Amaury Séchet on Evolution, Governance & Religion: Bitcoin Cash & Beyond

Nicole Grinstead
8 min readNov 1, 2020

I’ve always liked the villains

What I mean is, I’ve always been able to understand multiple versions of a story, and every story that has a hero, has a villain. In cryptocurrency, we have many of them, and we don’t always agree about who they are

But where some see “bad guys” and “good guys,” I just see guys (and some gals) who disagree about how we’re going to get to the promised land. That’s why I’ve interviewed crypto celebs from Craig Wright and Brock Pierce to Roger Ver and Richard Heart. My commitment to the study of crypto tribalism and the social history that enables it has led to the development of some unique theories that extend beyond bitcoin cash and into the larger cryptoverse. I don’t have all the answers, so the best I can do is to ask all the questions and let you decide. That’s why I recently had a conversation with the lead developer behind the original bitcoin cash implementation: Amaury Séchet

Although Séchet’s name is less well-known than some other early crypto proponents, his impact on the ecosystem is undeniable. He’s the person who came up with the contingency plan for in case bitcoin wouldn’t be allowed to scale. He’s the architect behind the BTC/BCH hard fork. He’s the “benevolent dictator” of bitcoin ABC. And now, he’s the divisor who plans to split bitcoin cash — like the red sea — again

But why? And…

Who tf even cares about bitcoin cash?

In truth, it’s a small community. Bitcoin cash developers and community members certainly care — but not many others do. Outside of their modest core team, bitcoin cash is in a somewhat unique position of having a global community that actually relies upon the coin for daily transactions and as a store-of-value. So I asked Séchet what impact he foresees this split will have on the people who depend on bitcoin cash

“These people are the real victims here, and I feel bad for them. Idiots are playing games with their money. Money needs to be very boring. The last thing I want my money to be is exciting, and most people feel the same. This shit needs to ‘just work.’ Forks and power struggles are killing the value proposition of Bitcoin Cash. The only way this project is valuable is by having a roadmap and the means to execute on it”

Since we’re discussing who is even paying attention, this is probably a good place to talk about why those who do, care

The truth behind the delusion

There are a few reasons bitcoin cash enthusiasts care about the upcoming split: The reasons BCHN proponents will give you, the reasons ABC supporters will give you, and the reasons that have nothing to do with either chain and everything to do with the group’s subconscious collective memory

1. The IFP — The IFP stands for Infrastructure Funding Plan, and while I’m not going to get all into that here (because those who want or need to know the details about it already do) what matters is that it’s a built-in funding mechanism — not unlike those used by DASH or Z-cash. But according to Séchet, the reason BCHN proponents don’t support the IFP isn’t because they don’t want community funding. It isn’t even because they don’t want Amaury and a handful of ABC team members to hold absolute control over development on bitcoin cash

Séchet told me, and after further investigation, I tend to agree, the split is “about none of these things…. It’s about the dynamic of the moment”

2. Lack of Talent, Laziness & Ego — So, according to Séchet, what is the dynamic of the moment? When I asked if the best developers would ultimately go where they would be compensated for their work instead of maintaining chain loyalty, he responded:

“Money is only part of it, but sure. Talented people have choices and gather in places where their talent is valued… I think that you touch here to something much closer to the core of the issue than anything related to the IFP. If you’re a mediocre developer who spends part of his or her time on a project while having a real job on the side, and you enjoy a position of status and fame within a community because there is no one better, would you want to attract the best people? Obviously, you can’t say that out loud, and you’d probably even be lying to yourself first and foremost, but the feeling is there”

What Séchet is alluding to (and not so subtly) is his belief that the real reason for opposing the IFP is that many BCH developers are simply not good enough to warrant funding. Particularly not when he and the ABC team are carrying the bulk of the weight. While I agree with Séchet’s position that the IFP isn’t the real reason for the split, I don’t know enough to weigh-in on ABC’s contribution level relative to other groups. But I do know that it is often difficult for those who are mired in conflict to view their situations objectively, and that’s where I come in

3. Collective Trauma — As I’ve previously noted, within crypto, bitcoin cash has seen more division and tribalism than any other group. For those who don’t remember, the 2017 BTC/BCH hard fork escalated into a battle for the soul of bitcoin from which the larger crypto community has still not fully recovered. Adding insult to injury, the chain unexpectedly split again in 2018 after a civil war over block size erupted between two competing bitcoin cash tribes, and BSV was born from the ashes

The thing is, each of these forks represents not only a difference of opinion over software implementation, but also the dissolution of long-standing friendships and business relationships. Having studied crypto tribalism in the field for several years, I can speak with some authority about the significance of its impact on community members

One prominent BSVer once told me about the anguish s/he felt when s/he realized s/he couldn’t approach Roger at a conference for fear of lingering animosity. Collin Enstad has spoken about how his options for professional development as a videographer and biographer have forever been limited because of his association with bitcoin cash. Tribal affiliations have divided families, as evidenced by the Lee brothers. Heck, I’ve even been fired from a freelancing gig because CoinGeek published a story I wrote. And when prompted, Amaury told me that he’s been experiencing tribalism first-hand since before the fork:

“We were initially trying to make things work with other projects, namely bitcoin unlimited and bitcoin classic, but it became clear that these project leaders wouldn’t do the right thing, so we created ABC. All these projects failed, and they ended up reluctantly following the path we laid out, but not without kicking and screaming the whole way. It’s been one smear campaign after another since then”

Framed in this light, it becomes a bit easier to see. The real problem with bitcoin cash (and perhaps with the larger crypto community as well) is collective trauma, triggered by the mere mention of a hard fork

Collective trauma occurs when a group is subject to on-going physical and/or emotional distress brought on by repeated exposure to common stressors. Examples of groups who have experienced this sociological phenomenon include race, religion, nationality, and now, apparently, coin of choice. Although collective trauma differs from individual trauma in some ways, it shares many characteristics. One of which is that trauma is often counter-productive because it can lead to long-term increased perception and sensitivity to potential existential threats where there are none. When the effect of the trauma is severe, repeated, or long-lasting, the group experiencing it may exhibit serious symptoms such as an inability to behave differently when the same circumstances repeatedly unfold

I believe this collective trauma is the real heart of the issue within the bitcoin cash community. But history doesn’t have to repeat itself. Not when people grow from it AND recover so that they aren’t acting from a place of fear and learned behavioral patterns

It doesn’t have to be like this…

… because both ABC and BCHN can survive this split as long as BCHN maintains a sizable majority of miners’ support. Additionally, although Séchet insists that the IFP was always a part of the plan, when I asked if he would be going to war for ‘the real bitcoin cash’ title, he said “No. Such fighting is ultimately destructive for both parties, no matter who wins. If the ecosystem at large decides to get involved in this dynamic, then it’s a dead man walking anyways.” And at least on this one topic, it appears that Amaury and Roger agree

In-fighting stifles innovation and helps no one. But agreeing in theory isn’t always as easy in practice. Leaders (and their minions) on both sides of this unraveling drama have leveled attacks against each other

Amaury vs Roger

Although both Amaury and Roger have expressed a lack of animosity and the need for both sides to continue developing, their actions are sometimes inconsistent with their words. This further illustrates my theory that the frontmen for ABC and BCHN respectively are both experiencing trauma. When triggered, they lose rationality and resort to childish tactics and name-calling, even though in their right minds, they both know this is counter-productive

In a recent interview with Joel Valenzuela, Roger asked if Amaury may have been paid to implement a take charge plan of BTC as a contingency for if it wasn’t allowed to scale. A question which Roger most certainly already knows the answer to since the fact that Séchet was on a research grant at the time is a matter of public record. Furthermore, as Valenzuela told me, “I personally think that’s a nitpick on Roger’s part because he wants to characterize ABC as splitting off/attempting to take over BCH rather than his camp splitting off… I wouldn’t call it mudslinging though, more like ‘aggressive narrative building.’ Kind of like when the GOP points out that the Dems were the pro-slavery, pro-segregation party. It’s true but of little modern consequence”

On the flip side of the coin, when I asked Séchet about Roger, he had several choice words to describe a man with whom he was once friendly. Ultimately referring to his former comrade as a “zealot” who would rather die than adapt. Said Séchet, Roger is “effectively an NPC. He follows his own script. In a sense, people were right to call him ‘Bitcoin Jesus’”

This made me laugh, and so I had to say, “Yes, absolutely, and they’re going to crucify him on the cross just like Jesus. The question is: Will he rise again?”

To which Amaury responded, “Probably not because he is unable to take advantage of the people who can make this happen. He’s mentally stuck”

If true, Roger isn’t the only one. Several bitcoin cash community members I spoke to were opposed to the IFP for the sole reason that a tax on miners wasn’t part of the original bitcoin plan. But being stuck on the narrative “because it’s the real bitcoin” didn’t win many hearts or minds in 2017, and it won’t win any now

So what’s the takeaway?

When viewed from an objective perspective, this split gives both BCHN and ABC the opportunity to start anew, rebrand, and distinguish themselves from the coin that the court of public opinion has deemed the enemy

The time has come for leadership and general community members of bitcoin cash to rise and heal the scars that have collectively held back the entire blockchain industry. Just because previous hard forks have led to devastating personal and professional losses, doesn’t mean future forks need to cause the same effect. There is no reason why a person who believes that ABC will ultimately win out over BCHN shouldn’t maintain a friendship or a professional working relationship with someone who believes the opposite

Ultimately, a group’s sustainability and longevity is dependent upon its health, and health is dependent on ability to move forward from prior trauma. This is the reason I created hugs — to try and spread some love through the community. And that’s why I’m asking members of the bitcoin cash community to take this matter into their own hands and heal thyself. After all of this, I feel a bit like Pontius Pilate, so I wash my hands of this situation and leave it to you

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Nicole Grinstead

I’m a freelance journalist and content creator, blockchain enthusiast, HUGE nerd, and mom to one awesome kid!