While Bitmain announced an ASIC mining chip for Ethereum, Vitalik proposes no changes in the software to discourage ASIC mining.
The anti-ASIC debate has been fired up again with Bitmain’s recent announcements regarding new ASIC chips which can mine Ether and Monero.
While Monero developers rolled out a new update today, changing the proof of work protocol to reject ASIC mining, Ethereum lead Vitalik Buterin proposed a “no action” approach.
ASICs pose a threat to decentralisation, since they incentivise large conglomerates to set up advanced hardware (which is quite expensive) and rake in majority of the mining rewards.
Since the increase in hash rate also increases mining difficulty (a feature of proof of work algorithms), the more ASICs join the network, the harder it gets for the average Joe to mine the cryptocurrency using standard computer hardware.
This is a concern since it alienates regular people and leaves the playing field to large entities only. Not only does this present a network dominance issue, it also means governments can shut down (albeit temporarily) entire networks by targeting only the dominant entities.
Discussing the issue at a meeting today, Ethereum developer Piper Merriam suggested a software update to undermine ASIC miners and reward the use of standard GPUs. However, Vitalik Buterin spoke against such an approach, citing the ensuing upgrade-adoption issues and wastage of resources, which according to him, can be better utilised to further the development of Casper.
Vitalik commented on the matter earlier too, stressing that no POW algorithm can be ASIC resistant forever, and the long-term solution is going to be a scheduled move towards Proof of Stake (Casper), which would remove the need for hardware mining completely.
The Ethereum co-founder may not be wrong in his decision, since Monero’s update saw the hash rate fall dramatically and the emergence of a new coin, Monero Classic, which intends to stick to the old software, allowing ASIC mining.
Since forks and updates are not long-term solutions, it is probably better for the developers to spend their time furthering the next update rather than applying anti-ASIC patches. Even without any updates, many in the community are sceptical about Bitmain’s new ASIC hardware and their projected numbers.
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