# Ethereum, to be, or not to be (aligned)? ## Introduction Have you ever struggled to define "Ethereum alignment" when asked? I have. It's a concept that feels inherently important, almost intuitive. Feels almost like everyone is Ethereum aligned until you need to really define it actually means. This led me to sit down and systematically think through what "Ethereum alignment" means to me, especially when I'm advocating for its significance. I'm also interested in how others in the space interpret this term, as it likely holds various meanings, making a universal definition improbable. I see "Ethereum alignment" as akin to decentralization. Both are not binary but exist on a spectrum, and both involve trade-offs that deserve scrutiny. To simplify this intricate concept, I propose breaking down "Ethereum alignment" into distinct elements: - **Cultural Alignment**: This relates to Ethereum's broader vision, mission and the important role of its social layer. - **Technical Alignment**: This involves the continuous development of the Ethereum protocol—upcoming updates, contributions, and how one can align with these technical facets. - **Economic Alignment**: This centers on having aligned incentives with the Ethereum ecosystem: when your project does well financially, the whole ecosystem directly benefits, and vice versa. By examining "Ethereum alignment" in this way, I aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be in harmony with Ethereum's diverse objectives. ![](https://hackmd.io/_uploads/Syg4cwc-T.png) ## Acknowledgments I would like to thank [Vitalik Buterin](https://twitter.com/VitalikButerin), [Eli Ben-Sasson](https://twitter.com/EliBenSasson/), [Uri Kolodny](https://twitter.com/ukolodny), [Tim Beiko](https://twitter.com/TimBeiko) and [Sylve](https://twitter.com/sylvechv) for their extremely valuable input and discussions about the topic. *Edit*: Funny (and interestingly) enough, it seems thats [Sassal](https://twitter.com/sassal0x) and I came independently on the same conclusion for a framework to classify Ethereum and blockchain ecosystems. Sassal call it the *SET* (Social, Economic, Tech) framework. Here is a [thread](https://twitter.com/jabranthelawyer/status/1693268776119361574) discussing about it. I also want to thank someone I will identify as "Mr Silly" here, this person helped me to challenge a lot many of the aspects I address in this post (especially on the mission of Ethereum and the paradox of the social layer). ## My vision of Ethereum's mission After getting some feedback on earlier drafts, I realized I'd missed something big: I hadn't talked about Ethereum's mission. How can I discuss being aligned with Ethereum without first sharing what I think its mission is? That was a pretty big oversight. Alright, let's dive in. I want to share my take on Ethereum's core mission and principles. I'll aim for clarity and avoid vague generalities. In my view, Ethereum's mission is straightforward: to provide **social functions** that require **integrity** (such as money). To do this, we need an **unstoppable** platform. From this core idea, we can tease out all the essential required properties. Still skeptical? Let me elaborate. The term "unstoppable" is pretty self-explanatory—it means the platform can't be halted or tampered with. To achieve this, Ethereum needs robust **liveness** and **censorship resistance**. Censorship resistance naturally requires **neutrality**, because you can't assess the legitimacy of a transaction without introducing some form of bias. Strong liveness, on the other hand, hinges on **decentralization**, which is vital for both **fault tolerance** and **accessibility**. Additionally, **trust-minimization** is crucial; it ensures that no single entity can shut down the protocol. The term "social functions" is a bit nebulous, but let's consider Ethereum's role in providing **integrity** as a key aspect. This integrity acts as a powerful catalyst for functions that currently rely heavily on the good faith of a few key players. Now, Ethereum is known as a programmable and general-purpose platform, but I also see it as a credible alternative to Bitcoin in terms of being a store of value or even a form of money. It may not be as a hard money as Bitcoin, but it offers a bit more *acceptable* flexibility. I think it's important to be explicit about this. Simply put, the use case of money demands an extraordinary level of security and decentralization. If we don't acknowledge this, one could argue that Ethereum is overkill and that other use cases don't require those levels of decentralization and security. But that's just my two cents obviously. Ultimately, I believe Ethereum's end goal is to be resilient enough to **withstand attacks from nation-states**. In my eyes, we haven't fully realized our mission until we reach that milestone. ## Why is it important to be aligned with Ethereum ? Before we dive in, let's tackle the elephant in the room: Why should anyone care about aligning with Ethereum? Skip this, and the whole concept might seem like some exclusive club or even a cult. ### Tribalism and Maximalism: Not all sunshine and rainbows Crypto's full of tribes. It's like an immune system, good for keeping out the bad stuff (harmful influences against our core values). But remember, immune systems can also reject life-saving organ transplants. It's not a one-size-fits-all good thing. I find a certain appeal in this "maximalism," especially when interacting with newcomers to the crypto world. Let's be clear: maximal decentralization isn't optional; **it's a must**. Otherwise, we risk backsliding into the systems we're trying to break free from. I'm not thrilled when someone's crypto debut is betting on the latest memecoin. No judgment if that's your thing, but the problem starts when people buy into false stories. Want to get decentralization? Start with the Bitcoin whitepaper. Only then you can fully appreciate how Ethereum aims to extend Bitcoin's capabilities without compromising (too much!) on decentralization or security. ### My Path to Being a Bitcoin & Ethereum Minimalist For years, I've been wrestling with my place in the crypto world. We all like to put things in neat little boxes, don't we? So, for this talk, let's just say I'm a **Bitcoin & Ethereum Minimalist**. My road to this label wasn't a straight shot. I've gone through distinct phases, each one tweaking my views on decentralized protocols. What's interesting is how these shifts often lined up with big career changes. I'd like to think my evolving grasp of blockchain acted like a compass, steering my career. That's why I'm sharing this— to show how my changing beliefs have had real-world career impacts. #### The different stages of my vision of the spectrum Here's how my "crypto" journey unfolded, phase by phase: - **Bitcoin curious** (2010-2012): First heard about Bitcoin in engineering school. My initial thought? "This looks cool!" I read the Bitcoin whitepaper and messed around with the tech. Back then, I was all about the tech and kinda missed the bigger picture. - **Bitcoin convinced** (2012-2015): The more I dug, the more Bitcoin's philosophy clicked with me. I started questioning big stuff—power dynamics, societal norms, you name it. Funny enough, I was working in fintech at the time, building cloud payment solutions for banks. Talk about irony. I now quip, *"I used to work for banks before fighting them!"* - **Ethereum pilled - The revelation** (2015): This was a game-changer year. Heard about Ethereum at a remote conference and got hooked. Read the whitepaper and knew I had to be part of this. My goal? "Join the movement!" I was still at the fintech startup back then. - **Finding My Way into the Ethereum Space** (2015-2018): Tried to get my fintech startup into Ethereum. We did some experiments, but the founders weren't buying it. Eventually, I couldn't resist the pull of blockchain. I dove in, started coding more, and worked on side projects with like-minded folks. But it wasn't enough. So, I took the leap and joined ConsenSys. It was a big move, aligning with both my career goals and my belief in Ethereum's power. - **Ethereum Core Dev** (2018-2021): Got to work with some brilliant minds on Ethereum. My focus? Execution clients and the nitty-gritty of the EVM. The big moment? When [Tim Beiko](https://twitter.com/TimBeiko) asked if I'd champion [EIP-1559](https://eips.ethereum.org/EIPS/eip-1559).My casual "Yeah, sure, why not" turned into a deep dive into one of the most impactful EIPs. It was a complex, high-stakes time that taught me a lot about Ethereum's social layer and governance. But I digress—I could easily dedicate an entire post to the fascinating journey that was EIP-1559. - **Cosmos detour and quick reality check** (2021): After EIP-1559, I felt burned out 🔥(no pun intended 😜) and thought I'd seen all there was in Ethereum (what a mistake!!!). Got curious about Cosmos and its Appchain vision. Jumped ship and joined a Cosmos project. Initially, I was pretty wowed by Cosmos' tech—Tendermint, the Cosmos SDK, IBC, and especially the developer experience with CosmWasm for smart contracts. But then reality hit. The delegated Proof of Stake model? Kinda flawed. Users often just picked a validator from the top 10 list, and the whole system seemed to reward marketing skills over a strong, resilient validator setup. And here's another thing: not many Appchain teams were giving back to the core Cosmos tech. Cosmos has some brilliant minds and solid tech, no doubt. But when it comes to the social fabric that holds a decentralized system together, it's just not on the same level as Ethereum. I found a lack of strong mechanisms to defend core values. So, to sum it up, my time in the Cosmos ecosystem reaffirmed my belief: Ethereum, along with Bitcoin, is the only L1 with the chops to take on the ambitious goal of creating systems that can stand up to nation-state level threats. - **Back to Ethereum roots - The desire of Ethereum** (2022): Couldn't stay away from Ethereum. Faced with a choice between diving back into L1 or focusing on L2 scalability, I chose the latter. Why? It aligned with both my technical interests and my commitment to Ethereum's mission. - **Scaling Ethereum - Starknet pilled** (2022-now): Now my focus is on scaling Ethereum. Zero-Knowledge Proofs caught my eye, and I found myself leaning towards ZK Rollups over Optimistic Rollups. Starknet stood out among the ZK options, and I'll dive into why in a future post. #### The difference between being maximalist and being minimalist As I got deeper into blockchain and more committed to what I see as a fight against a broken system, I fell into the trap of maximalism. The more I wanted to change the world through decentralization, the more I dismissed anything that didn't fit that narrative. I became a Bitcoin & Ethereum maximalist, brushing off everything else as either irrelevant or inferior. But about a year later, I had a bit of a reality check. While I still firmly believe that only Bitcoin and Ethereum have the chops to stand up to nation-state level threats, I've come to see that not all blockchain projects need to meet that high bar. First off, not every use case needs the same level of security and decentralization. Second, some other L1s are doing some pretty cool stuff. Take Solana, for example. While it doesn't meet my personal criteria, I have to give credit where it's due. They've introduced some interesting innovative features, like the local fee market mechanism. I've also been impressed by the strides they've made in their social layer, particularly in defending some core principles. The resilience shown by the Solana community in the wake of the FTX collapse is noteworthy. It's also clear they're making progress on key metrics like node count and stack decentralization. So, while they may not meet my stringent criteria, they're definitely moving in a positive direction. I also think we can learn from Solana builders and collaborate more. On the engineering front, they have plenty of very talented folks, especially in terms of optimizations. So, what's a "minimalist" in this context? For me, it means focusing my time and energy on Bitcoin and Ethereum, the L1s that I believe have the best shot at taking on centralized powers. Both are still works in progress and could be captured, which is why we need to double down on making them resilient now, while we still can. There is another aspect that is important for me: the way an L1 is launched can also be a big deal. Economic incentives can lead to capture. Bitcoin had the purest launch, while Ethereum's ICO-based launch was less pure but still okay in my book, especially given its years of PoW distribution before moving to PoS. Why focus only on Bitcoin and Ethereum? Because right now, they're our best bet for resisting coordinated attacks from nation-states. That's the metric that really matters. Other projects, in my view, risk being distractions from this main goal. The fact that Bitcoin is sticking with PoW while Ethereum is moving to PoS actually works in our favor. Different attack vectors make it harder for governments to take them both down at the same time. It's a kind of complementary resilience that could be crucial for our larger mission. As for where I'm putting my own time and effort, I've chosen Ethereum. Contributing meaningfully to both platforms is a tall order, and you've got to pick your battles. Plus, Ethereum challenges me in ways that I find really engaging, and I've got a soft spot for its social layer. That said, I still have a lot of respect for Bitcoin's social layer. So, there you have it: a long-winded way of saying why I'm putting all my chips on Ethereum right now. ### The resilience of Ethereum and Bitcoin: A minimalist's perspective Both Ethereum and Bitcoin have demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving core values like censorship resistance and decentralization. This commitment isn't just theoretical; it's practical and has been tested under various challenges. As someone who identifies as a "Bitcoin and Ethereum minimalist," I find this resilience to be a compelling reason to align with these networks. #### Overcoming challenges: The case of Ethereum Ethereum's recent handling of the relay censorship scare serves as a prime example of its commitment to its core values. The community managed to reduce the percentage of relays that censor blocks from 75% to 25%. This wasn't a trivial feat; it required concerted effort, technical acumen, and a willingness to confront the issue head-on. It also showed that Ethereum doesn't cut corners when its core principles are at stake. #### The constant vigilance required It's essential to acknowledge that no blockchain ecosystem is perfect. Centralization risks are always lurking around the corner. However, what sets Ethereum (and Bitcoin) apart is the proactive approach to mitigating these risks. The community isn't just reactive; it's proactive, continually working to identify potential threats and address them before they escalate. #### Why minimalism matters Being a minimalist in this context means focusing on platforms that not only espouse strong core values but also demonstrate a willingness and ability to defend them. It's not just about what a platform says it stands for; it's about what it does to uphold those statements. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum have proven their mettle in this regard, which is why they earn the focus and respect of minimalists like myself. In summary, the resilience and proactive nature of both Ethereum and Bitcoin in preserving their core values make them worthy of attention and alignment, especially for those who prioritize censorship resistance and decentralization. Both Ethereum and Bitcoin have demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving core values like censorship resistance and decentralization. This commitment isn't just theoretical; it's practical and has been tested under various challenges. As someone who identifies as a "Bitcoin and Ethereum minimalist," I find this resilience to be a compelling reason to align with these networks. ![](https://hackmd.io/_uploads/rJGVyCZx6.jpg) ## What does it mean to be aligned with Ethereum ? After explaining why I see Ethereum as the best general-purpose L1—essentially, the only one with the potential to one day withstand attacks from globally coordinated nation-states—I think it's time to unpack what "Ethereum aligned" really means. At its core, the term can be distilled down to this: "To be Ethereum aligned means to support Ethereum in achieving its mission." Sure, that's a broad brushstroke, but it's important to lay it out like that. It's a starting point, a foundation that we can build upon to get into the nitty-gritty of what this alignment actually entails. ### Cultural Alignment One of the key aspects to consider is cultural alignment. As I've touched on before, the social layer is a non-negotiable part of any decentralized system. It's what keeps the core principles intact and respected. So, being culturally aligned with Ethereum isn't just a nice-to-have; it's a must-have if you're serious about supporting its mission. #### Dimensions of Cultural Alignment Cultural alignment isn't a one-size-fits-all concept; it has multiple facets: - **Education**: It's about actively promoting the core values that make Ethereum what it is. It's about creating or sharing educational content that helps people get why Ethereum matters. The goal? A community that not only understands but can also effectively advocate for Ethereum's principles. - **Safeguarding**: This is the watchdog role. It's about keeping an eye out for anything that could threaten the core values and principles of Ethereum. If something's amiss, it's the community's job to ring the alarm and take collective action. - **Empowerement**: This is about giving people the tools and opportunities they need to contribute to Ethereum. Whether it's through educational resources, mentorship, or even helping people get involved in governance or development, the aim is to make it easier for people to do their part in pushing Ethereum forward. So, cultural alignment isn't just about believing in what Ethereum stands for. It's about being an active part of a community that's committed to upholding and advancing these principles. It's about collective action and shared responsibility. #### Education Education is key in the Ethereum world. It's not just about sharing info; it's about making that info work for everyone. Here's the breakdown: - **Variety of Content**: We need stuff for beginners and experts alike. No one should be left scratching their heads. - **Accessibility**: Ethereum is global, so the learning materials should be too. Think multiple languages, not just English. - **Inclusivity**: Make sure everyone can get it, regardless of how they learn best. - **Advocacy**: The goal isn't just to inform but to turn people into Ethereum champions. So, being "Ethereum-aligned" in education means you're not just soaking up facts. You're helping to spread the word, whether that's by creating a how-to guide or just explaining Ethereum to a friend. #### Safeguarding Remaining vigilant and actively monitoring the real-world status of the Ethereum network is crucial for ensuring that we don't compromise on our core values. Theory alone is insufficient; what truly matters is the practical application and observable outcomes. Not only must we stay true to our principles, but we also need to develop the tools to measure whether we're succeeding in doing so. The Ethereum community has made significant strides in this regard, as evidenced by several key initiatives: - **Client Diversity**: Continuously monitoring client distribution is essential for the network's health. Tools like this [dashboard](https://clientdiversity.org/#distribution) help us track and promote diversity among Ethereum clients. - **Staking Concentration**: It's vital to raise alerts when staking becomes overly concentrated, as this poses a risk to the network's decentralization. Websites like [Rated Network](https://www.rated.network/?network=mainnet&view=pool&timeWindow=1d&page=1&poolType=all) provide insights into staking pool diversity. - **Censorship**: Keeping tabs on the percentage of OFAC-compliant blocks and MEV boost relays that could potentially censor transactions is another important metric. This information can be tracked on platforms like [MEV Watch](https://www.mevwatch.info/). Having these monitoring tools is a start, but they're only useful if we act on the information they provide. Fortunately, Ethereum's social layer is robust in this aspect as well. Many in the community are actively watching these metrics and sounding the alarm when necessary, often accompanied by concrete suggestions for action. In summary, being Ethereum-aligned means not just espousing its values but also actively participating in safeguarding them. This involves both vigilance and a willingness to act when these values are threatened. #### Empowering Individuals The power of Ethereum is its people—the community that believes in it, contributes to it, and defends its core values. This social layer is vital, and we can't take it for granted. As we push forward, we're likely to face more resistance, including from governments (e.g Tornado Cash and the fight for the fundamental right of privacy). So, it's crucial to equip people with the tools they need to be effective in this mission. Here's what we should focus on: - **Neutrality**: Let's give everyone who wants to contribute a fair chance, regardless of who they are or what they're into. - **Fairness**: Opportunities within Ethereum should be open to all. No gatekeeping. - **Diversity**: A truly decentralized system needs a diverse set of people behind it. That means different backgrounds, different locations, and different viewpoints—as long as they align with Ethereum's core values. - **Permissionlessness**: You wanna contribute to Ethereum, you don't need / have to ask! So, if you're Ethereum-aligned, you're not just a believer in it's mission; you're an enabler. You're helping to create a space where everyone can pitch in and make a difference. ### Technical Alignment After discussing the cultural side of things, let's talk tech. Building Ethereum isn't just about code; it's about making sure that code serves our broader mission. We've got to be careful not to get lost in "cool tech" and forget why we're here in the first place. Also, let's not forget that complexity has a cost—technical debt. In a system like Ethereum, that debt can be a real headache to pay off later. It's a good thing we've got a community that pushes back against making things too complicated for no good reason. So, how do you align technically with Ethereum? It's not just about coding; it's about making sure that tech serves the community's goals. Here are some ways to get involved: - **Protocol Governance**: Get into the weeds of Ethereum governance. That could mean reviewing EIPs or joining calls about the protocol's future. - **Protocol Development**: If you're the hands-on type, this is where you can really make a difference. Whether it's the execution layer or the consensus layer, your code could shape Ethereum's future. - **Research**: There's still a lot we don't know, and research can help fill those gaps. For example, work on L2s and Zero-Knowledge Proofs could eventually make its way back to the main protocol. - **Testing**: Bugs can be disastrous in a system where so much is at stake. So, testing is crucial. If you're good at breaking things to find out how to make them better, this is for you. - **Technical Education**: Not everyone gets the nitty-gritty details. If you can make complex tech understandable, you're golden. - **Technical Safeguarding**: This is about keeping an eye on the protocol's health. It could involve building tools to monitor various metrics or scrutinizing proposed changes to make sure they don't compromise Ethereum's core principles. #### Aligning Your Technical Stack with Ethereum's Long-Term Roadmap If you're developing a project on Ethereum, it's crucial to align your technical decisions with Ethereum's long-term vision. Consider the possibility of creating shared components that can benefit both the L1 and L2s. Tapping into Ethereum's collective intelligence and extending it through your own project can strengthen the overall ecosystem. However, I don't think compatibility with L1 needs to be uniform across all L2s on all aspects. For example, I'm a strong advocate for diversifying beyond the EVM when it comes to execution engines. This not only provides a safety net in case of EVM failures but also opens the door for innovation. One of the most exciting aspects of L2s is their potential for experimentation, and the execution engine is a prime area for this kind of innovation, in my opinion. In short, technical alignment isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. Whether you're into governance, coding, research, testing, or education, there's a way for you to contribute to Ethereum's mission. ### Economic Alignment The economic layer of Ethereum is more than just a financial mechanism; it's the backbone that keeps the system secure and decentralized. With the shift from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS), the economics of block production and incentives have changed. This makes it even more crucial to understand how to align economically with Ethereum. #### Protocol-Level Economic Alignment: - **Denominate Fees in ETH**: If you're building on Ethereum, consider allowing users to pay fees in ETH. This not only boosts ETH's utility but also contributes to the network's economic health. - **Settle on Ethereum**: The more transactions that settle on Ethereum's mainnet, the more secure the network becomes. This is especially true as we move towards a Rollup-centric future, where L2s will be the primary consumers of L1 blockspace. - **Staking**: Running a validator isn't just about earning rewards; it's about securing the network. By staking ETH, you're putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and actively contributing to Ethereum's stability. #### External Economic Alignment: - **Funding Development**: If you're benefiting from Ethereum, consider giving back. Whether it's through initiatives like the [Protocol Guild](https://protocol-guild.readthedocs.io/en/latest/) or other funding mechanisms, supporting development is crucial. - **Funding Education**: Money talks, and in this case, it can help educate people about Ethereum. Financially supporting educational initiatives can go a long way in spreading the word and deepening understanding of Ethereum's mission. Economic alignment isn't just about money; it's about investing in Ethereum's future in a holistic way. Whether you're a user, a developer, or just an enthusiast, your actions have economic implications that can either strengthen or weaken the network. So, think of economic alignment as another way to contribute to Ethereum's mission, one that complements technical and cultural alignment. ### Ethereum alignment breakdown diagram Here is a diagram to recap the different aspects of the Ethereum alignment we discussed: ![](https://hackmd.io/_uploads/Hy1v5AZg6.png) ## The real-world benefits of being Ethereum-aligned ### Community support Aligning with Ethereum grants you access to the most vibrant and engaged community in the crypto world. This isn't just a group of enthusiasts; it's a collective deeply committed to Ethereum's core values. By aligning yourself with Ethereum, you're not just adopting a technology; you're joining a community that stands for something greater. This community can serve as both an accountability and support system, amplifying your efforts and safeguarding your users. ### Economic advantages #### Network effects Ethereum's strong network effects offer a distinct economic advantage. By aligning with Ethereum, you tap into a broad and trusted ecosystem, making your solution more appealing to a wide range of stakeholders. This trust isn't just about technology; it's also about the values upheld by Ethereum's community. Your alignment with Ethereum becomes a trust signal, attracting users who already have confidence in the Ethereum ecosystem. #### Staking rewards Staking ETH is more than just a way to earn rewards; it's a way to contribute to Ethereum's security and long-term success. While staking doesn't guarantee an increase in ETH's value, it does express your confidence in Ethereum's future. This active contribution can be rewarding both financially and intrinsically. ### Synergistic partnerships Being Ethereum-aligned opens doors for collaboration with some of the brightest minds in the crypto space. The Ethereum community is a diverse group of developers, engineers, and researchers, all united by a shared vision. This alignment not only offers learning opportunities but also fosters collaboration on mutual challenges and goals. In essence, aligning with Ethereum isn't just a technical decision; it's a holistic commitment that offers tangible benefits. Whether it's the support from a like-minded community, the economic advantages of strong network effects and staking rewards, or the potential for synergistic partnerships, being Ethereum-aligned enriches not just your project but also contributes to the broader Ethereum ecosystem. ## The Paradox of Trust in a Trust-Minimized System As you can see, I put a strong emphasis on the importance of the social layer, as the ultimate guardian of the respect of the core principles. You may be thinking: *"But wait, isn't it an obious paradox with the goal of building a trust minimization platform!"* You've hit upon a fascinating paradox that's at the heart of decentralized systems like Ethereum: the tension between the goal of trust minimization and the reality of relying on a social layer. This paradox is indeed a complex issue that warrants thoughtful consideration. ![](https://hackmd.io/_uploads/rk1iid--a.jpg) ### The social layer: A necessary evil? The social layer, while essential for safeguarding the core values and principles of Ethereum, does introduce an element of trust. We have to trust that the community will act in the best interests of the network, that it will be vigilant in its governance, and that it will be resistant to attacks or manipulations that could compromise the system's decentralization and censorship-resistance. This reliance on a social layer seems to contradict the very essence of what blockchain and Ethereum aim to achieve: a trust-minimized environment where code is law, and human intervention is either minimal or entirely unnecessary. ### The current reality: accepting the Paradox As you rightly pointed out, this paradox is something we might have to accept for the time being. We're still in the early stages of this technological revolution, and while the code and protocols are rapidly evolving, they're not yet at a point where they can fully replace the need for a social layer. ### The Path Forward: Balancing Protocol and Social Layer The ultimate goal should be to develop the protocol to a point where the social layer's role is minimized without compromising the system's core values. This could involve innovations in the following area: - **Automated Governance Mechanisms**: Implementing on-chain governance models that are resistant to manipulation but still uphold the network's core principles. - **Decentralized Identity and Reputation Systems**: These could provide a more trust-minimized way of establishing credibility and authority within the network, reducing the need for social validation. - **Protocol-Level Safeguards**: Introducing features that make it increasingly difficult for any group to exert undue influence over the network, thereby protecting against the potential abuses of a social layer. To be honest, the areas I mentioned are still in their infancy and far from being robust enough to replace the social layer entirely. It will take time before we can use those tools to gradually substitute our need to rely on the social layer. ### Embracing the Challenge The paradox you've highlighted is not a flaw to be ignored but a challenge to be embraced. It serves as a constant reminder that while we've come a long way, there's still much work to be done. The journey towards a fully trust-minimized system is fraught with complexities, but it's a journey worth undertaking. And it's this very challenge that makes the concept of Ethereum alignment so vital. After all, who better to navigate these complexities than a community united by a shared vision and set of principles? In summary, while the social layer may seem like a contradiction in a trust-minimized system, it's a necessary component—at least for now. The goal should be to evolve the system to a point where this is no longer the case, without losing sight of the principles that make Ethereum what it is. ### Conclusion: The complexity and necessity of Ethereum alignment When I set out to write this post, I assumed that defining what it means to be "Ethereum-aligned" would be straightforward. However, the deeper I delved into the topic, the more I realized its inherent complexity. It's a multifaceted concept that can't be easily distilled into a few sentences or even paragraphs. #### The skeptic's viewpoint I understand that the idea of Ethereum alignment might seem nebulous or even nonsensical to some, particularly those who are advocates of other L1s. I respect these differing viewpoints; after all, this space is vast and diverse, and what resonates with one individual might not with another. #### The importance of alignment in challenging times For me, the concept of Ethereum alignment has only gained in importance as I've explored it further. At a time when Ethereum faces a multitude of challenges—some of which could be described as existential—the idea of alignment serves as a guiding principle. It's not a carte blanche excuse for any and all actions, but rather a framework that helps us navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving ecosystem. #### The double-edged sword of the social layer This exploration has also brought into sharp focus the role of Ethereum's social layer. While it's a powerful tool for safeguarding the network's core values, it's also a potential point of failure or abuse. The ultimate goal should be to make the protocol self-sufficient, minimizing the need for social intervention. However, until we reach that point, the social layer remains a critical component of what makes Ethereum unique and potent in its mission. #### My personal commitment In conclusion, my journey through the intricacies of Ethereum alignment has only strengthened my resolve to contribute to its success. I recognize the risks and challenges, but also see immense potential and importance in aligning with Ethereum. It's a complex, sometimes paradoxical endeavor, but it's one that I am wholeheartedly committed to. So yes, I want to be Ethereum-aligned, and I will do my utmost to contribute positively to this extraordinary mission.