The weekly reorganization: completion of Satoshi’s work

Just under a year ago I announced the idea for the Bitcoin Script Project on Twitter. To say it was well received would be an understatement. Bitcoiners wanted something to hold on to in the midst of the bear. Glimmers of hope were on the horizon and I intended to amplify them and hopefully bring the industry together around a new technology narrative. Unfortunately, life had other plans and, long story short, I quickly realized I bit off more than I could chew at that moment.

The Bitcoin Script Project never saw the light of day. At best, it was a short-lived social awareness campaign. It planted some ideas and moved the conversation forward. At the very least, it’s probably why I have the privilege of working on this column today. I mention this because my experience is no different than that of hundreds of people who have tried to make their mark on Bitcoin. It’s a humiliating and thankless business. Bruised egos are commonplace. Many have left much more blood, sweat and tears than me on this front.

Every now and then, however, the stars align and our collective actions begin to transcend the interests of any individual. You see, Bitcoin moves at its own pace. Try to increase the pace and the whole dance is thrown away. This act of synchronization requires a lot of patience.

Last week, just as the walls seemed to be closing in, the dance company finally got its groove back. And it was beautiful. After a long pause, optimism has returned and has finally shaken off fear, uncertainty and doubt. The opportunity presented has galvanized the developer community to undertake perhaps its most ambitious work to date.

Make the writing great again

Wednesday morning, when I entered the halls of the Palmer Events Center in Austin, it was hard to ignore the flashbacks to days long gone.

In 2015, an eerily similar event took place in Montreal, Canada, and set the tone for the next decade. Bitcoin’s scaling came at a critical juncture in the project’s history, just as the community struggled to define its vision for the future. The event was a who’s who of a then young and nascent industry. The entire figurative brain of Bitcoin under one roof. Scary, in hindsight.

I digress, but Bitcoin++ had similar vibes last week. You could tell straight away that there was a special energy in the building and the crowd was no less exceptional. A stark contrast to the average conference roadshow and online antics we’re used to.

No billboards, no 280-character tirades and, above all, no sales pitch.

As the conference began, it was hard to ignore the momentum behind the OP_CAT proposal. His most convinced supporters were probably preparing for the event to constitute his consecration. A rough consensus seemed within reach, and even those who had initially rejected it were coming around to the idea.

As fate would have it, at least one person had other plans and already in the first minutes of his presentation everyone present understood the implications.

“The Great Script Restoration Project” is Blockstream developer Rusty Russell’s attempt to flip the proverbial script on everyone. It’s a journey to contemplate the “why” behind the chaos of scripts and deal proposals being thrown around these days. What are we trying to achieve?

How about fixing the Bitcoin script and bringing it back to its former glory?

As an example, a significant portion of Bitcoin’s script functionality was hastily removed in 2010, when some functions were discovered to be prone to resource depletion (DDoS) attacks. Rather than address the underlying problem, Satoshi took an ax to everything he thought could be affected and the mangled and confusing byproduct is what we are left with today. Much of the conversation so far has focused on patching scripts with band-aids here and there to restore some functionality. This inevitably dragged us into the dead ends of horse trading and bicycle storage.

The restoration project turns this approach on its head and proposes taking the appropriate engineering measures to get there. If we agree on the destination, then we should take this opportunity to change Bitcoin for the better. To hell with political and social stigmas and ossifications. This last point cannot be stressed enough. Intentional or not, Rusty’s presentation feels like a call for developers to break free from dogma and embrace science again.

It turns out that the best way to convince developers is to bombard them with data, benchmarks and measurements. I’ll leave the details of its structure to more technical people, but it’s worth pointing out why it has proven so effective. By offering a model to account for the cost of each associated change, Rusty allows us to bring them all together under the same umbrella. This is a significant departure from the existing framework that pitted each proposal against each other. Instead, let’s work together to fix what was previously abandoned and thought broken, using thoughtful engineering.

Trust the process

To be clear, “The Great Script Restoration Project” hardly qualifies as a proposal yet. It is nothing more than a collection of ideas and some very early suggestions on how we might approach them. The reason it has gained so much popularity in such a short time is that it represents an opportunity to do things differently. To finish Satoshi’s work.

For the first time in a long, long time, some rough outlines of consensus are emerging. Maybe not around a proposal, but at least around a process. This is progress.

“Let’s become engineers. Let’s be objective and discuss these things rationally. Yes, we will have to convince the rest of the world but it is much easier if we all row in the same direction.” -Christian Decker

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