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Mirko Da Corte

April 27, 2022

The Consensus on Blockchain

Regulation is the absence of consensus

cit. T-shirt seen at the Devcon3 in Cancun

Often speaking of blockchain we are more attentive to aspects such as the value of our favorite token, the number of transactions per second, or implementation details, such as the use of one or the other technology, the release of one or the other coin, forgetting (or ignoring) to observe a long-term global view, relative to the absolute developments of blockchain, in and on society.

Blockchain, a tool for expressing consensus

In summary, Blockchain was born to solve a fundamental problem: "decentralizing consensus". This can also be translated in the form of "eliminating the central points of trust".

But what is consensus?

Consensus is an expression of will, which everyone operating on the blockchain can and must express (consciously or not) towards a set of rules. Each expression can be autonomous, if you personally own a node, or it can be delegated, if you use services on third-party nodes, such as MyEtherWallet for Ethereum.

If we want, we can see the classic use of a centralized service as our delegation of consensus to apply the rules that govern the service itself (we could argue that delegating consensus is itself expressing a consensus, but it is often unconscious), therefore using a service based on third nodes, is not very different from using classic centralized services (we can have exceptions if there are particular transparency policies).

However, the real power of blockchain lies right here: not having delegation of consensus as the only option of choice!

In other words, since delegating consensus means placing trust in the delegate, in fact we have a functioning system that can do without the concept of trust. In this way we can express in first person, without intermediaries, our vote towards each set of rules, and we do this ultimately by running one or the other version of the client in our node.

In reality, consensus can be expressed on several levels:

  • at the blockchain level, at the infrastructure level, it can be expressed with the choice of the client for the node, once the infrastructure is solidly subject to the laws of consensus,
  • at the application level it can instead be expressed through various governance methodologies or through the value of the markets.

But how does blockchain actually allow you to do this?

Here too, in summary, blockchain fulfills this task by solving one and only one basic problem, from Satoshi's whitepaper: "eliminating double spending".

Solving the problem of double spending, or rather spending the same currency twice in different and incompatible ways, can ultimately be generalized in the desire to "have a single word of expression", or rather to prevent to one individual (or better as we will see to a set of resources) double-dealing, performing different and discordant actions, and showing different operators’ different operations.

This is achieved by creating a ledger (the chain of blocks) that is unique for all, and that offers one and only a single version of the world, which is indisputable and shared.

In this ledger, everything that happens is law, unless consensus is given.

Consensus VS. regulations

The difference between a set of rules determined by consensus and an imposed regulation is fundamental.

In the case of a regulation, which can be laws imposed by a government, or rules for the use of a service, there is someone deciding on our own what a society of individuals is able to do or not, and we can be more or less in agreement on the single points, but in general we are never called to choose directly and in real time on them.

On the other hand, in the case of an expression of direct consensus, this must be granted and earned at any time on every single point, therefore it must be expressed directly, and it is free.

For example, if the main team of a blockchain project wanted to force even a single controversial point, the network could decide to shift its consensus on a (hard) fork, and this is the case, for example, of Bitcoin Cash.

Therefore, having an imposed regulation means taking advantage, in the last resort, of a tool that does not require consensus to be used, on the contrary, most of the times it completely excludes it from the accounts, referring (in the best case) to cumulative requests for trust, more or less periodic.

Blockchain is a social revolution

Blockchain, before being a technological revolution, is and must be a social revolution, which requires a radical change of mentality and individual conscience.

In fact, it is necessary that each individual begins a path that leads him to choose (as far as possible, and gradually) not to delegate his decisions anymore, that leads him to take a personal interest in issues, and that makes him demand transparency and verification on what concerns him.

When there will be this strong personal, collective need, then the value of the technological revolution will take over which will make it possible to organize everything, which, however, without a new type of social organization would only be a beautiful exercise in style.

However, since we are talking about an instrument that opens enormous possibilities, and above all that in the long run cannot be hindered, it is inevitable that over time it will impose itself in a gradual but heavy manner in society, actively encouraging an evolution of personal conscience, and which will first involve certain social classes of others.

In fact, a strong distinction will be created, like a neo-illiteracy, between those who will be able to take their own choices in hand (and above all decide to do so), and those who prefer to continue to rely on the old systems, administered by the old powers.

There will be a rebalancing of powers, moving it more and more towards a society capable of being founded on new values, which will gradually collect resources and capital, gradually leaving the old systems to disintegrate under an infrastructure that is already unsustainable today.

This will simply happen for a reason; the new system will be much more efficient and agile in mutating than the other.

Where consensus is in force, the rules change, easily and according to needs. In a society where does not win the strongest but who knows how to adapt better, a government managed by consensus can only be successful in the long run.

Just think, similarly, how banks are starting to prefer decentralized federations to coordinate (via private blockchains), rather than single centralized management pyramid points. On a different scale, a society has the same kind of problems.

What are the values ​​of an ideal society based on consensus?

Undoubtedly, by eliminating the points of centralization of trust, we would have a validation of the solutions that solve the problems of many, rather than those of a few.

In other words, there will be a tendency to prefer solutions that maximize the profit of the most, reducing (where in contrast) the profit of the least. We will therefore approach the concept of perfect direct democracy, in which all decisions will be taken by the community, and there will be no need to employ representatives.

Since there will be no more representatives able to organize secret plans for their personal purposes, all the solutions will be as simple as possible, to be understandable, and transparent, without ulterior motives.

In a perhaps romantic way, I like to quote a phrase by Peppino Impastato from the film "I cento passi” which says "... Beauty is important, everything else comes down from that", this describes in my opinion well the whole of values ​​that would govern a society based on consensus.

Unfortunately, this is an ideological situation, reality is not just plain sailing as it might seem, as there will also be other dynamics to take into consideration, such as the distribution of resources, here now more important than ever.

New prospective

Speaking of resources, there will be a strengthening of the latter with respect to the recognition of personal individuality.

The value will then shift from the individual to the set of resources he controls. The reason is simple: blockchain badly recognizes the concept of profile, data collection, registration, login, access permissions, etc... These are concepts that in the context of decentralization and trustless services are no longer valid.

In fact, assuming an entity capable of identifying individuals on the blockchain, it would necessarily carry out off-chain verification operations, all those who decide to accept these issued certificates should certainly attribute a certain degree of trust to these operations, which is contrary the basic principles on decentralization and the removal of trust centers from blockchain.

This does not mean that there cannot be these guarantors, but they will certainly have a marginal importance since they are anchored to the old model.

To give a concrete example, we will no longer have to register nominally to have water, electricity and gas supplies at home, everything will be managed through contracts on the blockchain.

Instead, what will be on the blockchain will be an imposition of the value of the resources, which will acquire power by the very consensus that people attribute to them, and they will operate in a trustless and anonymizing context.

We will tend to map every resource on the blockchain, can these be an asset, a property, money, a service contract, an agreement between parties, an identity (if we decide to trust a guarantor).

Everything will tend to have an on-chain corresponding, because on-chain it will be verifiable and programmable.

The same regulations in which we are immersed (government, health, transport, various service providers, etc.) will tend to increasingly recognize the on-chain resource, gradually shifting management from a Law based on classical language oriented to the individual, to a mathematical Law with resource-oriented on-chain contracts.

We will then have a society tokenization process.

This tokenization process itself will be one of the most radical changes in the organizational level of a consensus-based society.

From a certain point of view, it might seem almost worrying to think that everything, anything, will one day go through the validation of certain properties by an impartial blockchain algorithm, capable of operating 24/7, non-stop.

What degree of personal freedom will be guaranteed to the individual on chain will be defined solely by consensus.

Hence, the absolute importance of this consensus of being free and decentralized returns, and the need for this consensus to be able to be expressed as resiliently as possible by third influences, through an evolution of collective consciousness.

In a world where resources will acquire an ever-greater administrative value, the way they are distributed will gain more and more importance.

We might be led to think that huge amounts of cryptocurrency capital are in the hands of a few people today, and that this will turn out to be a problem.

This is partly true, but there are some considerations that need to be made. The first, more banal, is that a more widespread diffusion of cryptocurrencies will also lead to an automatic redistribution of tokens within the population.

The second, more interesting, is that in fact the value of each token, be it market, administrative, or any other form, will itself be determined through consensus. It is in fact the people who will determine which tokens will be able to influence their community.

For example, in the event that there is a huge centralization of tokens for the provision of a certain service, and in the event that this centralization becomes consensually problematic, the value will be able to move from these tokens to those of a competitor, rebalancing the distribution of values.

In fact, at this stage, the possibility of having more competing coins (or tokens) in circulation is fundamental, not necessarily on different blockchains, but capable of having specific purposes for which people can attribute different degrees of consensus, shifting their value.

With this system, tokens with particularly unbalanced distributions can be replaced by equivalent tokens with more balanced distributions, or more tokens can coexist together with different distributions. Consensus determines everything.

All these assumptions, however, are valid if and only if we admit that we can freely express and share consensus even on the choices to be made collectively.

While it seems simple to think of a market, where everyone can make their own decisions independently, and where each move is made up like a drop in an ocean into something bigger but progressive, it is different when our choices must be evaluated for make a discrete and shared decision within a group.

The inability to express one's consensus correctly can lead, on a global level, to the distancing of blockchain solutions from practical applications, because they are not very efficient.

Worse still, in the event that there is no freedom of expression of consensus, given for example by legislation that does not allow free alternatives (e.g. single currencies and state infrastructures), we would have a system with only apparent freedoms, capable instead to intensify the monitoring and tracing of users, determining more stringent algorithms capable of deciding what is and what is not possible to do with our properties, and in what ways.

Obviously, in this case, despite the talk of blockchain, we are not exercising consensus. Here the problem is the nationalization and the imposition of the infrastructure, and therefore the lack of alternative.

Certain systems, not to be underestimated, can only be imposed through the tools of the old system, legally or by force, both with off-chain actions on the citizen.

Another case to avoid is the one involving excessive network fragmentation. It must always be possible to offer an alternative, so that consensus can be redistributed on a free market, but excessive fragmentation eliminates the network effect, which exponentially lowers the value of the network itself, which is as far as possible avoided.


While it may not seem like it overall, this moment is actually a fantastic turning point in human history.

Today, previously unimaginable opportunities are opening, capable of finally offering freedom in personal choices, while allowing man to organize himself in self-managed and cooperating communities, without necessarily having central points of trust to be elected as representatives.

Something that has never happened before, which will probably dictate the revolutions of the next century, and perhaps beyond.

Personally, I am deeply convinced that man, in his history, is going through a medieval age of information in modernity: for the first time he has the possibility of managing data on a global level, but he has not yet understood what it is, or what its real value.

Every day we are subjected to world news that brings us signs of inequality, disinformation and general malaise.

Blockchain, with the revolution it leads and the prospect of new types of communities without borders and based on consensus, could perhaps lead us towards a new cultural renaissance.