Andreas Antonopoulos, technologist and author of “Mastering Bitcoin,” joined Coinscrum in front of a live audience to discuss the strengths of the leading public blockchain networks and how the industry should be looking more closely at how they complement each other, rather than compete.
To kick things off, Andreas addressed the killer app phenomenon, saying:
“What is the killer app for bitcoin?…Money! Money is the killer app for bitcoin…And you can look at different aspects of money. You know, some people are like really it’s more about payments, medium of exchange, more about keeping value, so store of value. Maybe it’s about capital flight, remittances to third-world countries or developing countries. Maybe it’s about monetary sovereignce…And maybe it’s just about being able to be in control. Maybe it’s about having access to financial services because you don’t. Because you either live in a country where those things are not available or because you’re part of the population that is for whatever reason excluded.”
He also discussed the industry’s obsession about the next Bitcoin application beyond money, saying:
“The important application matters to those that are principled about the grassroots effort that we are involved in. So forget about selling this to your boss. But every time someone asks you about building that next generation application, tracking real estate on the blockchain, voting on the blockchain, changing the nature of the nation state governance model on the blockchain and even bananas on the blockchain — first we have to do money right. We can’t build any of the other things until we get money right. And part of the reason we have to get money right is because this lays down the foundation. And that foundation is what is required for broad adoption.”
Andreas also addressed the rivalry between the Bitcoin and Ethereum communities.
“When you tell people in the Ethereum space, ‘guess what you need bitcoin,’ they don’t believe you, right? They’re like ‘we can do everything that bitcoin does (except security) just as well with smart contracts. There are some fundamental tradeoffs. The flexibility you need in order to do smart contracts does not go well with building very robust, secure, nation state resistant sound money. Which is why, on the other hand, when you talk to bitcoin people, they’re like, ‘we can do smart contracts too.’ We’re like, ‘no, don’t. Even if you could, you don’t want to.’ The compromises you’ll need to make, the flexibility you’ll need to introduce will undermine all of the things that make Bitcoin secure, sound, robust money. Let us do our thing, let them do their thing and let’s play together.”
Ethereum has a killer app, too.
“So, what’s the killer app of Ethereum?…The DAO. I’m not kidding. Governance. The DAO — decentralized autonomous organizations. Reinventing the modern corporation, building systems of governance. Everything interesting on Ethereum is a programmable system of governance that is decentralized. Stablecoins on Ethereum which are decentralized, they are based on a foundation of a governance model that’s using smart contracts. Everything interesting that’s happening in Ethereum is governance. Ethereum is a platform for governance….I’m talking about what is the purpose of a programmable, flexible smart contract’s platform where you can do public verifiability of the execution and state of a smart contract. And the use of that is governance. And if you combine governance with sound money, something magical happens.”
As for the killer app for other blockchains, Andreas said he doesn’t know yet.
One area he has his eye on is privacy coins, saying he doesn’t want the crypto space to close up because of the belief there could only be one leader, doctrine or true faith. He said that’s not science, that’s religion.
“I’m particularly fascinated by privacy coins, which are doing some amazing work in zero-knowledge proofs and range proofs for example. Like, for example, Zcash had a catastrophic inflation bug because of an error in the white paper that ascribed the joint computation mechanism to bootstrap the zero-knowledge SNARK. We wouldn’t have learned that unless Zcash tried to do it first. Now it really sucks for them, because we don’t know how many coins were created in the meantime, but it doesn’t suck for us because we can learn,” said Antonopoulos.
Andreas also addressed the scaling debate, saying,
“We are going to do all of the things. We are going to do Layer 2, we’re going to do optimization within transactions, we’re going to compression, we’re going to do network optimizations, we’re going to do signature compression, we’re going to do signature aggregation and batch verification, we’re going to increase the base block size — we will have to. And by doing all of these things…we will get to the point where we have the ability to onboard the billions of people who need this technology.”
Andreas doesn’t expect that it will ever cost $100 to make a Bitcoin transaction.
On the topic of Facebook’s Libra coin and whether it presents a threat to Bitcoin, Andreas said, “No company can do what bitcoin does. So what do they really compete with? What they really compete with, and who should be terrified by this, are banks. Because banks are currently…squeezed between a rock and a hard place or a bitcoin and a Facecoin. Because on the one hand they’ve got an open, decentralized lawless jungle zoo of cryptocurrencies that they can’t play in, they can’t compete, they can’t coopt, they can’t sue, they can’t buy and they can’t even get the the government to shut it down even though they’ve been trying…And then the thing they pride themselves the most, which is being progressive technology companies, well Silicon Valley can do better. And if you think Facecoin is coming, so is Applecoin, and Amazoncoin, and Twittercoin. And every other Silicon Valley giant.”