Craig Wright on Vitalik Buterin’s Notarization Idea: “One of the Most Ignorant Concepts” of Bitcoin and Blockchain

Craig Wright and Vitalik Buterin clashed on the internet earlier today after Buterin described blockchain’s value as a notarization service. Craig Wright described Buterin’s argument as one of the most ignorant concepts of bitcoin and blockchain technology that he had ever read.

It started when Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin tweeted a statement on Monday describing bitcoin’s value as a notarization service:

“The value of blockchain “notarization” is not proof of existence; it’s *proof of inexistence*. The ability to prove that message M is the *one and only one* of a certain type that has been signed, or that a message of some type *has not* been published yet”.

Someone forwarded the tweet to formerly-self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto Craig Wright and asked for a statement. Wright responded with a lengthy blog post on Medium explaining why Buterin is wrong. Wright began by summing up Buterin’s idea as ignorant:

“I was forwarded one of the most ignorant concepts of what bitcoin (and for that matter blockchain) is about earlier today.”

Wright equated Buterin’s idea with the “false idea that code is law or that code can ever be law.”

“I am sorry to tell you that the only thing a notarization does is to offer evidence of existence. Not proof, evidence. As some may remember with MD5 and a tool named Stripwire, the integrity of a hash can also be called into question.”

Wright refuted the two main claims proposed by Ethereum, including:

  • Claim A) Blockchain has the ability to prove that message M is the one and only one of a certain type that has been signed
  • Claim B) That blockchain has the ability to prove that a message of some type has not been published yet

Obviously, this is a fundamental disagreement over the nature and usefulness of blockchain technology. Wright is on one side and Buterin is on the other.

One of the central tenets of this disagreement is that a key is not identity. As Wright explains in his blog post:

“One major error is that some people (those in the ETH camp) seem to confuse identity and the ability to sign a transaction and think these are synonymous. There is not way to associate a key with a person other than the long arduous process of PKI and once this is deployed, we have a means to associate all use and lose privacy.”

Blockchain Isn’t Going to Solve All the World’s Problems, According to Wright

Wright also acknowledged that blockchain isn’t the ultimate solution to all of the problems facing the world today. It’s not going to single handedly save the world, and it functions best as a payments platform:

“Bitcoin is not a technical panacea for all the world’s ills and it is not a social system. It was a means to deliver sound money using the principles of competition. The creation of money that comes through the market’s invisible hand.”

One of the main reasons why bitcoin is not a technical panacea for the world’s problems is because bitcoin does not deliver social consensus. There are social voting systems built on top of the bitcoin blockchain. However, this is not an efficient way to create social consensus. Instead, bitcoin’s blockchain achieves economic consensus: the most efficient miners win.

Wright acknowledged that blockchain can be used to register assets in a regulated system. However, it does not prevent those assets from being controlled by the government, nor does it have a built-in dispute resolution system. It’s not going to solve the world’s problems:

“Bitcoin can be used to aid in auditing, to make the registration of assets on a regulated system, easier and less expensive. It does nothing to alleviate the need for a system of dispute management. It does not stop the control of property by government. If you do not like this, well, too bad. You can cry to the sky all you will, but the fact is, this is the world we are in.”

We Still Need Notaries

Ultimately, Wright is arguing that we still need notaries. Blockchain isn’t law, and blockchain cannot replace the functions of a notary. A blockchain can be used to register assets, but it cannot natively and securely verify the legitimacy of all documents:

“A large part of what a notary does is covered by the term “Authenticating”. This is not just that they published a hash of a document, but that they have verified the authenticity of the document at the time it is notarised (and not prior). A hash of a document, a token or a transaction on a blockchain is evidence of its existence at that time. No more, no less.”

The blockchain provides evidence of a document’s existence at a certain point in type. It does not, however, provide more than that.

Wright and Buterin Continue to Battle on Twitter

The two crypto community leaders continue swapping tweets as we go to press.

“Um. No,” writes Wright in response to a tweet from Buterin arguing in favor of blockchain notarization and “proof of inexistence.”

“That is not what a notary is for. And, sorry. You do not prove inexistance this way [sic]. I could have a copy with a hash of a hash saved with an earier date [sic]. You fail to prove that. Science does not prove negatives”

In any case, Buterin and Wright clearly are not fans of one another. Their battle over blockchain’s functions as a notary service continue online.

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