Are Cryptocurrencies Truly ‘Trustless’?

(CBRI) Discussion Paper: Notes on the 21st Century, February 2019

8 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019

See all articles by Usman W. Chohan

Usman W. Chohan

UNSW Business School; Critical Blockchain Research Initiative (CBRI); Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS)

Date Written: February 6, 2019


The dominant narrative of cryptocurrencies presents them as decentralized, immutable, and “trustless” arrangements. This discussion paper emphasizes the human element of trust in cryptocurrencies, by highlighting activities including “hard forks” making changes to protocols, managing cryptocurrency exchanges, and seeking recourse for traditional governance institutions including courts of law. This raises questions about the full “trustless”-ness of cryptocurrencies as they are often portrayed, and this indicates limitations in adhering to such a narrative, because the cryptocurrency space is still reliant on the trust-element in human agency and within human trust-dependent structures.

Keywords: Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, QuadrigaCX, Cryptoanarchism, Blockchain

Suggested Citation

Chohan, Usman W., Are Cryptocurrencies Truly ‘Trustless’? (February 6, 2019). (CBRI) Discussion Paper: Notes on the 21st Century, February 2019 . Available at SSRN: or

Usman W. Chohan (Contact Author)

UNSW Business School ( email )

UNSW Business School
High St
Sydney, NSW 2052

Critical Blockchain Research Initiative (CBRI) ( email )

Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS) ( email )


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