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Jameson Lopp and Muneeb Ali on "Religion" in Crypto
June 17th, 2019
6
About this Episode
Today, we have a conversation between Jameson Lopp - former Bitcoin engineer, professional cypherpunk, and CTO at the key security company, Casa - and Muneeb Ali, the CEO of Blockstack PBC.

Jameson and Muneeb cover a lot of ground here, starting with mining Bitcoin at home, moving on to the importance of personal privacy, delving into the quasi-religious in-fighting in the crypto space, and more.
Show Notes
  • 0:00:41 Welcome.
  • 0:00:57 Muneeb: "I bet you have some Bitcoin miners set up in your home as well."
  • 0:01:03 Jameson: "I only ever mined on testnet."
  • 0:01:15 Muneeb: "Speaking of miners, what do you think of these new consumer mining equipment companies?"
  • 0:01:35 Jameson: "I like the idea at a high level."
  • 0:02:09 Jameson: "Basically using your electricity bill as a way to receive crypto."
  • 0:02:48 Muneeb: "From a purely 'can this be profitable?' perspective, there's no way."
  • 0:03:32 Jameson: "I actually argue we should move to a model where most people are mining unprofitably as the best way to decentralize mining."
  • 0:04:22 Muneeb: "If you look at the first wave of peer-to-peer networks, people would run peers without any incentives."
  • 0:05:55 Jameson: "If we really want people to be running these Internet connected devices that need to have pretty good uptime... we need to figure out how to automate away as much of the boring IT aspects and really make a nice user interface."
  • 0:06:24 Muneeb: "Operating your own node is one of those things that computer geeks would love to do it, but they're relatively only a small subset of the population."
  • 0:06:44 Muneeb: "What's your current working theory on - let's say five to ten years from now - do you believe in a world where everything just converges to Bitcoin? Or do you see a world with more fragmentation?"
  • 0:07:26 Jameson: "That's complicated."
  • 0:08:58 Jameson: "We're going to have thousands of these cockroaches running around and continuing to exist, though they will probably not be as utilized as Bitcoin."
  • 0:09:26 Muneeb: "When does a blockchain die?"
  • 0:09:46 Jameson: "What's more interesting than whether some machines are running the protocol is whether people are using the protocol and maintaining it."
  • 0:10:11 Jameson: "The example I like to use is dogecoin."
  • 0:11:00 Muneeb: "I don't know about hundreds of useful tokens out there, but I can definitely imagine a handful, maybe tens of them."
  • 0:11:37 Muneeb: "How do you see the Internet evolve, let's say five years from now, and how will the typical user interact with it?"
  • 0:11:51 Jameson: "The real trade off between most of this is usability and security."
  • 0:12:55 Jameson: "Perhaps the hardware will just start to be rolled out with your common, every day computing platforms."
  • 0:13:30 Jameson: "The onus for a lot of this stuff to go really mainstream is going to be on the enterprises to basically build in defaults so people don't have to make a lot of choices."
  • 0:14:41 Muneeb: "Let's say people start keeping twenty to thirty percent of their net worth in crypto tokens. That also means they start becoming targets as well."
  • 0:14:58 Muneeb: "I love the article that came out in The New York Times that talked about how to disappear from the face of the earth, featuring you."
  • 0:15:09 Muneeb: "What do you think about personal privacy?"
  • 0:15:33 Jameson: "There are people who are 'being their own bank' and right now a lot of the criminals are still catching up to that."
  • 0:16:32 Jameson: "What do we need to do? It needs to be like a herd immune defense."
  • 0:17:46 Jameson: "There's probably even more complexities asking people to be their own bank than asking them to be a server administrator."
  • 0:18:21 Muneeb: "Speaking of key management, what's the latest at Casa?"
  • 0:18:35 Jameson: "Over the past few months we've been evolving our product lines. The original being Casa Keymaster."
  • 0:20:48 Muneeb: "We have an early generation Casa node running in one of our conference rooms here."
  • 0:21:32 Muneeb: "What does it look like we're focused on at Blockstack from the outside?"
  • 0:21:48 Jameson: "From my perspective, it is another take on trying to decentralize as much of the Internet stack as possible."
  • 0:22:23 Jameson: "There's a lot of pieces of the infrastructure that are actually a lot more fragile and brittle than we would like."
  • 0:23:04 Jameson: "The idea that we can move back to a more decentralized platform, I think is going to make [the Internet] more robust."
  • 0:23:45 Muneeb: "We will figure out the problems and computer science challenges at the infrastructure layer and then we want to give the right tools to the developers to build on top of that."
  • 0:24:59 Jameson: "I'd actually be very interested to see a really decentralized social media app."
  • 0:25:22 Jameson: "Today, I think we saw block.one announce they were releasing a new EOS social app, but to fix trolling and spam they will require government IDs for every account."
  • 0:25:52 Muneeb: "Are they thinking that all the data would be stored on the EOS blockchain? Last time I checked, their block producers were running out of disk space."
  • 0:26:13 Jameson: "I saw something about $20 million dollars worth of RAM being purchased by some of the block producers."
  • 0:26:24 Jameson: "It's almost like each one of these networks has their own ideology and personality and is willing to make different trade offs."
  • 0:26:46 Muneeb: "In many ways these networks are valuable because of the community, because of all the believers..."
  • 0:27:23 Muneeb: "... the entire industry is so small that you could argue the blue ocean is outside of our industry right now, and people should be externally focused, expanding the size of the market. Instead, we see a lot of in-fighting. Would love to hear your thoughts about it."
  • 0:27:50 Jameson: "I agree on the idea that we should be expanding the size of the pie."
  • 0:28:49 Jameson: "Part of it - at least on the Bitcoin side - there's at least a large number of the early adopters that are anti-authoritarian."
  • 0:29:46 Muneeb: "Once these kind of wars started happening between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash and others, my reaction was 'I'm going to distance myself until this settles down.'"
  • 0:30:08 Muneeb: "Do you feel like over time it's becoming more toxic or getting better?"
  • 0:31:04 Jameson: "With the 50+ Bitcoin forks, pretty much everyone behind them started to try and improve Bitcoin and become the dominant player. When, ultimately, that doesn't happen, the question becomes 'how long will the supporters continue?'."
  • 0:32:22 Jameson: "This is part of this system that is fascinating because it is the philosophical and ideological side."
  • 0:32:55 Jameson: "A lot of the arguments that are happening are technical, but fundamentally the schism is ideological and it's about tradeoffs that people are willing to make."
  • 0:33:57 Muneeb: "It was more contentious because everyone was trying to say 'this is the real Bitcoin' - they wanted the branding of Bitcoin to attract new users."
  • 0:34:17 Jameson: "There is no authority that can define what Bitcoin is or what it should be."
  • 0:34:51 Jameson: "It's hard to even describe how the definition of Bitcoin comes about because it's like trying to define how the definition of some colloquial word has come about."
  • 0:35:18 Muneeb: "I find the analogy of religion super interesting here, not only because of the forks, but also because sometimes logic doesn't appeal to the die hard followers."
  • 0:35:50 Muneeb: "I grew up in Pakistan and there were a lot of very religious people around me. And this is something I've noticed: I tend to gravitate towards logic, and reasoning, or engineering and science."
  • 0:36:55 Jameson: "It's almost like a kind of fundamentalism people can fall into."
  • 0:37:38 Muneeb: "My early memories of the Internet are of a very friendly community that was pro open-source and helpful to newcomers."
  • 0:38:37 Jameson: "I'd be very interested in reading some historical works about the early Internet protocol wars. ... It was really hard for me to find anything, and maybe that's because history is written by the winners."
  • 0:39:13 Muneeb: "One thing I can tell you about is this almost constant war between keeping the core of the network simple versus keeping the core of the network more complicated."
  • 0:39:23 Muneeb: "That's kind of like the beginning of the end-to-end design principle by David Clarke, the chief protocol engineer of the Internet."
  • 0:40:01 Muneeb: "Unix was a new concept."
  • 0:40:19 Muneeb: "We're seeing that play out in blockchains as well."
  • 0:40:57 Jameson: "We can make all the arguments we want... ultimately they're all going to have to play out."
  • 0:41:36 Muneeb: "I notice you've done a bunch of work helping to educate beginners."
  • 0:42:15 Jameson: "I think one of the most valuable things those of us who have been in it for a longtime can try to do is to distill the knowledge and lower the steepness of the learning curve to get into the system."
  • 0:44:44 Muneeb: "I see that you have Bitcoin resources and then Lightning resources. Is there any other category you're thinking about adding if you had time in the future?"
  • 0:44:54 Jameson: "It comes down to what people are asking me about the most."
  • 0:45:48 Jameson: "I'm working on my next blog post / presentation right now where I'm trying to figure out what the unwritten rules of Bitcoin are."
  • 0:46:21 Muneeb: "Personally, I'd be super interested in a section on personal security."
  • 0:46:49 Jameson: "That is one of the dozen blog post drafts I'm working on right now."
  • 0:47:16 Muneeb: "Switching topics, what's a more controversial opinion that you hold that you would think twice about before tweeting it out?"
  • 0:47:27 Jameson: "The things that I have been self-censoring more frequently these days are some of the more libertarian viewpoints."
  • 0:49:23 Jameson: "I think that we can try to be inclusive at least to the point of not being assholes to newcomers."
  • 0:51:43 Muneeb: "It's good to see those discussions happen... that people are thinking about how inclusive are you really being in some of these ecosystems, which might end up impacting a very large population of the world if they're successful."
  • 0:52:16 Jameson: "Very easy to find me because I'm the only Jameson Lopp in the world."
  • 0:52:43 Goodbyes.
  • 0:52:55 Credits.
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About Our Guest
Jameson Lopp enjoys building technology that empowers individuals. At the moment, he's most interested in opportunities within the Bitcoin and crypto asset ecosystem. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge with others and is receptive to interviews and speaking engagements.
    Jameson Lopp