Andreas Antonopoulos on Privacy, Society and “Special” EthereumDec 17, 2020
Andreas Antonopoulos has one word of advice for anyone working in blockchain -- privacy.
"If you're working on an open blockchain project, the first and biggest question you should be asking is: is there something we can do to improve privacy? If so, how robust can we make it?" Andreas, one of the best-known blockchain advocates, said on the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast.
Andreas, whose mission is to educate the world about bitcoin and open blockchains and reveal their historical, technological and socio-economic impact, urging everyone to prioritize protecting privacy. He warned that society is straining at the seams and institutions threatened with change resort to lashing out.
"The big problem I have is: one - we don't have robust and scalable enough systems ready in time to actually shore up the systems that they need to replace. And two - in the process of those institutions breaking down, they become vindictive and rather vicious against anything they see as a threat to their power. Including the thing that is trying to fix the problem. At that point, privacy matters very very much. I worry we are not ready for adversarial conditions of that degree," said Andreas, who is an acclaimed author of several books, for non-technical audiences and also for developers, including "Mastering Bitcoin" and "Mastering Ethereum" as well as his "Internet of Money" series.
"What I'm worried about is the following: the hierarchical systems that we have that prevent us from breaking down as a society are straining under enormous pressure. They are now being battered by external things like the pandemic and they were already pretty weak. They're failing to scale. They're failing to provide solutions for people. In that scenario people start looking everywhere for solutions and some of the solutions they choose are very dangerous. That's why we see the rise of authoritarianism, extreme politics, radicalization, religious extremism and fundamentalism, migration and refugees and all these other things."
"Be more zealous about guarding your privacy! If you don't understand why, speak to a Venezuelan, a Syrian, a person from China or Russia - preferably from someone from one of the groups that is on the fringes in that society. They will tell you exactly how dangerous it is to not take these precautions."
If It's Broken, Fix It
One of the best-known educators about Bitcoin, Andreas noted on the podcast the potential for Ethereum to be "special" too in offering decentralized solutions to systemic challenges.
"When I look at the world, and the way the world runs, I look at systems, I look at architecture, I look at incentives. If something is broken, it's usually because one of the systems that it relies on has either an architecture that makes it susceptible to corruption, centralization, capture or failure or it has a set of incentives that generate bad outcomes," he said.
"If you're looking at something and you're like, is this really special in the way Bitcoin is special? Then I say here are the questions to ask. Is it revolutionary? Or is it just a slight tweak on what came before. Is it immutable? Is it public? Is it collaborative? Is it open? Is it resistant to censorship? Is it decentralized? Many of these things are not yes/no answers and they're not very easy to discern, but it gives you a framework for a methodical analysis of these things that i think are important and make something special. We can argue all day about whether or not Ethereum fulfills these or if it fulfills them to the way that Bitcoin does, but in my mind the more interesting question is: does it have the potential to fulfill them? Does it already have some elements of those things? Does that make it important to pay attention to it and study it? I think the answer is yes."
Andreas is regarded as a neutral and reliable source of information about blockchain. For more on his take on privacy's significance in society follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.