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Is bitcoin really safe from control and drastic rule changes? For bitcoin to change its protocol, 51% of nodes holders have to vote to modify it.

They say 26 billionaires own as much as world's 50% poorest. Overtime, resources will reallocate and billionaires can assume control of wealth.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/21/world-26-richest-people-own-as-much-as-poorest-50-per-cent-oxfam-report

So couldn't billionaires easily take over nodes and make drastic changes? Just curious, I am interested in Bitcoins because it is people's money, however I want to understand this area more.

Gold advisor told me, With physical gold/silver, there are no internet Protocol rules, so people cannot suddenly elect to make changes, etc.

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    Where did you get the idea that 51% of "node holders" can change the protocol rules?
    – Murch
    Apr 21 at 22:40
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    Exactly what sort of drastic changes are you worried about, and what would the billionaires stand to gain by making them?
    – WillO
    Apr 21 at 23:02
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    @mattsmith5: I voted this down because you did not engage meaningfully with my clarifying question. Exactly what are you envisioning? I have no idea what "funnel more money by inflating into their accounts" means or what "make things harder" means. What specifically do you imagine someone could do, and what specifically do you think they'd stand to gain by doing it? Nobody can tell you what's wrong with your imaginary scenario if you refuse to tell us what that scenario is.
    – WillO
    Apr 22 at 2:56
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    So they're going to mine invalid blocks? You still haven't explained how this is going to pay off for them, or how it's going to hurt anyone. I do officially give up now.
    – WillO
    Apr 22 at 5:34
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    I think this question is being downvoted, because it is based on a misunderstanding of how consensus is established (and neither source seems to support the understanding the question is based on).
    – Murch
    Apr 22 at 15:23
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So couldn't billionaires easily take over nodes and make drastic changes? Just curious, I am interested in Bitcoins because it is people's money, however I want to understand this area more.

No. Bitcoin works exclusively by agreement. Everyone else in the world can make a change and I can choose not to make that change.

Gold advisor told me, With physical gold/silver, there are no internet Protocol rules, so people cannot suddenly elect to make changes, etc.

But that's a huge disadvantage for gold for two reasons:

  1. If a huge amount of new gold is suddenly discovered, there's nothing that can be done to keep the new gold from being equivalent to the old gold, even though none of the holders of the old gold want that. Sometimes you need to make changes to preserve the same behavior because the world is changing.

  2. If the properties of gold aren't perfect for using it as a store of value (and they're not) you just have to live it.

If what you want is a store of value and a means of exchange, gold's intrinsic value is pure downside. You have to pay full value for it when you buy it, so it doesn't add any extra value from holding. And if the intrinsic value changes, say due to new industrial uses for gold or old industrial uses being replaced, that harms its usefulness as a means of exchange and store of value.

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  • thanks for the answer, also cbeci.org/mining_map I read here that China controls 65% of mining, so wondering if foreign governments can ever control the network?
    – mattsmith5
    Apr 22 at 5:17
  • I recently discovered that many people are agreeing that bitcoins are not interchangeable with each other, and are refusing to accept bitcoins that governments can't trace, and will shut down your trading account if you send bitcoins somewhere that governments can't trace. Far less than 50% of users agree on this, but it's happening.
    – user253751
    Apr 22 at 9:44
  • @mattsmith5 Nope. Miners server at the pleasure of the users. If they don't mine blocks that users are willing to pay them for, then they don't make any money. Apr 22 at 15:40
  • @user253751 Exactly. Everyone who interacts with the bitcoin system decides for themselves what they're willing to accept and cannot be forced to accept anything by anyone else. Those who agree sufficiently can interoperate, those who don't cannot. Apr 22 at 15:41
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    @user253751 In theory, yes. In practice, no. The value of bitcoin comes the fact that this is not happening. So if they did so, they would destroy the value of the bitcoin under their influence and all the value would stay with those who ignored them. (This is a key difference between bitcoin and non-crypto systems. The value of bitcoin comes from its lack of censorship and bias. To attack it is to destroy it, leaving you with nothing and those who ignored you still there with all the value.) Apr 22 at 18:39
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For bitcoin to change its protocol, 51% of nodes holders have to vote to modify it.

There is no voting, no Bitcoin user can be forced to accept protocol rules they don't agree with: their nodes enforce the rules locally on their own machine. At best, an attacker with a majority of the hashrate can enforce stricter rules than what is already allowed by the current consensus rules. The attacker would achieve this by ignoring any block that doesn't adhere to rules they want to impose and build a longer chain without the block.

Allowing things that are forbidden by the established consensus rules would require the whole ecosystem (or at least the vast majority) to upgrade to the new, more lenient rules by updating the software they run locally. Otherwise, a block that breaks the consensus rules would simply be ignored by all unupdated network participants. Such a rule update is generally referred to as "hardfork" and tends to be met with skepticism. Just being rich doesn't provide any special power to force other users to install new node software, as such, it is unclear how the scenario described would be feasible.

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