DAO Critic Defends Ethereum Hard Fork as 'Rite of Passage'

The Cornell professor who emerged as one of The DAO's leading critics believes ethereum's hard fork is a sign of maturity.

AccessTimeIconJul 20, 2016 at 9:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 6, 2023 at 2:49 p.m. UTC

A Cornell University professor of computer science who has proved to have a knack for pointing out flaws in blockchain code believes the hard fork that occurred earlier today is a sign of maturity for the ethereum platform.

Last month, Cornell's Emin Gün Sirer emerged as a major critic of The DAO, the project whose failings ultimately led to the hard fork, pointing out vulnerabilities in its code and becoming the go-to source for ethereum coders looking to understand what exactly happened and how it could be avoided again.

Though he’s still quick to point out that unforeseen vulnerabilities in the code might persist, he told CoinDesk there are several reasons to be hopeful for the future of ethereum, even after the weeks of drama that ended in today's hard fork.

From an ethereum bootcamp co-hosted with the Ethereum Foundation, Gün Sirer said "chains change" because they are responding to the needs of a community, and not necessarily because they are weak.

He told CoinDesk:

"It’s a point of strength to be able to adapt to that change, to be able to respond to it, to be able to do it in an orderly fashion. Ethereum just demonstrated this. I think this is a rite of passage for ethereum."

A lesson for every currency

After weeks of planning, and several coordinated efforts to help achieve consensus among the miners on the etherum blockchain, the hard fork occurred today at approximately 14:30 UTC, returning about $140m worth of funds lost in the collapse of The DAO to an account available to its original investors.

According to Gün Sirer, the hard fork should be seen as a sign of growth not just for ethereum, but a lesson for anyone using cryptocurrency of any sort, or for that matter, fiat currency.

In particular, he describes the belief among some cryptocurrency users that the length of a blockchain is the source of its value as "long-chain fetishism" that misses the point of what really gives any currency value.

He said:

"The most important lesson, at least for me, and I hope for the public at large as well, is that the fiat currency in my pocket and also the cryptocurrency in various different wallets that I have, they all have value because of community properties, because the community believes them."

No rest for the weary

Beginning today and for the next week, Gün Sirer is co-hosting an etherum bootcamp with both the Ethereum Foundation and the inventor of ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, as part of an effort to build out that community.

Thirty-eight guests have enrolled to participate in the event from all over the world, half of which come from Cornell University, where it is hosted. Coding instructors include Buterin and three other Ethereum Foundation members and multiple Cornell University staffers. Participants range in experience from early-stage developers to high-level executives from several companies interested in exploring ethereum.

But not everything about building such a strong community is positive, according to Buterin. In email to CoinDesk, Buterin explained that ethereum users were "lucky" the hack gave them time to respond, but that might not always be the case.

Buterin wrote:

"The next time around, we may well not have such an opportunity at all. Additionally, forks will only get more and more difficult to implement over time as the community grows."

Image via Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk


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