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Vitalik Buterin’s new proposal would cut Ethereum’s security

vitalik-buterins-new-proposal-would-cut-ethereums-security
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Vitalik Buterin’s new proposal would cut Ethereum’s security

In a new controversial proposal, Vitalik Buterin suggests decreasing the number of PoS validators from nearly 1 million to just 8,192 to reduce complexity.

In a new proposal released on Dec. 27, Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin has outlined a plan to dramatically simplify Ethereum’s proof-of-stake (PoS) system to reduce complexity and expand the design possibilities.

The current PoS system attempts to support decentralization by allowing many validators — currently almost 900,000. However, Buterin argues that this creates significant complexity, sacrifices, and constraints while still not fully achieving the goal of accessibility for small-scale stakes due to the 32 ETH minimum requirement.

Instead, Buterin proposes reducing the number of signatures per slot to just 8,192 from the current plan of over 1.7 million. This would enable major simplifications across Ethereum, make it much easier to transition to quantum resistance, and retain a cost for attacks between 1-2 million ETH — which Buterin suggested is high enough:

Even a cost of attack of 1-2 million ETH should be totally sufficient.

Vitalik Buterin

Developer Micah Zoltu commented on the proposal, noting that this attack cost may be insufficient. According to him, numerous actors dispone this kind of resources and may turn against the protocol sooner or later:

There are many governments around the world who spend that much on one missile, or one plane. We should be designing systems resilient to state attackers who are willing to spend money to ruin your day.

While 1-2 [million] ETH may be enough to deter them from attacking, we have evidence that they will spend far more than this to achieve their goals, and many governments do appear to be heading in the direction of “destroy crypto” as one of their goals.

Of course, I cannot say that 9 [million] ETH is enough either, or maybe both are in fact more than enough! However, I don’t think it is as obvious as you imply that we can safely reduce the security budget. Lindy doesn’t apply to these things, because everything will be fine right up until it isn’t, then it is all very, very bad all of a sudden.

Micah Zoltu

The last part of the statement refers to the Lindy Effect, the theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so things that have been around for a long time are more likely to stick around longer.

In this context, when Zoltu states, “Lindy doesn’t apply to these things,” he argues that just because Ethereum’s high level of security has been sufficient so far, it doesn’t mean it will necessarily continue to be sufficient.

Buterin outlines three potential approaches to make this reduced signature scheme work: relying entirely on decentralized staking pools, using a two-tiered system with lighter and heavier staking requirements, or rotating participation across slots to retain accountability.

The proposal has garnered commentary from developers like Zoltu, who questioned whether the reduced 1-2 million ETH attack cost would be sufficient to deter state-level attackers. Buterin acknowledged this was a fair critique, and the optimal cost remains unclear.

The coming debate around this and other PoS proposals will likely be as vibrant as ever in the Ethereum community.