In a recent article, Vitalik Buterin warns against the overuse of Ethereum consensus. Although Ethereum is considered one of the most secure crypto protocols, its misuse can lead to systemic risks. Buterin explains why certain techniques, such as the use of Ethereum validators for other protocols, should be discouraged and opposed.
Ethereum consensus in danger
Securing Ethereum is based on 18 million ETH (~34 billion dollars). Indeed, the nodes of the network validate a block every 6.4 minutes. They perform different protocol implementations to provide redundancy.
Moreover, in case of failure of the consensus, the developers and the users take care of the restoration of the network. If a validator attempts to attack the network, they suffer a penalty in the form of the confiscation of their stacked tokens.
However, over the years ideas have emerged to use the Ethereum consensus for other purposes. Layer 1 is often used for creating oracles. Thus, the network is subject to overloads which, according to Vitalik Buterinjeopardize his project.
Vitalik Buterin emphasizes that excessive use of Layer 1 can lead to unpredictable consequences.
He gives the example of an ETH/USD price oracle that gradually expands its scope to include other price indices, such as ETH/EUR and ETH/CNY.
In this scenario, where many oracles would be offered by Ethereum validators, Buterin explains how an unexpected political crisis in Brazil could jeopardize the integrity of the Ethereum blockchain.
In this sense, Buterin warns against incorporating more and more real-world information into the Ethereum consensus. He points out that this could transform the blockchain into a financial tool explicitly linked to conflicts and political decisions, contrary to its initial objective as a neutral technological platform.
The solutions offered by Buterin
According to Buterin, solutions to these problems must be considered on a case-by-case basis. For price oracles, he suggests the use of decentralized oracles which do not depend on layer 1. He also praised the efficiency of protocols based on the vote of validators.
But also, the co-founder of Ethereum supports the creation of a decentralized court system based on a DAO to resolve disputes over more subjective information than prices.
When it comes to Layers 2, Buterin recommends taking a more cautious approach. He suggests not relying on Ethereum consensus alone to fix the problems of these flawed protocols. For him, it is necessary to design security and recovery mechanisms specific to each Layer 1. This would minimize the systemic risks for Ethereum.
It is critical to understand the risks of Ethereum consensus overload. This is often caused by applications outside the main blockchain. Vitalik Buterin’s warnings highlight the need to maintain the security and integrity of the Ethereum network, while exploring specific solutions tailored to the needs of different applications.
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