Bitcoin “Taproot” Soft Fork Activated

At 05:15:27 UTC today, 2021-11-14, with the mining of block 709632, the “Taproot” changes to the Bitcoin protocol went into effect. This is a “soft fork” which is 100% compatible with existing Bitcoin addresses and wallet software: holders and users of Bitcoin need not do or change anything as a result of these changes.

The changes are defined in three Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) documents:

The changes introduce a new form of signature to the Bitcoin blockchain, called a Schnorr signature, which will reduce the size of the blockchain and fees paid to publish transaction on it. (The Schnorr signature algorithm was the subject of U.S. patent 4,995,082, which expired on 2010-02-23 and thus can be used royalty-free in Bitcoin.)

The Taproot changes define a new form of Bitcoin public address which extends the existing “Segregated Witness (SegWit)” protocol to support hashing arbitrarily complex spend scripts into a compact representation that reduces transaction size, improves privacy by hiding the nature of the spend transaction, and allows for implementation of various kinds of “smart contracts” on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Here is an overview of the Taproot changes from Bitcoin Magazine.

This is a more detailed technical look at the changes from a talk at the Halifax Bitcoin Meetup.

Over time, Bitcoin wallets and client software may be expected to provide new features which take advantage of the reduced transaction costs, improved privacy, and more powerful transaction capability provided by Taproot, but existing Bitcoin addresses (in all their myriad forms) will continue to be valid as long as the Bitcoin blockchain exists.


Reading, listening and trying to understand Bitcoin (one example of many artifacts) drives home my abiding sense of the overwhelming complexity of modern life. Some time in the 17th or 18th century, as I recall from an old post on Ratburger, the last person lived who was capable of ‘knowing everything’. We are way beyond that; we have arrived at a point of information development where the vast majority of individuals cannot begin to understand much of anything about the communications, institutional or physical infrastructure of their lives. Virtually all the items we use and the processes we employ as ‘end users’ are incomprehensible to most everyone, except a few experts. Even experts in one small field are largely ignorant of all the rest - yet hubris drives them to claim much wider authority.

I think this has sorry implications for the future structure and function of society. This realization - that the lumpen masses have no understanding of the processes - especially electronic communication - and devices essential to their lives - implies we may have no choice but to submit ever increasing areas of our lives to the rule of experts. The main problem I see with that is the ‘mission creep’ (from hubris) which always occurs with power of any kind over others: someone expert in one field, say medicine for example, will smoothly assume unto him- or her- self (or whatever pronoun) power to make forceful pronouncements and claim moral authority which is in no way justified beyond their area of actual expertise. And the same lumpen masses are likely to submit to such claims.

This is not likely to end well - at least for those of us who have a Classical Liberal, i.e. Constitutional view of best practices in human relations within a society which permits moral agency among individuals. Perhaps a new paradigm will eventually be required, but if ‘woke’ represents a foray down a replacement path, God help us.

(Sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent, but this is where my thoughts went, as the Bitcoin explanation in the videos boggled my mind).


Very good points. There is an ever increasing push to just trust the experts. I see issues with this beyond the key points you point out.

First, who gets to decide the expert? Does Fauci represent all expertise? Does any one person or group really represent “the expert” understanding?

Experts in any field have a bias. Military generals will want every conceivable device and will spare no expense to provide us with protection from some enemy. Medical doctors will spare no expense and will prioritize individual health over all else.

Experts are unable in most cases to understand what Thomas Sowell has taught. There are no solutions. There are only trade offs.


I also wonder how Bitcoin undergoes changes. Who is ‘in charge’? I was under the impression there is no central authority.

Bitcoin Improvement Protocols are adopted by a consensus of miners. Here is a primer on Bitcoin governance.


The general concept of peer-to-peer electronic currency is not a huge leap from how cash and electronic banking already work, but the specifics of Bitcoin - and most other cryptocurrencies - don’t make sense because they just aren’t good ideas. They don’t serve as functional units of exchange and intentionally create false economies based around arbitrary currency-creation algorithms (or are simply redundantly useless in the case of “stablecoins”).

To be clear, a unit of exchange doesn’t need inherent value to be useful, but the work performed for each unit does need to have actual value to be a useful currency. It’s my opinion that the built-in advantages to first-movers and early adopters in compute-based crypto drives interest away from using cryptocurrencies as money and toward using them as investments.