clock is ticking on both Ethereum and Ethereum Classic forking away from ethash. Why not make a deal with AMD, Nvidia or Intel for some GPU’s and build a 1.2x more efficient plug and play miner with standardized and interchangeable parts (like Obelisk). With ProgPoW both GPU and ASIC can mine happily side-by-side and that would also satisfy both sides of the gpu vs asic centralization argument.

:v:

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I respect all of these people, especially in their relevant domains of expertise, but unfortunately on this issue many of these voices do not have the relevant exposure to the details to make a real decision. I should know, because I was one of them months ago.

I changed my mind by reading the facts and understanding the nuance of the discussion, and arrived at the result that I was wrong, and this proposal is helpful to the security of the network, which is the end goal we’re seeking here. I really do not mean to offend anyone in saying this, but reasoning about hardware and the protocol layer and PoW algorithms and all the incentives at play is a very difficult and nuanced topic, and not something you can just pick up, even if you are very smart. Especially hardware design, which we have preciously few people in our community with that expertise, and they’re all here trying to explain to us why this is so important.

Out of the list you gave, perhaps only 2 or 3 have spent any amount of depth on the topic, and only one has written a long-form article on the subject. There are no academic papers to reference on the subject, and none of the claims made have been independently verified or disproven, making all of this harder. So, I don’t think appeals to authority (aka influencer’s opinions) is a good move here.


Besides the fact that it’s written in the Ethereum Yellowpaper (and thus a core design goal of Ethereum via Ethash), “ASIC resistance” is definitely a misnomer for something else. What we’re trying to achieve is a low barrier to entry to mining. GPUs are great for this (despite what Sonia is telling us) because the supply chains are pretty open, and I can obtain hardware through retail channels anywhere in the world. There is also an element of robustness, since those in countries like Venezuela and China, where the authorities confiscate mining equipment by force (on occasion), you can at least try the “but it’s an AI training rig!” defense.

The economies of scale of R&D and hardware production is hopefully such that, economically, it won’t make sense to produce an ASIC. This is intended to be validated by the audit, although I’m not sure how accurate we can get with this analysis.


Here’s a tweet thread walking through the motivation behind ProgPoW by @TrustlessState. I had not seen him support ProgPoW before, and he did a good job summarizing it. Knowledge is power!


I hear this sentiment argued a lot, I feel like the majority of dissenters hold this view. Regardless, it’s not about supporting the incumbents, it’s about ensuring our current security providers, which is a more politically decentralized group of miners with the ability to reuse or sell their hardware at less of a loss (GPU miners can be repurposed to other coins and use cases, right?) stay in power, making an easier transition to PoS.

Private hardware manufacturers are more politically organized and can move faster than our community can, which, coupled with a strong incentive to continue profiting off of selling specialized hardware for Ethereum mining, will oppose the move to PoS tooth and nail. One just needs to look how hard they are fighting to blackball this proposal to get a sense of the tactics that will be used in the coming years to oppose the transition to PoS.


Obviously, I’m not going to convince anyone who is already convinced of their point of view, but I hope a few take the opportunity to deeply explore the evidence, learn a little bit about the economics of hardware manufacturing and PoW mining, and arrive independently at their own understanding of what is best in this scenario: allowing specialized mining hardware to take over our network’s security, or maintaining the “status quo” which has been working for a while without too much of a problem.

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Do you believe this proposal is contentious enough to cause a community split if enacted?

No strong opinion there, but I think it may also be worth thinking about whether it disenfranchises some application developers enough to get them to build on another network. This is obviously hard to quantify, but seems worth thinking through.

How would this proposal disenfranchise developers? Do you mean those that have the opinion it’s not helpful?