People Didn’t Need the Internet te 1993
A conversation with Andreas M. Antonopoulos, author of Mastering Bitcoin and The Internet of Money, one of the world’s leading experts on bitcoin and blockchain.
I met Andreas M. Antonopoulos at the inaugural edition of Singularity University Canada Summit ter Toronto earlier this fall, where he wasgoed cracking down bitcoin/blockchain for a large crowd of business leaders, entrepreneurs and thinkers at Evergreen Brickworks, a former quarry and industrial webpagina reserved for the event. The flurry of emerging conversations around bitcoin and blockchain, the billion-dollar valuations, and the specialized vaktaal can make blockchain an intimidating topic to wade through. Is the hype justified? Consider:
Bitcoin (BTC) went overheen $6,200 this week, spil the total crypto market cap approached $180 billion.
Since then, it’s risen past $7,300, and more recently, kasstuk the fresh high at $11,377. Ter the following vraaggesprek, Antonopoulos discusses some of the basic definitions and terms of kunst, why bitcoin/blockchain won’t be stopped, and why Canadians don’t feel they need bitcoin just yet.
What is your operating definition for blockchain and bitcoin?
Bitcoin is digital currency and payment network introduced ter 2009, it is an internet-based system of money. Blockchain is one of the foundational technologies that wasgoed developed by the inventor of bitcoin. Blockchain is bitcoin’s ledger that records all the transactions that have everzwijn happened ter the database distributed around the world. Since the invention of bitcoin there have bot thousands of systems built using blockchain and similar systems.
Why are you excited about bitcoin and blockchain?
Thesis fresh systems have created a way to have a trusted transaction inbetween two people who don’t trust each other without the need to involve a trusted third-party. Previously, two people who can’t trust each other could only transact through a trusted third-party, like a handelsbank, or use government-supported methods of transaction like contant, etc. Bitcoin permits people to transact without trusting each other and/or trusting third-party.
For the very first time, you can have a global currency that is not created by any government, not managed by any government, does not require banks and is not managed by banks. It is a network protocol that runs on the internet. From a practical perspective, this means that using bitcoin, anyone can send payments anywhere ter the world to anyone, quickly and securely, without the approval of anyone, simply by downloading an internet application, and everyone can participate ter the system — it’s open, you don’t need an ID, don’t need to be documented, approved by anyone. It’s a bit like if you could email specie or gold across the world.
Some have compared bitcoin with gold. Does gold have any advantages overheen bitcoin?
The only advantage gold has is that it is more broadly accepted, because people understand the value of gold more broadly. It’s bot around long enough that people trust the value of gold. With bitcoin, that level of trust is still developing.
Is it possible for governments to screen and censor bitcoin internet traffic and if yes how can the bitcoin network overcome this?
It’s not possible for government to screen or censor bitcoin traffic. Those transactions are simply information, and spil long spil there’s a way to get information from point A to point B, bitcoin will proceed being transacted. Even the most sophisticated and totalitarian technologies leak, people get content through firewalls now, and so there’s not a way to zekering bitcoin transactions without stopping all communication. Bitcoin can be transmitted by radio, smoke signals, colours ter a picture, any mechanism by which you can encode information you can use to encode bitcoin transactions, so there’s no way to zekering it.
Bitcoin can be transmitted by radio, smoke signals, colours ter a picture, any mechanism by which you can encode information you can use to encode bitcoin transactions, so there’s no way to zekering it.
Let’s talk about some current vaktaal thrown around like proof of stake and proof of work — two approaches to the core encoding of information on the blockchain. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of proof of stake overheen proof of work?
Proof of stake and proof of work are overeenstemming algorithms, i.e. a way to encode information on the blockchain without providing anyone control overheen blockchain, a way to achieve distributed overeenstemming. Here’s how validating information on the blockchain works right now: There’s an open mining competition that runs every Ten minutes, to add a fresh block to the blockchain. Te order to participate, you’d have to expend electro-stimulation, and that mechanism is called proof of work. Since the introduction of the proof of work, many people have bot working on other developments te the space. Overeenstemming of algorithms have become a discipline of laptop science, some of the concepts proposed include proof of stake and others.
Proof of stake means that instead of expending energy ter order to commit to the security of the network, those wanting to participate have to commit funds ter the currency of blockchain. You have to commit dash to participate ter dash, and you risk the dash you commit on the promise you’ll commit to the security rules. If you go after the rules, you get rewarded, and if you pauze them, you lose what you have staked. It’s simply an application of market economics to a distributed system, a way of creating trust te the distributed systems, by using market compels, like competition, cooperation, risk/prize.
Proof of work is utterly resistant to attack and very sturdy, because it requires vast amounts of energy, which discourages people from cheating, the cost is very high and it’s not effortless to source enough energy to rival te the system. Proof of work supplies a stronger assure of immutability, another core concept that’s significant to understand: Once something is recorded on the ledger, it cannot be switched. The downside, of course is that it costs a loterijlot of energy, so lots of money is presently being used to secure (the) bitcoin network.
Advantage of proof of stake? No energy is used, but the immutability promise — meaning it’s enormously hard if not unlikely to modify the gegevens once it’s part of the ledger — is much weaker, so that has led to significant disagreement ter the industry, and that’s not lodged.
All those overeenstemming algorithms have to prove their validity by being tested on the global scale with significant money behind them.
While Satoshi Nakamoto has bot credited with inventing Bitcoin, today’s Bitcoin software is being maintained by an active group of developers, and that group is growing. Is the group of bitcoin maintainers one of the advantages or valuable properties of bitcoin? How will any switches to this group affect the value of bitcoin?
It’s significant to not confuse various participants te the system. If by “bitcoin maintainers” wij mean the development team that works on bitcoin then yes, it is one of its strengths. It is a large and diverse, utterly skilled group of people. They’re producing not only very high-quality secure code, but also a lotsbestemming of innovation te cryptography, networking, and other rekentuig science disciplines. The developers of bitcoin have produced a system that is very well tested — there’s a testing infrastructure around bitcoin software that tests every opzicht of every library meticulously, and they have discovered two previously unidentified bugs ter SSL library, a chunk of software that’s being used ter millions of websites and projects around the world. Evidently, for years, there were thesis undiscovered bugs. Bitcoin doesn’t use that library anymore, but the fact they have discovered the bugs shows the quality of the work that’s being done. The makeup of that group switches all the time: it’s about 400 people now, and they are permanently switching. Sturdy and healthy community around the project absolutely affects the software and the value of the currency. So far, more and more truly clever people are attracted to this project and the project is growing — the level of activity, quality of the code, number of participants — all those metrics are growing rapidly.
Programmable blockchains like Ethereum overeenkomst with digital assets that brainy or self-executing contracts can directly manipulate, since whatever parties making a transaction agree to is being written into the code itself. Do you see a way to connect physical assets to blockchains? How do you propose to reconcile the resulting trustfulness with the trustless paradigm of blockchain?
Connecting physical assets to blockchains is tricky. It is an unsolved problem. The advantage of operating with purely digital assets — you don’t need a third party and you don’t carry third-party risk. There’s a counter-party risk, meaning that someone might be hiding an asset somewhere, and that introduces a onveranderlijk risk that whoever holds that asset may not produce the asset. So you introduce the counterpart risk of custodians, like courts, governments, etc. Ter this setting, a loterijlot of advantages of blockchain are lost. Blockchain solved this problem for digital assets right now, but all other ways of transacting still require a trusted third party.
Trustless spil a term is confusing to people, often, people think it means you can’t trust. The concept is better explained if you think of two people who can’t trust each other, who can transact without involving the third party. You trust the rules of overeenstemming and the capability of the network to fight back attack. You’re trusting ter the bitcoin software you’re running, and te the network to operate correctly. You’re trusting the protocol, but you’re not trusting other parties, you’re trusting mathematical rules and verifiable code, overheen authorities, hierarchies, and people. That’s the fundamental shift that blockchain brings.
Te a very plain way: It’s significant to recognize that existing financial systems — banks, payment networks — have a built-in imbalance. Spil long spil you are transacting te one of the top Ten national currencies and a country that has a functioning democracy and functioning handelsbank oversight, where the banks are not organized crime syndicates, then excellent, you can trust thesis institutions and the current system works. But you can only make that statement ter about 5–10% of the world. It applies to maybe about a billion and a half people. Where does that leave the other 6 billion, all thesis countries where you can’t trust the rule of law, government, and banks because they’re criminals? Te such systems, having a neutral currency, a mathematical system that you can trust permits you to have economic activity.
Simply waterput, if you don’t have the advantage of trusting other systems ter place to make sure your savings aren’t stolen by your government or a bankgebouw, you can’t lightly do commerce, there are no institutions stable enough to support it. When you introduce those currencies that are neutral and can be trusted, individuals can build up power, security and justice, which will permit them to engage te commerce. Billions of people fall into that category. It’s difficult to see that when you are a fully documented citizen of the majority religion/wedren protected under modern democracy and living te a country with functional banks, where most of the people can play and transact. If everyone te the world wasgoed like Canada wij wouldn’t need this technology.
A loterijlot of people ter the space — people from Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Greece — know that stability is not the standaard. Knowing you have the rule of law on your side, and that your bankgebouw won’t simply take your money from you one day, that your government won’t collapse overnight — there are many countries where people don’t have that. Canada and the US is not the standaard. It’s a lil’ exception.
People ask mij, why do Canadians need bitcoin? They don’t. They don’t yet. If democratic institutions around them begin collapsing, they will. Things aren’t looking good te the US right now. Doesn’t mean it’s not useful — wij should not be designing technologies based on the needs of the most privileged five procent of the human population. But this technology is utterly empowering for the surplus of humanity.
Would you say bitcoin/blockchain protocols enable a fresh class of transactions, like machine to machine payments, which cannot depend on anyone’s credit card all of a sudden being blocked by a bankgebouw? Things like self-driving cars and the internet of things, and the payments system machines will need to function. What kleuter of potential applications do you see te that space?
Eventually, yes, you’ll see a loterijlot of applications that simply cannot be done with the existing payments tech, and at that point, bitcoin/blockchain will become utterly interesting ter the existing developed world, but it’ll take time for the technology to mature. At the beginning, when internet has emerged, who needed it? It wasgoed of niche rente to academics, physicists, researchers, military and government, and of no relevance to regular people. Wij simply didn’t need the internet te the early days. It took a long time for the internet to mature. Now you see countries that view connectivity to the global internet spil an essential to life and a human right.
With bitcoin and blockchain, we’re ter the same place the internet wasgoed ter 1990 or 1993. The real serious “killer” app — inflection point — hasn’t bot reached. We’re te the email phase, and wij don’t have the web yet. Everyone needs to have gone through building that basic capability phase very first, so now it’s just currency, just payments. Money is the very first app, and there will be many more apps on top of that, but the basic capability of money needs to be widely deployed and available very first. Just like you couldn’t do Facebook te the 1990s, you can’t build some of the most interesting applications on the population that’s puny and dispersed. Once a lotsbestemming of people have wallets, say 1 out of Five, then wij can embark talking about building more sophisticated applications. Even basic retail is hard, unless you’re te Palo Alto, nobody will care. Nobody will engage with you. So what if you’re accepting bitcoin? You’ll be standing alone.
Ter Canada, wij are watching giant rente and activity around cryptocurrency, the founder of Ethereum is from Toronto, wij have companies here experimenting with blockchain/bitcoin, building bitcoin ATMs, and applications. Could you share some thoughts on why Canada seems such a hotbed of innovation ter the crypto space right now, and what can wij do to keep it this way?
Canada is exploding with act — not ter terms of adoption — but ter Canada, it’s the startups, the entrepreneurial activity, innovation, research. I think the reason is evident. Canada’s neighbour to the south is ter dire straights te so many ways, and the regulatory climate that differs from state to state, money services and transmission are complicated. It is difficult to operate ter the US right now.
Ter Canada, the government took an treatment of wait-and-see, so our regulatory measures are conducive to innovation. I have testified te vuurlijn of the Senate of Canada ter 2015, and I recommended to wait and see, and the committee has adopted that. This treatment has permitted a lotsbestemming of Canadian companies to proefneming, develop, grow and build operations, and attract talent from other countries. Literacy, education, academic institutions, health care, a moderate government, along with a multicultural inclusive society, — all those superb things Canada has work to its advantage. Te Europe, wij have the same problem that wij see ter the US, namely market fragmentation, regulations of cryptocurrency segmented by countries, and the regulatory climate that is hostile, with the execution of Switzerland, and that’s why Canada has thrived.
The bottom line: with disruptive, grassroots technologies like this, government can’t indeed help, but they can do harm. So the best thing government can do is to stay away and let it be, do the least amount of harm possible. It doesn’t need government approval, endorsement or support. It just needs government to leave it alone. If government gets involved, they just shove the activity elsewhere, like Switzerland, Singapore and yes countries like Canada, who are there right now, with open arms.
I think it’s an titillating technology and spil disruptive spil the internet has bot. It’ll have a giant influence around the world. This will commence being demonstrable a decade from now, maybe two. Governments are failing or succeeding because of the internet. History is switching because of the internet. Wij have seen it coming, but it has bot dismissed spil fanciful thinking.
Most people think bitcoin and blockchain are stupid fads, too, and they dismiss it, but I’m pretty certain. Cryptocurrencies will switch the course of history.