An American data scientist unveiled in the mainstream media yesterday the results of an investigation she conducted on the early days of Bitcoin during the 2009 to 2011 period. It’s fascinating: according to her, 64 individuals controlled virtually all of the mining at that time, and they could easily have attacked the network, but chose not to.
This study raises questions about the decentralization of Bitcoin in its early years. We know that the community was much smaller back then, but it’s impressive how tiny it was.
The scientist, Alyssa Blackburn, used “leakage information” to come up with this result. Here’s how The New York Times reported her methods :
Aggregating multiple leakages, Ms. Blackburn consolidated many Bitcoin addresses, which might have seemed to represent many miners, into few. She pieced together a catalog of agents and concluded that, in those first two years, 64 key players — some of whom were the community’s “founders,” as the researchers called them — mined most of the Bitcoin that existed at the time.
“What they figured out, just how concentrated early mining and use of Bitcoin was, that’s a scientific discovery,” said Eric Budish, an economist at the University of Chicago.
Some might think this is bad news, but I disagree. For one thing, it proves that serious scientific researchers are interested in blockchain and its usefulness (by the way, Alyssa Blackburn herself says that she is cryptocurrency agnostic, and she says that her research can help make the network more decentralized).
It also shows how far we’ve come since 2009. Today, it would be unthinkable that a single person – or a small group of people – could carry out a 51% attack against Bitcoin.
Finally, it proves that the early adopters cared about the health of the network.
Contrary to what no-coiners love to think, cryptocurrency and blockchain is a new and fascinating technology, and that study proves it. Real scientific progress is being achieved because of it. “The techniques used to extract information are interesting”, said Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist. Studying blockchains lead to new techniques, which is a scientific progress.
What do you think about this discovery?