Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has cautioned against the potential dangers of overloading Ethereum’s social consensus. Buterin warns that if overloaded with too many responsibilities, there could be serious systemic risks for the ecosystem.
Despite the natural desire to extend Ethereum’s blockchain’s core functionality, Buterin warns that this action could make the consensus layer more vulnerable.
Overloading Consensus Layer Risks
Over the years, there have been various suggestions that Ethereum’s social consensus could be used for other purposes ranging from data and price oracles, re-staking initiatives to restoring layer-2 projects using layer-1 soft forks. However, Buterin has warned that such suggestions could be misaligned with the community’s overall goals, creating significant risks for the ecosystem.
“It is natural for application-layer projects to attempt such a strategy, and indeed such ideas are often simply conceived without an appreciation of the risks, but its result can easily become very misaligned with the goals of the community as a whole.”
In his blog post, ‘Don’t overload Ethereum’s consensus,’ Buterin proposes potential solutions to address these risks, such as developing not-quite-cryptoeconomic decentralized oracles or validator-voting-based oracles that explicitly commit to their emergency recovery strategies that don’t seek to appeal to L1 consensus. Another solution could be to develop more complex truth oracles that focus on reporting subjective facts instead of just price. These could be built on a not-quite-cryptoeconomic DAO and function like a decentralized court system.
Buterin believes that it’s essential to minimize reliance on cross-chain bridges that have become attractive targets for malicious entities.
Buterin emphasizes that any increase in Ethereum’s consensus duties will translate to higher costs, more complexities, and risks of running a validator. Therefore, the focus should be on preserving the chain’s minimalism by supporting uses of re-staking that don’t extend the role of Ethereum consensus. He also suggests finding alternative strategies that developers can employ to achieve their security goals.