Who pays for the complexity of Ethereum? A lead developer speaks

Are there problems in heaven? Ethereum Team Leader Péter Szilágyi had something to say. The man is one of the most prominent defenders of ETH on Twitter, but he felt “extremely frustrated” in his latest thread. The lead protocol developer also used keywords like “overload” and phrases like “might not be willing/able to forever”. What was Szilágyi complaining about? Complexity.

Related Reading | Ethereum edges closer to proof-of-stake as latest testnet completes merger

The Ethereum lead developer’s argument started like this:

“Complexity is an often overlooked aspect of a system because it’s usually someone else who pays the price, not the person creating it.

But make no mistake, someone *pays* the price – whether in money, time or mental capacity. They might not want/can do forever.

Spoiler alert: it talks about the developers. They are the ones who pay the price. And they speak through him.

Ethereum nears merger. And maximum complexity.

Following the laws of dramatic writing, Péter Szilágyi first paints a picture. “In the history of Ethereum, complexity has never decreased. Every EIP stacks up. Every major change (1559, merge, sharding, verkle, stateless, L2, etc.) is one more nail. Then, he drops the hammer and explains the… complexity of the situation:

“As much as it feels like we are approaching The Merge, I have to stress that Ethereum is not moving in a clear direction. Tangentially, it’s about getting results, but it’s also about piling on complexity like there’s no tomorrow.

If the protocol doesn’t slim down, it won’t.

As a refresher course, their official site defines The Merge for now, “the current Ethereum mainnet will ‘merge’ with the beacon chain proof-of-stake system.” It is this mythical moment when the protocol will change from Proof-Of-Work to Proof-Of-Stake. Sometimes it feels like Ethereum will never get to that crucial turning point.

ETH price chart for 03/19/2022 on FTX | Source: ETH/USD on TradingView.com

Szilágyi issues a warning

Even if the lead developer personally signs the post, this may be a more widespread issue. This could be an issue with Ethereum developers as a whole. What was Szilágyi complaining about? Complexity.

“There have been engineering attempts to reduce complexity (division of modules in Erigon, distribution of responsibilities in The Merge). Yet there has never been an attempt to reduce the complexity of the protocol.

We’re already past the point where anyone has a full system picture.

This all sounds ominous to protocol holders and proponents, but nothing in the thread sounds more threatening than Szilágyi’s last sentence. “There are fewer and fewer people who know and want to put a broken network back together. And each change pushes back more. Of course, it seems that he speaks on behalf of the developer.

The meme that Szilágyi uses at the end is also revealing. And borderline threatening.

The other side of Ethereum

As this thread went live, in what appears to be an alternate universe, Time Magazine crowned Vitalik Buterin as the “prince of cryptography”. Additionally, the Ethereum creator’s cover art is part of a “historic NFT drop”, and the issue is being framed as something special. In the article for this contrasting story, Bitcoinist said:

“In this sense, he expressed concern about the dominance of decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs and “shameless displays of wealth” driven by collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club. also worried about rising transaction fees, and “overeager investors”.

Buterin believes Ethereum will welcome a broader revolution beyond “monkeys,” and into the most important aspect of people’s lives.

So even though there may be dissension in the ranks, the Ethereum army goes on. With corporate media support, no less. On the other hand, it is interesting to see one of the main proponents of the protocol raise the issue of complexity. This point is central to the criticism of Ethereum by bitcoiners. Does all this complexity belong to the first layer of a blockchain?

Related Reading | Ethereum’s ConsenSys Closes $450M Round, Announces Major Changes to MetaMask

At the same time, this story is only a tiny part of the overall story that is The Merge. Is it as close as Péter Szilágyi says? Is it as certain as he implies? Or, is his wire a bad sign? We will know soon enough. Will Ethereum accomplish the impossible? Stay tuned to find out.

Featured Image by John Barkiple on Unsplash  | Charts by TradingView

Sharon D. Cole