This is opinion editor Doc Sharp, a bitcoin product designer currently funded by Spiral to contribute to various bitcoin FOSS projects.
For anyone who’s been around the digital asset space for a while, it’s not true that almost every project has managed to effectively publicize their decentralized name-only (DINO) project, with the exception of the industry’s magnum opus, bitcoin. This is not surprising, because the tens of billions collected over the past few years had to go somewhere, and it certainly did not go to the creation of new innovative technology.
One area where bitcoin lacks in the public relations department, and the focus of this piece, is how blocks are validated, a framework colloquially known as proof-of-work (PoW) or mining.
First, how does Mining work?
In short, bitcoin miners use PoW, which uses energy to find a needle in a haystack. When they find the needle, they use it to create and add a new block to Bitcoin’s blockchain. When this new block is added, the miner is rewarded with newly minted bitcoins. To date, it is the most decentralized means of achieving network consensus and creating trusted blocks. Learn more about bitcoin mining here.
Bitcoin Mining and the Frame Effect
In a world where capital is directed by criteria such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores, green narratives are increasingly important in the adoption of new technology.
Knowing this, the very term mining, associated with the perceived high energy costs and environmental destruction of bitcoin mining, became a barrier to bitcoin adoption and a red herring used by DINO projects to discredit bitcoin and pump their wallets.
Relatively speaking, the energy usage of bitcoin mining is quite small and mostly green. The reason people are left out of these realities is due to a cognitive bias known as the framing effect.
Term mining comes with many negative expressions (see image below). With other digital assets promising similar solutions to bitcoin with a smaller environment, naive users will often choose them over bitcoin due to the framing effect.
This is what people think of when they hear mining.
I won’t go into details in this section, but a “greener” proof of solution (PoS) is not a viable alternative and will inevitably lead to centralization. Despite the complexities underlying both PoW and PoS, it’s not surprising that people choose it for superficial reasons such as naive views of energy.
The psychological theory that supports the framing effect, known as perspective theory, explains why:
Most people don’t realize that the gain of PoW (More power usage but decentralized) is greater than the loss of PoS (Low power usage but centralized). Although the loss is easy to understand from a purely ecological point of view.
This is because most people today see climate change as a serious social problem and think, “Bitcoin uses more electricity than many countries. How is that possible?” cycles regularly. The framing effect manifests itself even when individuals are presented only in the context of one of the frames (regarding the environment).
So what can we do to overcome the framing effect and make people realize that bitcoin mining won’t boil the oceans and is actually a good use of energy? We can take a note from DINO’s playbook and use less negative narratives to our advantage.
How can this be applied to bitcoin mining? Well…
Let’s call Bitcoin Miners, Bitcoin Validators
With the Ethereum 2.0 merger, Ethereum moved from mining with PoW to using validators with PoS. Mining and miners will no longer exist on Ethereum as we know it, and energy usage has been claimed to drop by up to 99.5%.
This energy saving is a red herring as it comes at the cost of decentralization. Decentralization is the basic first principle of cryptocurrencies, without which they are useless. A centralized public cryptocurrency’s energy usage, even if small, is 100% wasted because the network fails. Bitcoiners know this and so they will never change the code.
So back to the framing effect. The term validators has more positive connotations due to the marketing efforts of DINOs and it is not as loaded as a term like mining. Less negative connotations mean people will perceive the term more positively. Avoiding the framing effect by using a more media-friendly term like validator will make it easier for people to understand that the gain of PoW (More power use but decentralized) outweighs the loss of PoS (Low power use but centralized).
DINO has done all the work here, turning the narrative into PoS > PoW. The least we can do is use these efforts to our advantage, as they have repeatedly done by using the brand bitcoins to justify the Rube Goldberg machine.
Thus, by calling bitcoin miners, bitcoin validators can prevent the frame effect from occurring and tell the story of PoS
Below are the mining terms we need to change:
Bitcoin mining pools = Bitcoin validator pools
Bitcoin miners = Bitcoin validators
Bitcoin mining = Bitcoin validation
In summary, realigning PoW mining to PoW validation will benefit bitcoin in the long-term by preventing the framing effect, a cognitive bias in which people decide on options based on whether they are presented with positive or negative connotations.
Mining = negative connotations.
Validation = positive connotations (thanks Ethereum).
This is a guest post by Doc Sharp. The views expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.