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INTERVIEW

Andreas Antonopoulos: Non-State Money Is Breaking the Monopoly and Giving People More Choices

Andreas M. Antonopoulos © private archive
Andreas M. Antonopoulos © private archive

Andreas Antonopoulos is a well-known figure in the Bitcoin community. He is arguably one of the most trusted and unbiased sources of knowledge in the industry. Antonopoulos has written over 200 articles, created countless hours of YouTube educational content on topics like cryptography, distributed networks, security, cloud computing and of course Bitcoin. He has also published five books on the matter.

The half-Greek and half-British crypto advocate, spend his childhood during the Greek Military Junta (a fascist dictatorship 67-74) which marked his whole career path. After two attempts to start own ventures by the age of 17, Antonopoulos decided to leave Greece disappointed by the way business is done there. He moved to the UK, where he obtained decreed in Computer Science, Data Communications and Distributed Systems, and became an IT consultant.

In 2012, after reading the Bitcoin whitepaper written by Satoshi Nakamoto, Antonopoulos realized that it is not only a digital currency but a decentralized trust network. This technology he thought,  had the potential to decentralize systems, avoid corruption and contribute to democracy. He abandoned his IT consultant job and dedicated all his time to the crypto sphere.

The Community Trust

In 2014 in an interview for Bitcoin Magazine, Antonopoulos stated he may be broke, but happier than ever because he was aligned with his principles. There’s this story of Andreas Antonopoulos receiving donations of 100 bitcoins within a few days from his followers. This happened right after the evangelist shared on Twitter (after a person was mocking him because he had been in bitcoin for years, but not rich) he had to sell the little bitcoin he had to pay his rent and support his family. Between 2013 and 2017 he was living on conference speaker fees, book royalties, and Patreon donations.

At the end of May Antonopoulos comes to DigitalK to share his vision. Before that, we decided to ask the man who had given up so much because of his trust in blockchain, whether he is still so determined blockchain is the next big thing.

Trending Topics: What could kill Bitcoin?

Andreas Antonopoulos: Bitcoin could die due to an inability to evolve and confront new risks. This really means that it can die only if it is abandoned by the software developers and no longer maintained.

How do you see the endgame of cryptocurrencies?

A complete transformation of the basis of currency in the world. We now have new options that include non-state money that is borderless, uncensorable, open and neutral. Such money will compete against nation-state currencies, breaking the monopoly of state money and giving people more choices. This is no longer a world of 194 nation currencies, each created to exist in monopoly. People now have additional choices and cannot be prevented from exercising those choices.

What impact would an eventual bug in the code that gets exploited (e.g. inflates the supply) have?

It is unlikely that an inflation bug would go unnoticed long enough to cause any serious damage. Inflation in the supply is counterbalanced by people losing keys which reduces supply.

How likely are we to see “hyperbitcoinization” in our lifetime?

Unlikely in my opinion. But it’s one of a range of possibilities. A lot will depend on things outside bitcoin. If various governments keep printing currency and creating hyperinflation, that will force people to seek sound money as a way to escape poverty, feeding into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Some countries may see a mass exodus from their national currencies.

The Austrian economics cycle of money – collectible, store of value, medium of exchange, units of account. Do you think bitcoin is going through these phases and where are we now?

We are at the store of money stage.  New flexible payment technologies (such as the Lightning Network) will take us to the next step “medium of exchange”.

The current consensus mechanism of bitcoin is proof of work, which requires a lot of electricity to bring security to the network. If we ever develop а more efficient and secure method of reaching consensus than Proof of Work should it be adopted by Bitcoin?

It is very difficult to deliver the level of security and immutability offered by Proof-of-Work. There may be other ways to achieve consensus and security, but most of the current proposals do so by sacrificing decentralization and concentrating control, which is an unacceptable tradeoff. This is still a rapidly developing science and we will see what emerges. If better options exist, Bitcoin can be modified to adopt them.  

Could a better consensus mechanism give the currency using it the edge it needs to replace BTC as leading Store of Value?

Unlikely. It would have to involve better tradeoffs and be impossible to transition Bitcoin to use this new consensus mechanism. That really means that Bitcoin’s development has stagnated, which is also unlikely at this time.

The current base layer of Bitcoin is pseudonymous. Is the lack of privacy on the base Bitcoin layer а feature or a bug that needs to be fixed?

It’s one of Bitcoin’s greatest weaknesses and needs to be addressed as it offers a vector to attack the system. Better privacy in the base layer is the top priority for development in my opinion. Privacy is a fundamental human right. Privacy in financial transactions forms the basis for meaningful freedom of speech and association. We are rapidly moving towards a very dangerous future in which people have no privacy – Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies empower people to defend and assert their human rights against totalitarian and oppressive government surveillance.

In the last couple of years, Ethereum presented itself as a world computer and home to decentralized applications. Is this narrative just marketing and impossible to achieve or real upgrade in its infancy on how the Internet will work in the future?

There are some very real and very impactful decentralized applications that require a different set of tradeoffs than those offered by Bitcoin. Ethereum is exploring some of those use cases. While it will take longer to achieve security and maturity on Ethereum’s more flexible platform, there is a real application use case for this technology.

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