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Turning Down a Blockchain Job Offer

Russian Translation by HTR

I have recently received a job offer to work on a blockchain implementation. While the offer was very generous, I had to turn it down. In this post I want to collect the thoughts that went into my decision process leading to this conclusion.

Introduction

I have not touched blockchain technology much before, other than reading the original Bitcoin paper shortly after it was released and accepting Bitcoin donations for DDNet. But I have always used those donations pretty much immediately, and thus I have no investment in cryptocurrencies either way and am thus impartial to their fate.

The Good

I consider the Bitcoin idea to be quite interesting as an electronic cash system that doesn’t require any trusted intermediary. This is a small and simple idea that combines old cryptographic ideas into something new.

The job I got offered had a significantly higher salary attached than my current job. The new job would have been remote, thus enabling me to spend more time with my girlfriend and live in any location I wish.

I would have been able to work in a nice programming language, developing a blockchain implementation from the ground up with a small group of colleagues.

The Bad

Proof of work in the form of mining is currently the most common form of trustless consensus in blockchain systems. It requires immense amounts of computational hardware in the form of ASICs and GPUs as well as energy to supply them. The only function of this is to prevent any one actor to take over more than 50% of the mining market and thus controlling the currency. This is a large price to pay for replacing trust.

Looking at it the other way: Trust can be seen as a shortcut that humanity has used for a long time in order not to require expensive proof of work. For most applications this still works fine.

Companies are doing initial coin offerings (ICOs), giving out their own cryptotoken to public investors, circumventing a proper IPO process. While companies often claim that their tokens will have another purpose, this is usually not true.

Reading about blockchain is horrible because of all the hype, cargo cult and politics surrounding it. Everyone who is talking positively about cryptocurrencies and making hyperbolic claims seems to have invested in them. So they might be trying to pump up the value of cryptocurrencies in order to profit themselves. It might be that this aspect is so dominant that the actual technological details are less relevant. It feels like talking to a religious group that is trying to convert you to the one true faith that will solve all problems you and society have. I wish it was possible to filter out everyone who had money invested in the fate of cryptocurrencies in those discussions.

It seems like people already know that they want to use a blockchain even before they understand what the problem is, basically a solution in search of problems. The main use of cryptocurrencies right now seems to be as a speculation device.

The Conclusion

In the end I guess I don’t want to be associated with the current state of the blockchain ecosystem. So even if the job offer is great, I have to deny it. It took me a long time to realize this for myself and getting my priorities straight.

Discussion on Hacker News.