Researchers Wonder What “Don’t Trust” Means for Blockchain

Researchers Wonder What “Don’t Trust” Means for Blockchain

Members of the crypto community will likely be familiar with mantras like “Don’t trust, verify!” or the “rule of the code.” Both refer to the promises of greater transparency and audibility.

The desire to dispense with the need to trust third parties is a mainstay of many cryptocurrency creators and users. Bitcoin (BTC), after all, was invented in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Abuse of authority by powerful actors and institutions remained prominent throughout the Great Recession. Cryptocurrencies have continued to attract more and more enthusiasts against the backdrop of the social, political, and economic crisis. blockchain, Researchers Wonder What “Don’t Trust” Means for Blockchainblockchain, Researchers Wonder What “Don’t Trust” Means for Blockchain

However, a document was first published by a group of researchers in August this year. It circulated through the Oxford University Faculty of Law blog on October 27. The document opposes the conceptualization of the blockchain as a matter of trust. 


Blockchain as a trust machine

Instead, the article proposes to understand the blockchain as a trust machine. The argument is based on a careful analysis of the distinction between trust and security; each matter acts as a complex set of ideas in its own right. However, despite their internal complexity, trust, and security, each implies a fundamentally different interpretation of the nature of the social environment. 

Trust, through its various definitions, presupposes an acknowledgment of risk and uncertainty. One can consciously choose to trust another agent through a leap of faith or a compromise, or as a result of a rational choice, based on the calculation that a third party is interested in acting in a certain way. It can also be trusted more tacitly, through routine actions, in which the background of risk is less explicitly recognized.

Trust, on the other hand, presupposes the predictability of systems or institutions. These predictable systems, in the case of the blockchain, refer to the technological design of a protocol, a repository of open-source code, and the mathematical properties of hash functions and public, and private key cryptography. 

Blockchain systems also seek to maximize the predictability of a network of agent decisions through theoretical game mechanisms and economic incentives. Moreover, by providing a collective auditable record of the sequence of actions in a given ecosystem.

However, the authors of the article complicate this view of trust. Which, according to them, is based on the denial that blockchain systems are irreducible hybrids, with both social and technical components. They present their arguments by exploring the real asymmetries of resources and knowledge – and, therefore, of power – between the various actors in blockchain networks. { font-family: ‘Open Sans’, sans-serif; } {
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