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Monday, October 28, 2019

The Ethics of Contentious Hard Forks in Blockchain Networks With Fixed Features

Tae Wan Kim and Ariel Zetlin-Jones
Front. Blockchain, 28 August 2019

An advantage of blockchain protocols is that a decentralized community of users may each update and maintain a public ledger without the need for a trusted third party. Such modifications introduce important economic and ethical considerations that we believe have not been considered among the community of blockchain developers. We clarify the problem and provide one implementable ethical framework that such developers could use to determine which aspects should be immutable and which should not.


3. A Normative Framework for Blockchain Design With Fixed Features

Which features of a blockchain protocol should or should not be alterable? To answer this question, we need a normative framework. Our framework is twofold: the substantive and the procedural. The substantive consists of two ethical principles: The generalization principle and the utility-enhancement principle. The procedural has three principles: publicity, revision and appeals, and regulation. All the principles are necessary conditions. The procedural principles help to collectively examine whether any application of the two substantive principles are reasonable. The set of the five principles as a whole is in line with the broadly Kantian deontological approach to justice and democracy (Kant, 1785). In particular, we are partly indebted to Daniels and Sabin (2002) procedural approach to fair allocations of limited resources. Yet, our framework is different from theirs in several ways: the particular context we deal with is different, we replace the controversial “relevance” condition with our own representation of the Kantian generalization principle, and we add the utility-maximization principle. Although we do not offer a fully fledged normative analysis of the given issue, we propose a possible normative framework for cryptocurrency communities.

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