“I’m writing the code for as long as I can remember, since high school … Now it’s even difficult to say when I started,” says well-known Bitcoin Core developer and speed dial master Brian Bishop, widely known in narrow circles as “artificial intelligence in human form” .
Bishop worked for a long time in the oldest Bitcoin derivatives exchange LedgerX, where he developed a custodial solution when it was not yet mainstream. He also regularly conducts Bitcoin Core code audits and moderates the developer’s email, but does not consider himself a protocol developer.
Like many of the most active members of the community, having familiarized himself with Bitcoin for the first time, he called it rubbish and forgot about its existence for several years. However, having returned to him after four years, she no longer intends to leave the industry.
You are often called artificial intelligence in human form. How did you get such an extravagant nickname?
Brian Bishop: Yes, they’ve been calling me that a long time ago. I think this nickname has been attached to me in the DIYbio e-mail list, whose members have been discussing the problems of bio-hacking and non-institutional scientific research since 2008.
I know that you were not happy with Bitcoin when you first read about it.
Brian Bishop: It happened on January 10, 2009. I was then subscribed to the P2P Foundation newsletter, and it was there Satoshi Nakamoto published information about the project. I remember that in several hidden chats I wrote about bitcoin: “another piece of shit”. And the reason was very simple. In January 2009, Bitcoin supported only the Windows operating system. What kind of financial revolution is this, if it happens only on Windows? Then it seemed to me completely meaningless. Therefore, in the development of Bitcoin Core, I began to help only in 2013.
So you are now a Bitcoin Core developer?
Brian Bishop: I think the developer – it says loudly. Let’s get together on contributor. I am auditing the code and moderating the mailing list for developers, but there are guys who write many times more code for Bitcoin Core than I do.
Probably the most interesting job I can talk about in public is LedgerX. This is one of the oldest trading sites for bitcoin options. It seems remarkable to me that it was already regulated by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), when most of the industry was in a suspended legal state.
I worked there for four years and developed a custodial solution involving a so-called signing ceremony. I note that LedgerX acts as a full custodian for the underlying asset while users trade derivatives.
In September last year, you warned the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the launch of Bakkt carries serious risks. As far as I remember, it concerned just the issues of storage of bitcoins.
Brian Bishop: I was just the co-author of the letter with Christopher Allen, Caitlin Long, and others. But yes, my participation in the writing of this appeal was directly related to the joint work on the project of Allen’s clever custodial solution. We tried to convey to the regulator that it was not the best idea to require trading floors to meet the standards set out in part 17 of the Code of Federal Regulation.
In short, it says that only a bank, futures merchant, broker-dealer or, for example, a foreign financial company can act as a custodian. But in the case of Bitcoin, these rules caused some doubts.
Bitcoin is stored on the blockchain, right? So what exactly should a custodian store — private keys or something else? Suppose that we have a multisig in which both the user and the service sign the transaction, as it happens in the GreenAddress wallet. Is it possible that GreenAddress is a custodian by these standards?The answer is far from obvious.
I just wanted to explain to the regulatory authorities that the existing regulation does not take into account the technological capabilities of Bitcoin, for example, the simplest multisig, where several people need to collect signatures for the transaction.
Over 40% of the nodes have not been updated to the latest version of Bitcoin Core. This means they are still vulnerable to the inflation bug. What do you think about this?
Brian Bishop: I think that nothing bad is that all nodes are not updated at the same time – no. This would lead to terrible centralization. This is normal when some nodes want to work on mixed versions. I have not watched the developments in the context of the inflation bug for a long time, but I am convinced that the solution should be provided by miners on their full nodes.
Given the hype around Libra from Facebook, I can’t help asking what you think about this initiative.
Brian Bishop: I got acquainted with the main characteristics of Libra and, frankly, I am not at all impressed.Yes, Facebook will finally have a payment solution that is likely to support other products of this company, but is it a blockchain, is it a cryptocurrency? I think not.
I am sure that Facebook will teach many people to Libra, but initially this project solves a completely different problem, so for me it is less interesting than bitcoin.
So there is no existential threat?
Brian Bishop: No, quite the contrary. Many people will want to learn Bitcoin, because when a system gives you a certain level of freedom, you are always looking for one that will give more.
This is the creator of DarkWallet Amir Taaki, for example, believes that the average users will never switch to Bitcoin, and the first cryptocurrency will lose to Libra as “FireFox lost to Chrome”.
Brian Bishop: I disagree. These, as you put it, average people, ordinary people already use the US dollar, Visa / Mastercard. This is not a threat to bitcoin. These are solutions to various problems.
Speaking of problems. During the current rally, we again saw rising commissions – $ 4 per transaction. Scaling seems to be Bitcoin’s perpetual ailment. Will the signatures of Schnorr and Taproot somehow make a difference?
Brian Bishop: First, if you are interested in low commissions, then there is the Lightning Network. Secondly, the commissions will continue to grow, and in the future they will be very high indeed. And this is good, because it proves the presence of competition for a place in the block, which in turn speaks of the value of Bitcoin. In addition, the rewards for miners are not eternal, they will end, and the commissions will ensure the safety and operation of the network.
Is the Lightning Network stable enough?
Brian Bishop: This is a very interesting technology, and people can already use it, but personally I think that it is a very bad idea to implement Bitcoin transactions from a smartphone. Do not store private keys on your mobile device. In general, this is not a problem of the Lightning Network, but in general of any mobile wallet.
The ideal mobile wallet, in my opinion, should collect information about the payments that you need to make, but allow them to sign them later — offline. In no case do not store private keys on a device that is connected to the Internet. And do not keep the full node, too, it is always online.
Let’s talk about biohacking. He Jiangkui, who carried out the first operation to edit the DNA of embryos, said that such intervention is justified only in the case of incurable diseases, and it is wrong to make superhumans. Do you agree?
Brian Bishop: This question is, of course, very complicated. I don’t think that telling other people what they should or should not do is right. A lot of people do plastic surgery every day, use technology to improve their lives. And what’s wrong with that? We are not necessarily talking about supermen. I believe that the use of technology – is a defining aspect of human development, since the time of the assimilation of fire.
Yes, bad guys can also adopt technologies, but this does not mean that they should be rejected.
Renowned researcher Jennifer Dudna, after the experiment, Jiankui stated that it was too late to impose a moratorium on such experiments. Is it really so?
Brian Bishop: It’s never too late to ban something for states. I think many countries will do that. The question is how effective it will be. Personally, I came to the conclusion that this technology cannot be stopped, and its development is vital for humanity, therefore, reasonable supervision of this process is necessary.
Let’s imagine that a Catholic priest addressed you. How do you explain to him the ethical side of DNA editing?
Brian Bishop: I think that making people’s lives better is ethical. I think we are constantly doing this.Moreover, people must make decisions for themselves and their families. Sexual reproduction is something basic and kind of holy. If the government intervenes in this area and determines who can give birth and who does not, then this is called eugenics. I think that it is not necessary to explain why this practice is considered wrong.
Is it true that you are going to make billions on designer babies?
Brian Bishop: See, when you start a startup, then the future is extremely uncertain. The task of the entrepreneur to add clarity. I believe that in the distant future, millions of people will be born with edited DNA. And here’s another question: what is the price of an additional 15 years of life? $ 1 million? $ 2 million?
At first glance, this is priceless.
Brian Bishop: I think that many people will be willing to pay any money for this opportunity. A bunch of technology will appear in the next 50 years. And I am sure that this will be actively used.
But it all looks like a Pandora’s box.
Brian Bishop: Humanity is Pandora’s box. We are constantly developing technologies, and I am not sure that we can be stopped or contained. Moreover, I am not sure that we should be restrained – it is better to build a healthy infrastructure to support each person and guide the development of progress.
If the bad guys want to use this technology, what will it look like?
Brian Bishop: I think it could be governments. They may be interested in [coercive] genetic manipulation of the population. Such atrocities have been seen before. But the fact is that it concerns all technologies in general.
What – and bitcoin too?
Brian Bishop: Yes, Bitcoin, money … I really like it when people talk about using cryptocurrency to finance terrorism: they don’t understand that fiat dollars are constantly used for these purposes.
Could it be that Libra is a weapon that is made partly from bitcoin?
Brian Bishop: Again, I’m not sure that Libra is a Bitcoin competitor. Moreover, the existence of Bitcoin does not preclude the functioning of other systems. Even if Bitcoin will use everything every day, the Visa / Mastercard debit card niche will not evaporate anywhere. It is about solving completely different problems.Being able to pay for a cup of coffee is not about bitcoin.
Bitcoin is the native currency of the Internet. Yes or no?
Brian Bishop: I think it’s hard not to agree with that. If you look at the history of Bitcoin, then everything looks like that. He was the first, and he has the greatest network effect.
Bitcoin – currency or base layer for payment solutions on top of the protocol?
Brian Bishop: Bitcoin is a means of accumulation, and second layer solutions will provide payment options.We would have a little more privacy.
How to convince those who use debit / credit cards, Apple / Google Pay and Fiat that they need the freedom that bitcoin gives? They have already forgotten how in 2008 governments saved bankers, while shifting their debts and responsibility for mistakes to ordinary people.
Brian Bishop: I am not an educational guru, but I am convinced that those who do not know the history are doomed to repeat it. I recommend everyone to learn what bitcoin is and how to use it. Everyone should have bitcoin!
Of course, I understand that bitcoin is hard to use, and people do not understand the principles of its work.This is a very complex system from a technological point of view, and to ordinary people who are used to centralized solutions, it all seems like a mystery.
Bitcoin is not ready for mass adoption. Yes or no?
Brian Bishop: Ready or not, many people will use it, despite the problems with understanding the system itself and bad UX. This can not be avoided.