On 15 September, the most complex, most risky and most thoroughly tested software project in history will be switched on. Moreover, if it falls over, or is hacked immediately, it will probably precipitate a global collapse of somewhere around one-quarter of a trillion dollars in assets, possibly within hours, making every financial collapse in history look flaccid, with domino effects and contagion that we can’t even grasp.
Why Does it Matter
It has been in development for about eight years. It has somewhere between 200 and 300 of the smartest developers all over the world working on it. As it switches on, the event will be watched by millions of people, many of whom will not really understand what they are seeing on their screens. Most people on Earth will not know or care that it is happening. Unless of course, $250-billion disappears overnight.
It is this. You have a couple of hundred billion dollars of value locked into your blockchain. You are processing $1-billion per day, transactions flowing constantly through the network, 24 hours per day. How in the world can you risk making a profound and fundamental change to the architecture in real time without breaking stuff? Or, as it is often analogised, how do you change a jet engine in mid-flight? This was, and is, the nature of the problem, its risk and its complexity and challenge. And it means testing. On test networks. With test cryptocurrencies. With test computers, thousands of them. And testing and simulating and improving and testing again. Which has been going on for years and exceeds anything the software world has ever seen. All this for a more energy-efficient blockchain? Partially, yes, but more importantly it is part of a longer roadmap — less energy, a deflationary monetary system, fast throughput, low fees, sustainable incentives for stakeholders and other more arcane features. All the stuff everyone in crypto secretly dreams about at night and tweets about by day.