Let’s talk about ASIC mining


#1

Here’s why Zcash chose to use Equihash mining, back in 2016:

"Equihash is a memory-oriented Proof-of-Work, which means how much mining you can do is mostly determined by how much RAM you have. We think it is unlikely that anyone will be able to build cost-effective custom hardware (ASICs) for mining in the foreseeable future… we may change the Proof-of-Work again, if we find some flaw in Equihash or if we find another Proof-of-Work algorithm which offers higher assurance."
https://blog.z.cash/why-equihash/

Fast forward to February 2018…

The PascalProject claim that their upcoming Pascal A1 Asic can achieve 10000 Sol/s when mining Zcash. The veracity of this claim and the legitimacy of the project itself are unknown, see further discussion at BitcoinTalk.

A recent presentation from Emin Gun Sirer suggests:

“90% of the mining power is owned by 16 miners in Bitcoin and 11 miners in Ethereum.” -
https://twitter.com/JackGavigan/status/966686333870788609

Yesterday, CNBC reported:

"Based on conservative estimates of gross margin of 75 percent and operating margin of 65 percent, Bernstein analysts calculate that Beijing-based Bitmain made $3 billion to $4 billion in operating profits in 2017."
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/23/secretive-chinese-bitcoin-mining-company-may-have-made-as-much-money-as-nvidia-last-year.html

Today, Bitcoin Core developer Luke-jr tweets:

“A change of PoW is needed because SHA2 is no longer a decentralised PoW, but has become merely assigned-by-Bitmain.” -
https://twitter.com/LukeDashjr/status/967504195715850247

Bitmain founder Jihan Wu believes that changing to an ASIC resistant PoW will result in Bitcoin losing its relevance:

“That is cool. When you achieved it, Bitcoin’s market share in the cryptocurrency will fall under 10%. Good luck!” - https://twitter.com/JihanWu/status/967241694109302785

Meanwhile, Monero have promised to fight ASICs:

“We strongly believe that it’s beneficial to preserve our ASIC resistance. Therefore, we will perform an emergency hard fork to curb any potential threat from ASICs if needed. Furthermore, in order to maintain its goal of decentralization and to provide a deterrent for ASIC development and to protect against unknown or undetectable ASIC development, the Monero team proposes modifying the Cryptonight PoW hash every scheduled fork, twice a year.” https://getmonero.org/2018/02/11/PoW-change-and-key-reuse.html

Zooko wrote recently on #zcash-dev:

"ZcashCo engineers have recently been chatting about mining decentralization, including such ideas as changing the Equihash params, switching to a different PoW algorithm, making non-outsourceable PoW, switching to PoS, etc… My current position is that our mission is best served by improving the security, scalability, and usability of the product for end users, and that mining-decentralization is a struggle that is impossible to win in theory, and is long since lost in practice, and it is a distraction to worry too much about it. Instead I think we should design protocols which are censorship-resistant and user-protecting (and usable and scalable) even when there is only one miner in the world."
https://chat.zcashcommunity.com/channel/zcash-dev?msg=nz8oEHyACF3CHQ6HH

So now over to the community.

  • How do you feel about ASIC mining?
  • Do you have any red lines?
  • How would you like to see the Zcash project evolve with respect to mining?
  • Is this a topic which the Zcash Foundation should take the lead on?

If you’ve been thinking a lot about how to defend and strengthen decentralized mining, please share your thoughts! Thank you.


Zooko thinks ASIC miners are inevitable, so might as well not resist. WTF?
ASICs vs GPU for Zcash Hardware Discussion
Price Speculation
Zcash Foundation Update — May, 2018
Voting on proposals and board candidates!
Stop ASIC mining for Zcash
What happened at the Zcon0 mining workshop (and more...)
Price Speculation
Zooko talking about PoS. PoS vs PoW Discussion
#2

I will just chime in here to point out that the Pascal ASIC has yet to been actually seen by anyone and doesn’t claim to be able to be used with Equihash (vaporware IMHO).

Secondly, I think there is a huge difference between mining centralization via mining pools (like what has happened with Flypool being very popular for GPU miners) and an actual company like Bitmain inventing an ASIC for Zcash. https://steemit.com/technology/@cloh76/bitmain-to-release-ethereum-asic-miner-the-antminer-f3

The first (pool centralization) is a natural occurrence when GPU miners gravitate towards the pool that is finding the most blocks. It’s not ideal but also not a coordinated effort from a single party.

The second is a company (likely to be Chinese chip manufacturer) actively investing millions of dollars who I feel would eventually want to influence the protocol so that it favors thier profits.

What happens if a single company controls 60,70,80% of the network because they have the best ASIC? Will Zcash still have the flexibility to change the protocol as needed to protect the privacy of users? What happens if a huge speed and privacy improvement is possible but requires a change that would adversely affect the biggest “shareholder”? Could they pressure Zcash Developers? Sue Zcash Company for lost revenue?

I understand @zooko s point about the fact that true decentralization of mining efforts is somewhat difficult but in the long run I think it benefits Zcash to remain ASIC resistant. From what I have seen it’s not too difficult (or a huge expenditure of development resources) to adjust Equihash parameters to remain ASIC resistant and that is a small price to pay to keep unwanted parties from having any influence on Zcash.


Cryptomineds Video
#3

Asics have less use than pocket calculators and drive mindless business practices (well paperweight i guess)
Im pretty sure the community here is mostly anti asic as gleaned from the very first paragraph
Zcash is about universal accessibility, not a select few, that applies to mining as well
Your thread only emplants my opinion as such more steadfastly
Thank you for your inquiry! (Not facetiously)


#4

I’ve been a huge supporter of Zcash since October 2016 and a miner since the genesis block. Mining is what initially attracted to me to the project, and I’ve encouraged many devs I know to learn more about Zcash. Invariably, the devs who wanted to learn more about Zcash were intrigued by the prospect of mining ZEC. Not because they wanted to get rich quick, but rather, like me, they wanted a way to earn small amounts of the underlying cryptocurrency for supporting the network. This gives people a natural incentive to start learning about Zcash, interacting with wallets, sending and receiving transactions.

Organic user growth comes from truly decentralized mining. Centralized ASIC mining will destroy hobby mining along with any organic user growth potential. A handful of ASIC manufacturers and miners will control the supply, and Zcash’s user growth will entirely depend upon users buying ZEC instead of mining it. This may be good for the price of ZEC, but it also shifts the potential user base away from developers toward speculators. Instead of attracting people who will mine on their GPUs and run Zcash nodes, you’re going to get traders who buy and sell on exchanges for speculative profit.

In order for Zcash to fulfill it’s goals, it needs to be actually used as a currency and not just a speculative asset. That means getting ZEC into the hands of as many people as possible. If the Zcash team doesn’t live up to their promises of ASIC resistance, then it will be clear that they don’t really care about Zcash as a currency.

One final point: when Ethereum moves to full Proof of Stake, there are hundreds of thousands of miners who will need to migrate to another PoW coin. Right now the two main alternatives are Zcash and Monero. If the Zcash team allow ASICs to take over ZEC mining, then all those potential users will move to Monero instead, myself included. I have no intention of supporting huge ASIC manufacturers in China and I’m not alone.


#5

I agree with the posts above.

For a coin, claiming to be truly private, I believe that decentralisation of the network mining power is very important.


#6

I believe ZCash should remain ASIC resistant. It shouldn’t be that difficult to change the algorithm to make the ASIC miners nearly worthless. After it was adjusted they would quit producing them. I wish Zooko would have come out more strongly against ASIC mining like the Monero team did. That might be enough to scare buyers away from the ASIC equipment. Decentralization is as important a feature of a coin as privacy, but I have yet to see any coin development teams stress that enough. The miners make the currency and they can also break it. The ZCashCo Team should make sure that ZCash is the most decentralized and the most private coin in existence.


#7

Keep in mind the role of miners as consensus rule enforcers. They are economically incentivised to reach consensus and this is a fundamental of open blockchains. ASICs are a powerful force in this game as they can, un-intuitively, guard against 51% attacks.

Any miner who has invested into a sufficiently large amount of mining equipment (the most optimal hardware available for solving the algorithm) to attempt a 51%, risks undermining the blockchain (goal achieved!) and shooting off their own foot by simultaneously wiping out the only market place that would have had an interest in buying the mining equipment from them (doh!)

If the mining algo is well tuned to general purpose equipment (cpu, gpu, ram) such that there is no economic reason to build special purpose hardware then there will be a large and liquid secondary market for our attacker to sell their used hardware back into, recouping a large part of the cost of the attack.

The major concern of asics is that the source of them is dominated by large players winning the economy of scale game. As a monopoly forms, profits will skyrocket and competitors should enter the race. CPU, GPU and RAM each have at least two dominant IP holders so ASICs will likely go the same way (Samsung?).

As for mining being a means for anyone in the world to obtain coins we may have to accept that that only works in the early days of a blockchain when it is small and CPU mineable. If we can find a way to solve both then we are really on to something.


#8

See also: cross-post on Reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/zec/comments/8018kk/zcash_developers_want_your_opinionsthoughts_on/


#9

ASIC + ZEC = :frowning: :frowning: ^{inf}

Decentralized Mining + ZEC = :slight_smile: * many

ETA: If ZCash doesn’t continue to support ASIC resistance, then it’s worth nothing to me. While this means nothing to the ZCash people, I’d think I am not the only who’d feel like this. Moreover, what is the goal of not continuing to be ASIC resistant? Is there some benefit to ZCash or the people behind it that is at tension with the goals of mining decentralization?

This is the essence of how I feel about it, and I am perplexed as to why the topic of continuing ASIC resistance is even up for debate.

Zooko said this (see OP): Instead I think we should design protocols which are censorship-resistant and user-protecting (and usable and scalable) **even when there is only one miner in the world.** (emphasis added)

Why would @zooko even say such a thing? One miner? Perhaps I don’t know enough, but let’s assume there is one ZEC miner. If so, doesn’t that mean they can do as they will with it? Perhaps exploit it?


#10

If cryptocurrencies completely crash tomorrow I’d rather be left with GPUs I can use for general purpose computation, not a pile of silicon trash.


#11

so you rather support huge GPU manufactures, again from china :smiley:


#13

IMO going away from consumer-grade hardware would be bad for Zec. If an ASIC is developed for Equihash it might seem fine for a while, but in the longer term it could really hurt the ecosystem.

It’s worth noting that we still don’t actually know how much damage ASICs will do to Bitcoin in 10 years time. It’s very possible that there could be just a few very large miners that push hobbyists out, and everyone will become dependent on them for protocol upgrades; a new centralized banking structure.

So, even though I run many hundreds of 1080 tis that might not hash a new algorithm as well as Equihash, I would support a POW change to keep Zec on multi-purpose hardware if something was developed.

Until this happens, we can keep our eyes on Siacoin which just had ASICs introduced as a, “canary in the asic-mine”.

Edit: My opinions have changed after clarifying the pros/cons of ASICs. I’m now undecided and leaning toward pro-ASIC. The Zcash team should focus on more important improvements. The ASIC issue is a miner issue and a distraction for the development team.


#14

ASIC miners going into service to mine Dash recently shows a good example of a ZEC + ASIC future WRT difficulty:


#15

The Siacoin chart looks almost identical. Increases for each new batch release as well.


#16

c.f. Dash with ZEC:

https://bitinfocharts.com/comparison/difficulty-dash-zec.html#6m


#17

keenly awaiting a followup on this from Zooko, if that is the stance being taken that its hopeless, history has shown with bitcoin that once it goes asic it will consolidate down to a few people.
Sorry but that sounds like the current banking system to me. Add to that the zcash team giving their zecurity work out to all asunder (eth, hush, bitcoin-private (zclassic), komodo and who knows what else) and my confidence here is shot.


#18

I hope it doesn’t happen or if it does they don’t let greed destroy it by jacking up the price of gear because at some point it all comes back to you . an they don’t have to jack up gear because of the price of coins that’s a excuse or it cost to much in research to make it . it’s all BS an one big excuse to be greedy …also nothing is a 100 % if some fool wants to waste large a mounts of money to ruin a good thing they will … it’s all about control , greed and money …we could have Asic miners for every thing if it wasn’t abused like it is there is enough for every one and then some, i don’t get what there thinking about when they start hurting the little guy who got them there in the first place ,


#19

it’s all about control , greed and money

CSW believes this is the natural state…


#20

and this is a fine example of my point they take whats not theirs by force then call others names an act like they have the right to in hopes of making us go away an corporations do steal and then try to make it look like there the good guys if they had there way they would enslave the world, this is with everything that has something to do with profits an money …not just bitcoins an mining . insurance lives off hurt an that ok to ? NO … if you really want to get on about it, it’s all related because it’s about money . so that said corporations are the major cause of it all with there greed for money they can never use in there life time an they don’t care who it hurts or what they do to the land and the people as long as they make that profit, remember once your dead you can’t take it with you an you wasted your life in vain …an were not being anti capitalists sigh …because we want some of the pie and we complain we can’t have it so were anti capitalists man your so far gone it’s beyond funny all you see by that comment is $$ signs .


#21

Lets please keep on the topic of ASICs in Zcash and direct arguments pertaining to such. Try not getting to derailed to politics, capitalism and greed.