Proof of Work and the Fallacy of the Blockchain Trilemma

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As blockchain adoption gains momentum, the eyes of regulatory bodies and environmental agencies become all the more focused on its energy efficiency. This scrutiny comes from the Proof of Work mechanism that most blockchains use, which consumes an absurd amount of electricity. 

According to Techopedia, 1,449 kWh or the electricity consumed by an average American household in 50 days is what it takes to complete just one BTC transaction. This is because Proof of Work requires high-powered equipment specialized for mining as nodes or miners on the network need to solve a highly complex mathematical algorithm before they can actually add a new data block on the blockchain. 

Because a huge amount of computing power is expended, it naturally uses up an extraordinary amount of electricity. At a time when the world is suffering from the effects of climate change, Proof of Work’s energy consumption becomes a contentious point, especially when it comes to drafting regulations. 

But what policymakers and environmentalists are not aware of is that there is actually a solution that can be implemented now. In fact, it has already been done—and that solution is make blockchain scalable. The reason why scaling has not reached widespread implementation even though it is clearly the solution is largely because of the doctrine of the blockchain trilemma.

The term “blockchain trilemma” was actually coined by Ethereum (ETH) Co-founder Vitalik Buterin to explain why the ETH blockchain could not scale. Simply put, the blockchain trilemma poses that a blockchain cannot fully achieve security, scalability and decentralization at the same time without diminishing the capacity of one. For instance, if a blockchain focuses on developing scalability and security, decentralization will suffer.

The blockchain trilemma is one of the biggest fallacies that obstructs many blockchains’ road to energy efficiency and sustainability. This is because security, scalability and decentralization actually simultaneously exist in Proof of Work blockchains. Decentralization and security are naturally achieved when independent parties, which include nodes and core developers, follow the rules set by the protocol.

Scalability on the base layer can also be attained without having to sacrifice decentralization or security. This has been proven true when the BSV Blockchain enabled unbounded scaling after it restored the original Bitcoin protocol. By having the ability to scale on demand, the BSV Blockchain soon increased its data block size to 4GB and throughput to up to 100,000 transactions per second (TPS). 

The bigger the blocks, the more transactions each can contain; and the higher the throughput means a higher capacity for processing instant transactions. Everything is all about transactions, because, ultimately, the measurement of a blockchain’s energy efficiency depends on its output, which is in the form of transactions. 

From January to August 2023, the BSV Blockchain processed over one billion transactions. In a period of just eight months, BSV Blockchain surpassed BTC’s total number of transactions of 910.63 million since it was launched in 2009. This is the power of scaling Proof of Work blockchains. 

A blockchain sustainability index updated daily recorded 72.6100kg CO2e as BTC’s carbon emission per transaction, while BSV Blockchain was only at 0.0206kg CO2e/txn. This is because the number of transactions that BSV Blockchain processes is so many times more than BTC.

As BSV Blockchain scales, the number of transactions can only increase; and this makes scaling the real solution to blockchain being a green technology. Policymakers, businesses and other developers should not believe in the doctrine of the blockchain trilemma for it is but a mere excuse.

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