Satoshi Nakamoto’s bitcoin white paper was published 10 years ago this week. To celebrate the anniversary, BREAKER spoke to well-known blockchain figures about the first time they read it and where they think bitcoin is going next. Part two: the builders.
What excited you most about the white paper the first time you read it?
Jackson Palmer, Dogecoin creator: “The notion of something being truly digitally trust-less. It took several reads for me to fully understand and believe it was possible.”
Elizabeth Rossiello, BitPesa founder: “How similar the goal of the P2P transfer seemed in comparison to M-Pesa, the successful domestic mobile-money platform that was dominating the market in Kenya, where I lived.”
Preston Byrne, cofounder and former COO, Monax; Independent consultant: “I wasn’t excited at all. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Damn, I have a lot to learn.’ I ordered Bruce Schneier’s Applied Cryptography the same day.”
Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin Core developer 2013-2014; cofounder, Bloq: “It’s fair to say that I was initially charged by skepticism, since it was easy to approach bitcoin as a distributed computing problem—a topic I know pretty well. In the process of getting proved wrong, I became more intrigued and my excitement grew.”
“I wasn’t excited at all. I remember thinking to myself, 'Damn, I have a lot to learn.'"
What’s one promise bitcoin has fulfilled?
Rossiello: “Attracted waves of young, bright, talented graduates to found and work for companies with business models that didn’t exist a few years ago, instead of heading towards traditional analyst programs at legacy financial institutions.”
Byrne: “Digital gold.”
Palmer: “Bitcoin has proven its resiliency across many challenges—from various security issues which needed patching, to the contentious hard fork and extreme community politics. Unlike something like Ethereum which had a fork that rewrote history early in its life, bitcoin’s ledger has remained immutable.”
Garzik: “By integrating already well-understood technologies and concepts, Satoshi and the bitcoin project have re-wired how we think about concepts like trust, truth, and cooperation. This is the thread of commonality that has remained consistent both within bitcoin and across the many projects that it has inspired.”
What’s one way bitcoin has failed so far?
Byrne: “Digital cash.”
Palmer: “Adoption of bitcoin as peer to peer cash is simply not a reality as it was outlined in the white paper. Many of the scaling issues have been addressed from a technical level, which leads me to believe this is a product-market fit problem vs. something that can be simply fixed with more code.”
Rossiello: “Ease of access in some of the world’s biggest markets, like the U.K.”
"Thirty-six months from now, it will be unrecognizable to all of us today.”
Garzik: “To tell you the truth, I have a very hard time pointing to any perceived deficiency in the bitcoin project and applying the term ‘failure.’ Bitcoin has achieved everything its early volunteers sought to accomplish, as the initial goals quickly mutated into something new and different over time. Though the white paper does promise a ‘peer-to-peer digital cash,’ which doesn’t really describe bitcoin’s user behavior today, it was clear very early on that what we were building was going to take on a life of its own.”
What’s the biggest challenge of the next 10 years?
Palmer: “The biggest challenge facing the cryptocurrency space is the inevitable hostile takeover coming from the fiat wealthy. Cryptocurrency provides a new arena for them to play in, and to heavily manipulate as they have traditional markets. Coupled with looser regulation and an increasing willingness from the cryptocurrency space to welcome Wall Street with open arms, I worry that we’re simply recreating the same corrupt system Satoshi and others sought to escape, but on a blockchain.”
Rossiello: “Resources for real projects and companies being drowned out by the noise of faux-chains run by large corporates and legacy banks.”
Byrne: “10 years? Too far out. Try three. Four years ago commercially-available ‘blockchain’ tech didn’t really exist. The space was 1/200th the size it is now. Thirty-six months from now, it will be unrecognizable to all of us today.”
Garzik: “The biggest challenge is also the biggest opportunity. The nature of a blockchain network means that, if you want to change how it works, you need to undertake a massive effort to get a majority of participants to modify the rules. As a result, it’s often easier to just create a new blockchain network. This proliferation of new networks will continue but, in time, they will have to interoperate in order to be broadly useful. At Bloq, we often refer to this environment as ‘multi-chain, multi-network, multi-token.’”