Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has published a thought-provoking blog post cautioning the blockchain community about the hazards of overextending Ethereum’s consensus mechanism beyond its central functions of block validation and network security. This post puts the spotlight on the potential systemic risks that certain implementations could pose to the Ethereum ecosystem.
According to Buterin, the consensus of the Ethereum network is one of the most secure cryptoeconomic systems, upheld by a vast community of developers and users. However, he cautions against proposals that seek to leverage Ethereum’s validator set and social consensus for additional purposes, asserting that such practices carry high systemic risks and should be discouraged.
The blog post presents a hypothetical scenario in which an ETH/USD price oracle, reliant on validator voting, leads to disastrous consequences due to validators relying on compromised centralized APIs. Over time, as other price indices are added, political crises lead to a split in the Ethereum community, demonstrating the dangers of tethering the blockchain to real-world conflicts.
Buterin emphasizes that a blockchain’s “purity”, as a mathematical construct devoid of outside world influence, is an asset that should not be jeopardized. As soon as a blockchain attempts to integrate real-world information, it risks importing real-world conflicts and disrupting the community.
The Ethereum co-founder calls for preserving the blockchain’s minimalism, supporting uses of re-staking that do not extend Ethereum’s consensus role, and assisting developers in identifying alternate security strategies. The overall message is clear: caution must be exercised to avoid stretching Ethereum’s consensus mechanism, for the benefit of the whole ecosystem.