Grin's Michael Cordner aka Yeastplume on Implementing Mimblewimble
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Interview location: Skype
Interview date: Friday 30th Nov, 2018
Outside of the most hardcore Bitcoin maximalists, there are some who respect a minimal number of alternative cryptocurrency projects. My experience in creating this podcast is that you find some who say they are maximalists, but Monero is cool, or that Decred is interesting.
The ability to command respect is usually steeped in a currencies foundation sharing characteristics of Bitcoin:
An anonymous founder
A focus on decentralisation
A monetary policy which does not enrich the founders and developers
One such project which has sparked interest is Grin’s implementation of Mimblewimble, a new coin which attempts to solve some of the privacy and scaling issues of Bitcoin.
On August 2nd, 2016, Tom Elvis Jedusor, a contributor to the Bitcoin Wizards IRC channel dropped his whitepaper, describing a blockchain with a radically different approach to transaction construction from Bitcoin. In October 2016, Andrew Poelstra from Blockstream completed his analysis of the whitepaper and dropped a position paper filling in some of the gaps from the original paper to make precise the idea.
In the middle of November, Ignotus Peverell, another anonymous developer, appeared on the same IRC channel with a link to GitHub with an implementation of Mimblewimble, and this is how Grin was born.
Fast forward to today and Grin has launched its fourth testnet and is preparing to launch its mainnet in January of next year.
In this interview I talk with Michael Cordner, aka Yeastplume, a developer working on the Grin implementation of Mumblewimble, we discuss why Grin is acceptable for some Bitcoiners, their approach to monetary policy and governance, and how to mine Grin.
00.02.48: Intro and welcome
00.03.40: Why Grin has been accepted by Bitcoiners
00.06.15: The mysterious background of Mimblewimble
00.09.38: The key technical aspects of Mimblewimble
00.23.30: Mining Grin
00.28.35: Mining the Grin genesis block and difficulty
00.29.15: Grin’s monetary policy
00.34.45: Privacy and KYC/AML
00.35.50: Governance structure
00.39.42: Funding for Grin
00.44.08: Excitement around Grin
00.46.03: The challenge of implementing Mimblewimble on Bitcoin
00.46.35: Preparing for the launch of Grin and developing the wallet
00.47.42: How people can get involved in supporting Grin
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Peter McCormack: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
Michael Cordner: I’m great. How are you?
Peter McCormack: I’m good thank you. Thank you for coming on the podcast. I don’t believe you’ve done many interviews yet, have you?
Michael Cordner: No, I haven’t. I mean, not for a while anyhow. I did a few last year.
Peter McCormack: I think you’ll probably get a few more over the coming year. There is a lot of interest in Grin, but this will probably be one of your least technical. And interestingly, I discovered Grin probably about a year ago. I did an interview with Jameson Lop, it was my third ever interview, and we were discussing scaling, and he said to me that a Mimblewimble or something he was very interested with, and I didn’t hear about it for a while and then it came up again.
Peter McCormack: One of the things I’ve noticed in the kind of the kind of Bitcoin world with Maximalist is that you get in the Bitcoin Maximalist, then you got the Bitcoin Maximalists who were kind of like, “Yeah, Monero’s okay.” And now we’ve kind of got the Bitcoin Maximalists who are like, “Monero’s okay, and Grin looks really interesting.” So why do you think people have this interest in Grin and this acceptance with it?
Michael Cordner: Well, I think there’s a few aspects of the project that you don’t necessarily find in a lot of other coins. I think probably the biggest one was going to be overriding the ethos of the project which is there’s no one group of people looking for a return from Grin. It’s completely like a decentralized project. It’s run by a bunch of developers in thecommunity who are really interested in advancing the technology as opposed to, you know, putting an ICO out there and minding their own pockets. So … And then on top of that, I mean the technology, Mimblewimble technology itself is very, very interesting, potentially transformative in the space. So that’s why there’s all this interest.
Peter McCormack: And what were you doing prior to working on Grin?
Michael Cordner: Well, prior to Grin, I mean, I have a development career that’s spanning about 20 years now. Immediately prior to working on Grin, I was working in the smart card industry and ID cards and there’s a lot of kind of crossover there between the kinds of things that you’d find in hardware wallets now. Previous to that I was running an educational tech company doing apps and what have you, I had an app called Shakespeare, and that’s actually still being used in the U.S. school system quite a bit. And then prior to that it’s like a whole load of different things ranging from say game development to huge, important financial systems and what have you.
Michael Cordner: So, a fairly, I’d say, varied career at this time.
Peter McCormack: And this is your first time you’ve worked on a blockchain?
Michael Cordner: It is. I’ve been working on Grin for a little over a year and a half now, around a year and a half now. Like a lot of other people, I kind of chanced upon it.
Peter McCormack: I obviously have a confession that I can’t stand Harry Potter. Is that going to be a problem?
Michael Cordner: No, that’s not a problem at all. I’ve read it, I’ve seen the movies, but I mean it wasn’t part of my formative years or anything. I actually tend to downplay the Harry Potter aspect because I don’t think the project needs to try and ride anyone else’s coattails, it’s enough there to stand on its own.
Michael Cordner: So, it’s just kind of by chance and its origin that it happens to have a few Harry Potter, say, homage to it.
Peter McCormack: Yes, we should probably dig into the background. So if you want to tell me about how the white paper came about, because it is kind of mysterious and obviously with all the kind of rubbish that happens in crypto and with different coins and things, it’s kind of very cool that it does also have this mysterious kind of creator. So do you want to talk about the background to that and how the white paper came about?
Michael Cordner: It is, sure, although the white paper kind of came out of nowhere. There’s an IRC channel or a chat channel called a Bitcoin wizards were a lot of bitcoin cryptographers hangout, and somebody, just out of nowhere, calling themselves Tom Elvis Jedusor which is the French … Well, you hate Harry Potter, so you might not know this, but the French, um, version of the famous anagram in English. It’s Tom Malvolio Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort. The French version of the anagram is Tom Elvis [inaudible 00:04:05]. Anyway, so this guy just drops the paper with some mathematics, and it had one insight that he called … he called the paper mill Mimblewimble, kind of a new blockchain format. And then built upon a lot of work that had been done before, but it had one particular insight that put a few technologies together in a very, very compact, compelling way. That kind of led to lead to, you know, kind of all of everything that’s happened since. After he dropped that paper on the bitcoin wizards IRC channel, Andrew pollster who’s a renowned blockchain mathematician picked it up, verified the masks were true.
Michael Cordner: He subsequently put out a more formal paper about it and corrected some of the maths that were in there. And then I think a few months went by and nothing happens until another point someone else showed up on the bitcoin wizards channel and who could call themselves Ignotus Peverell, who is a minor character in the Harry Potter series, he had something called an invisibility cloak that I think he stole from death or forgot exactly what the, what the full floor origin is there. But he said that he was working on an implementation of Mimblewimble called Grin, started talking about it. It was, it was kind of very clear, after a few lines of his texts that he was legitimate and knew what he was talking about and it kind of all went from there.
Peter McCormack: Right. Okay. And did you have any personal experience with bitcoin beforehand?
Michael Cordner: I have. I mean, I’ve been following it closely on and off, you know, since its inception, like I first read about it on Slashdot many, many years ago, when people were actually reading Slashdot. I’ve kind of kept up, but it was only the past … when I started getting involved with Grin that I kind of realized there was so much there that interested me technology wise that I decided to get involved directly.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So we’ll talk about some of the technical sides of things and, and go as technical as you want, if there’s something I don’t understand, I will ask, I’ll do my best. But so as I see it, and I’ve done my best to … So I’ve read through the white paper, and I’ve also read through the … I kind of read through the thing on GitHub from Ignotus. Also, I got followed on Twitter by somebody claiming to be him, but I’m not sure what it is, but anyway, so I’ve read through it, there seems to be kind of two major things that Mimblewimble was solving in relation to bitcoin. So one is the kind of scaling side of the blocks, and the second appears to be privacy coming as default. So do you want to talk about this and what’s happening there?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, sure. I won’t say that it solves the scalability problem or it solves privacy problems. It certainly goes a long way towards the vaccine.
Peter McCormack: Okay.
Michael Cordner: So at the very basic of it, there’s a lot of information out there on the site, I can probably give everyone the URL later, about how it actually works from a very basic perspective. Instead of in bitcoin where you have to follow, you basically have to … To verify an output, you have to follow it all the way back to the beginning of a chain, basically, in order to verify it. This uses some mathematical tricks so that instead of having to verify the entire history of the chain, you can just verify instead that everything amounts to zero, so all the transactions and all the outputs and everything that goes into it just have to equal zero and then you know, you can validate it from there. Does that make sense?
Peter McCormack: Yeah. And how does it do that?
Michael Cordner: Okay. I’m going to get very technical for a second. It’s built on top of something called Peterson Commits or Homomorphic Commits, and it’s a way of putting transaction data amounts and hiding your private key into a form which nobody can … It’s called perfect hiding, perfect information hiding. So even if someone broke the discrete log problem or what have you, they’d have a hard time telling what … Hard time trying to get the amounts and the keys back out of that commitment, okay? I’m kind of looking forward a little bit here. On top of that, this was kind of Mimblewimble insight in the Voldemort paper, and you can actually build transactions out of this in such a way that … As they say, instead of having to follow the history, you can just verify whether they amount to zero, so you add two of them together, and if you see zero at the other end, you know that’s fine, and there was no new money created there. The inputs equal the outputs. And then on top of that, you have something called when you’re selling them an access value. So technically you’re not actually adding everything to zero, you’re adding everything up to zero, plus an access value. And the person who knows how to create that access value is the one who can actually spend the output.
Peter McCormack: Right, okay. So this is quite an advancement on what happened, what we’ve built with bitcoin. I doubt there are very few people in the world who have the skills to do this right.
Michael Cordner: I’d say that there’s more than you’d think. I mean, the thing about all of this kind of elliptic curve, cryptography and what have you, because once you kind of get used to it, you get used to the language, it basically becomes like Algebra, right? So you can black box a lot of it off and say, “Look, I’m just adding this together, adding this together. I know it works.” So it’s not as complicated as you might think to be able to get into it and understand it.
Peter McCormack: Okay. And one of the things that stood out to me as somebody who is a user of a cryptocurrency, so I actually use them within my business, I pay for things within crypto. So I actually use bitcoin regularly, but one of the things that stood out to me is there are no addresses. So I kind of, in my head, didn’t understand how this is going to work. Can you talk me through that?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, that’s right. Well, there are no addresses. So everything happens kind of on the wallet side. So, on a Mimblewimble blockchain, since there’s no concept of address, all you have is a UTX set that just has outputs in it. It’s basically outputs and outputs and outputs all the way down. The way a transaction works is you don’t kind of put an address in and send it off to the chain. You actually have to communicate with another wallet. So the two wallets will work together, use their private keys to build a valid transaction, and then afterwards that transaction can get sent to the chain. So there’s certain, there are no addresses in a cryptographic sense.
Peter McCormack: Right. But I’m trying to think as a user would have a wallet say I wanted to send you some Grins, Michael. I’m thinking in terms of the UX, how does that work? How do our wallets start talking to each other? How do we build up that process?
Michael Cordner: Okay. Well, there’s kind of an infinite number of options for doing that. I mean obviously at the basic level, what we’ve implemented in Grin so far is an HTTP communication, and we’ve developed file communication. So I can actually start the transaction, save it to a file, send it to you, you can take that file and apply it to your wallet and send it back to me. Hold onto the chain. One of the approaches that were taking now, because of the kind of need for interactivity between wallets, there’s obviously a lot of UX and technical challenges around that. So what we’re trying to do in Grin is rather than prescribe one particular way of doing it is to is to provide a toolkit or a good underlying base layer that the community could then use and pickup and start putting their own solutions around it.
Michael Cordner: I mean the solution for this wallet exchange, it’s not a one size fits all solution. Some people will be very, very concerned about, you know, everything is extremely private, and want to kind of set up their own communication network to make sure that everything they do is extremely private. Other people might be happy enough using an intermediary service that actually does the matchups and the transaction building. So what we’re trying to do on Grin is just make sure that we can enable all of those possibilities.
Peter McCormack: Does that mean there’ll be a lot more flexibility then? This could be done over email, private chat groups. It can be done almost with anything?
Michael Cordner: Yes. We have somebody now working on sending exchanges over Keybase, which I think is a nice little solution there because you already have the communication going there. You have filed in place, you have the people building mobile wallets, it should be possible to go and bump your phones together to do the transaction. So there’s, there’s a lot of possibilities there, definitely.
Peter McCormack: I can’t help but think in terms of bitcoin for kind of comparisons. So a couple of questions I have is if this is going to be more efficient blocks, is there still going to be a block size limit?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, there are black size limits. There’s a waiting because on a Mimblewimble Blockchain outputs can be destroyed, which actually reduces the … When you send and output and spend it off, it reduces the size of the chain, basically. The amount of data that has to be sent around. So transactions are weighted in a certain way that if you’re creating a lot of outputs, you’re penalized. If you destroy a lot of outputs, you’re not penalized as much. Your fees are lower, we have a soft limit and a hard limit. We’re actually still in the middle of adjusting a little bit, but yes, we do have limits.
Peter McCormack: Are you still going to face similar challenges as Bitcoin in that you still will have to set an arbitrary size and eventually you will have to consider some kind of layer two scaling?
Michael Cordner: Eventually, if Grin gets to that point it’s probably a good problem to have, especially at this stage, because it means there’s a lot of take-ups and we’re getting full blocks. Layer two solutions are certainly possible. There’s some complication in that there’s no scripting in Mimblewimble because everything is kind of a mathematical sum. There’s nowhere in there where you can do scripts to do some stuff to do lightening or to do confidential assets are the kinds of things you might want to use scripts for. However, there are a lot of alternate solutions and alternate mathematics coming out to allow that to be supported.
Peter McCormack: What about multi-sig? Does that mean multi-sig can’t be supported then?
Michael Cordner: No, multi-sig can definitely be supported. We have a community member, Jaspervdm is his nickname that he goes by, he’s already come up with some solutions for doing multiparty Bulletproofs, which is kind of a big technical problem that you would have during a multi-sig. So all of this stuff is possible. It’s just that we’re in early days right now and we’re still very much focused on kind of getting the base, you know, version one out the door.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. How was the kind of timeline for that?
Michael Cordner: While we’ve gone and announced, for better or worse, January 15th, 2019 as the target release date. I have to say this could shift in either direction, and it’s going to come with a lot of warnings that this is very much an experimental technology, it’s used at your own risk. And you know, things are going to change and evolve quite quickly once it’s launched. So that’s where we are with that. Yeah.
Peter McCormack: I mean I have limited software experience because I used to have a web development agency, and deadlines and confirm dates are always the worst to have, right?
Michael Cordner: Yeah. Well, it’s not confirmed. Grin’s been in development for a year and a half, two years now. We’ve gone through four tests nets, you know, kind of increasing quality or fewer issues over time. There comes a point where there’s only so much you can learn by running a testnet because people aren’t incentivized to run the same kind of mining community and number of views as you have when you’ve launched a mainnet. So I very much see our main as the next step of development rather than kind of the end product.
Peter McCormack: Well, it’s kind of the same as playing poker with matchsticks, right? Once you start playing with money, it’s a different game.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, exactly. You don’t pay any attention if you’re playing with matchsticks, but then it becomes real.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. Because people have invested real money in mining and .. Okay. Can we talk about some of the other technologies involved? Okay. Because Dandelion I’ve read about and that’s something I’ve heard about in a few places. Is that to do with a privacy around nodes?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, basically what it’s trying to do is make the what’s called the transaction graph more difficult for people to follow. So what happens is obviously no information is stored on the chain in particular to identify users or outputs. But what can happen, say you had a three letter agency monitoring part of a network, you could potentially trace, you know, a transaction came in from this node which we know belongs to such and such and then it went here and here, and you could kind of build up a transaction graph, trying to track down individuals. What Dandelion does, is it tries to mitigate that somewhat. So instead of … what would usually happen on, say, a bitcoin node is you send your transaction onto a node and it immediately broadcasts to all the nodes that it knows about. In the case of Dandelion, you would send your transaction to a node and that one would pick another node at random, and that would send it to another node and another node, and then finally a random one of them will burst. We call it the fluff phase. And then we’ll send it to all the nodes it knows. So because there’s far more, say, a thinner trail to follow at that point, it becomes kind of more difficult to be able to trace transactions or individuals in that way.
Peter McCormack: Right. Okay. And then were there any other kind of cool, interesting technologies being implemented that I wouldn’t understand or know about?
Michael Cordner: There’s quite a few. I mean we have a post on my list of new technologies that are already integrated into Grin, as well as some upcoming ones that we’re trying to position for. Let me see, I need a second to think. We have Bulletproofs, which is a zero-knowledge proof to prove that amounts are greater than zero, which is something you need in Mimblewimble, that’s a new technology.
Peter McCormack: That was just implemented on Monero, right?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, yeah. It has been. I’m not sure they’re using the exact same implementation, but yeah. We have … I mean I’d need to pull this lifts up somewhere just to get her a reminder. Okay. Yup. So as far as other technologies that are being introduced in Grin, we’re using a Schnorr sigs, multi-sigs, which you may have heard a little bit about a while ago. That enabled kind of our secure transaction exchange. We’re using as a proof of work something called cuckoo cycle, or rather we call it a family of proof of works at this point. We probably want to talk about that later.
Peter McCormack: I’ve heard about that, we’ll come on to that in the end because that’s pretty good. Interesting.
Michael Cordner: Yep. One thing that I haven’t mentioned so far is a fast sink. So instead of having to download the entire blockchain, we can just download kind of a binary transaction set and use that to do the verification. So, what that does is, instead of to set it to download a blockchain and all of its transaction data, you just need, and verifying all these blocks of data, just kind of need to get the whole set in a big binary chunk, and then only validate the last, say 2000 nodes or the last 2000 blocks. So what that should mean is that a new user to the network should be able to get up and synced running in an order of a few minutes as opposed to waiting hours or days for the entire blockchain to download.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I think bitcoin took me about a week to download.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I tried to sync Monero once, it took me a few days. I think trying to do the entire Ethereum blockchain will take you about a month, but they have some other solutions to deal with that. There’s some other kind of new data structures and what have you on the back end as well that are fairly interesting or significant. There’s some called Merkel Mountain Ranges, which is the way of storing all the transactions of UTX set data, kind of been an append-only format. I’m going to get too technical if I go a little bit further. But yeah, I mean it’s fair to say we have a lot of new and interesting technology being trialled within Grim.
Peter McCormack: Right. Okay. So I guess come around January the 15th. That’s going to be a very interesting launch, quite a lot of stuff happening at the same time.
Michael Cordner: Yes, we live in interesting times. Interesting. Yup.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so let’s talk about cuckoo cycle because I have read about that. This is to try and make Grin ASIC resistant, right?
Michael Cordner: Well, not exactly, what it is a memory hard proof of work, so it’s actually evolved quite a bit from when it was first put together. Originally the idea was to put together a memory hard proof of work that would make ASIC development more difficult because memory latency is hard to optimize and it’s kind of unusual for a proof of work to need a lot of RAM to work. What’s happened over time is after more conversation with actual ASIC developers, and more considerations, the philosophy now is very much that we need to be able to support both to some degree. Asics are inevitable, we think. So rather than try and fight them the whole time, what we’re trying to do is modify the proof of work, and again, this is all based on cuckoo memory harvest, memory requirements, is to modify the proof of work to actually make it easier for ASICs to be developed, the idea behind that being, if they’re easier to develop, there will be more of them available and from different vendors and that’s our thinking behind combating the centralization that you get around ASICs.
Michael Cordner: ASICs aren’t inherently evil. It’s just the fact that they usually happen to be so centralized, or they happen to be so few companies producing them, that that becomes a centralization pressure. At the same time, in order to try and ensure a fair launch, there’s another variant of the cycle that’s meant to be a bit more ASIC resistance, and it will be kept ASIC resistance probably through a few tweaks here and there to allow the GPU community and kind of the smaller monitors be able to get it, at least for the first couple of years.
Michael Cordner: So, the way this is going to be balanced at launch, the ASIC resistant algorithm will be used for 90% of the blocks. So, 90% of the blocks now should be through the ASIC resistant algorithm, and over time that will gradually go to zero. And the thinking behind that is, in two years, when manufacturers have had time to do all the design to get the hardware out, then 100% of the blocks will be being mined by ASIC. So there’ll be a transition period where it’s goes from 100% or 90% GPU … Zero%… Or 90% GPU, 10 percent ASIC to 90% ASIC or 100% ASIC.
Peter McCormack: Okay. And if people want to start mining, say from the launch around January the 15th ish, how do they get involved? You know, say somebody like myself, like I do a bit of mining, I’ve got some dragon mints and some S9s, somebody does it for me, but say I wanted to mine with my GPU from day one. How do I start? Is it going to be highly complicated or is it just going to be something I download to my machine?
Michael Cordner: Well, what we’ve tried to make it easy as possible. It is inherently kind of a technical kind of action to be doing, but we have another kind of side project called Cuckoo Miner that actually runs the latest versions of solvers and miners, trying to make it easy, as easy as possible for people to download that, configure it for their system, and run it against the chain. Right now that supports Nvidia cards, someone else is doing work with as well at the moment to support open cl cards. So for an individual or kind of a small-time miner, there will also be at least two pools that I know of being developed and should be ready for launch as well. And you’ll get more information about those on our site from our community.
Peter McCormack: Okay. When you actually do launch, how do you actually launch a new blockchain and how does the Genesis Block get mined?
Michael Cordner: Well we’re actually still discussing how we’re doing that. In our case, we want to set the initial difficulty for mining very, very high, like ridiculously high. And then have it come down over time. So you know, it might take an hour or two to get the first book, the difficulty should adjust and bring that down to half an hour until we actually find the sweet spot there. But the problem with that is trying to actually mine the genesis block in that case become very, very difficult. So we might just, you know, mine it a simpler difficulty. The genesis block, I mean it’s nice to have it mined properly, but I mean, at the moment in our test nets we’re not validating it, but it is important in there to have something that can prove that it was launched beyond a certain day. So they might have us include a certain bitcoin block hash just to prove that the genesis block was launched after that bitcoin block came up. So nobody can say otherwise.
Peter McCormack: Right. Okay. And what have you learned from bitcoin in terms of difficulty adjustment and how are you going to approach that differently longer term?
Michael Cordner: So the difficulty adjustment algorithm that we’re using is quite far advanced from bitcoin. Bitcoin was still using the first difficulty adjustment, which is every two weeks it adjusts. Since then we’ve had the luxury of seeing a lot of block chains that have implemented more dynamic difficulty scaling. So rather than, you know, adjusting every two weeks you, you adjust … Every block basically you’re adjusting depending on what’s happening on the network, and it’s a lot more responsive than when you’d see in Bitcoin. But again, that’s not because we’re clever, it’s because we had the advantage of seeing this being implemented on many block chains that have existed since bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: Okay. And you’re targeting one-minute blocks, right?
Michael Cordner: Yep, that’s right. So one minute blocks and 60 Grins per second. Oh, sorry. Sixty Grins per minute. So it’s basically one Grin per second.
Peter McCormack: And are there any specific challenges that come with one-minute blocks, or is it because of the code being, you know, a lot lighter than, say, bitcoin, that you’re able to do that?
Michael Cordner: Obviously the risk of a fork or an unwanted fork that you can’t deal with is much greater the smaller the blockchain time is, or the smaller the block interval is. I mean bitcoin is set to 10 minutes, I think Monero is set to two. One minute block time shouldn’t be technically difficult to deal with. Obviously, you have a greater risk of forks that need to be resolved to go on, but it should be very doable.
Peter McCormack: So, it seems to me … Actually, let’s talk about the monetary policy first. It’s, am I right in thinking it’s 60 Grins a per minute forever, there’s no hard limit?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, that’s right. There’s no attempt here to kind of … Sorry, I’m going to state that again.
Peter McCormack: That’s fine.
Michael Cordner: That’s correct. It’s important to realize though that while the issuance rate is not going to change, the rate of inflation is going to approach zero. By the time millions and millions of Grins are in issuance, the inflation of a new block coming out is going to be much smaller than in the earlier days of change, if you know what I mean.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, yeah. As a proportion, right, because the second block of doubles, the issuance.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, exactly.
Peter McCormack: What’s the theory behind this?
Michael Cordner: Well, the theory behind this is, number one, if your monetary policy is deflationary, it will inevitably reward the first people to mine it, or the earlier miners as opposed to people coming in later, um, which we don’t want to happen, we want to keep Grin as fair as possible. Secondly, we think that this will encourage Grin as more of a currency as opposed to the store of value that bitcoin has become. And if, if you know, a Grin today will have a better chance of being worth the same tomorrow, more people will be spending it and using it for its intended purpose as opposed to, you know, speculatively storing it.
Peter McCormack: Right, so you’re considering Grin much more as money?
Michael Cordner: Yes. At that’s the goal at the moment.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So you could wipe out bitcoin cash.
Michael Cordner: Well, we’re not competing with anybody, we’re just trying to do our own thing.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. Okay. And does there comes a point where you have to start thinking about exchanges?
Michael Cordner: From a technical standpoint, yes. I mean there are some challenges inherent to Mimblewimble wallets that we probably will need to address to enable exchanges. But again, I mean, one of the nice things about the Grin projects is there’s no central group of investors or anyone expecting a return and forcing you to go out and do these value enhancing things. Sure, if there’s enough take-up of Grin, exchangers themselves will be interested in integrating, and come and talk to us if they have questions or, or what have you.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. Because I think people will probably hope for an exchange because an exchange gives the ability to give a market value for a Grin, right? So if it’s going to be used as money, at least then you’ll know what the value of one Grim is.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, absolutely. As I say, the core Grin team isn’t going to actively do anything about exchanges. We certainly hope it will come soon. I mean, the easier it is to use Grim and transaction it or exchange for the better. But it’s not something we’re going to be driving ourselves. We’re more focused on the technology and make sure that’s working and the community will build around it.
Peter McCormack: And if the community does build into exchanges, where do you … What are you thinking in terms of say … You know, because KYC/AML has become quite a big thing, but Grin by default is a private currency. What do you think about the kind of onboarding and offboarding within Grin?
Michael Cordner: Well, as far as far as that’s concerned, it certainly … I mean while the raw chain format itself is very privacy oriented, there’s nothing stopping you building other things on top of it. If you absolutely need to do KYC or you need something to reassure governments, what have you, that can all be built on top where you can build it into your transaction exchange mechanism. I mean that’s something that Grin’s fairly agnostic about. All that we’re doing is making sure that the core layer of it, the privacy is there and usable for those who want to use it.
Peter McCormack: Right. And this one’s going to take me a bit out of my depth, but if somebody wanted to trade in and out of Grins but remain anonymous, are atomic swaps a solution for that?
Michael Cordner: Yeah. Actually, we actually have an example now, the same community member I mentioned earlier has enabled atomic swaps with both the Ethereum test chain and bitcoin test chain, so that’s something that we’re fairly excited about and should be seeing more of post-launch.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Okay. Let’s talk about the structure. How have you structured governance with Grin?
Michael Cordner: Well, since Grin’s a fairly young project, I mean we’re not at the stage where we’re imposing a big rigid governance structure on top of it. It’s very much evolved organically so far. Right now, we have a council of kind of core community members, some developers, some kind of long-term members who can have the final say and guiding decisions on what happens to the chain or what happens to the project. Again, this is very much in flux and kind of how the project has evolved up until now. It’s not necessarily how it’s going to be or the be all and end all. We have to strike a balance between, you know, having a transparent governance structure in place and being able to continue to develop it without being hamstrung by having a public vote on everything we do. So it’s very much a situation in flux. Obviously, the goal is to try and be as transparent as possible, keep as decentralized as possible as well. So it’s a balance.
Peter McCormack: Is Tom Elvis Jedusor involved in any way?
Michael Cordner: No, since he dropped the paper, nobody has seen or heard from him. Actually, somebody dropped a similar paper, talking about another technology claiming to be Tom Elvis Jedusor, but the after the community looked at it the cryptography in it was so not as good as the previous one or just didn’t work. People are very sceptical it was the same person.
Peter McCormack: Ignotus Peverell is still involved, right?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, that’s right. He’s the project leader, and again, nobody knows who he is. He’s to have chosen to remain completely anonymous throughout and is very good at remaining anonymous.
Peter McCormack: So I’ve watched all the videos at Grin Con and the opening speech was from Ignotus, but as a text reader, right?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, that’s right. No, that’s his actual voice.
Peter McCormack: But that was actually pretty cool, right? To do that. How did that come about?
Michael Cordner: Well the Grin Con itself or the speech?
Peter McCormack: Well, both actually. I was more interested in the speech but yeah, we’ll talk about the conference afterwards. How did the speech come about from him?
Michael Cordner: Well, that Grin Con it was actually the first time that all of the Grin developers were in the same place, or even in most cases had even met each other in real life. Of the current team, there are two members who choose to remain completely anonymous and we did want to get them involved somehow, they didn’t want to be involved. This is the first Grin conference ever, you should make an effort to try and get Ignotus involved somehow. So that’s how the text to speech idea came about.
Peter McCormack: Do you think he was in the room though?
Michael Cordner: No, no, definitely not.
Peter McCormack: One other thing that came out of the conference. I know you’ve got asked it there, but I can’t help but ask it, but you said you were being trolled by Satoshi?
Michael Cordner: Oh, that was just a joke about of the number of people who come on and complain about the emissions schedule.
Peter McCormack: Such a shame. I had this kind of romantic hope that he was.
Michael Cordner: No. Maybe I shouldn’t joke too much because people take these things seriously.
Peter McCormack: What I thought was quite interesting then, the quote from Ignotus was that he’s focused on two things, he said Grin will remain light and keep protecting your freedom. So there’s the technology side, but there is also that kind of social aspect, right?
Michael Cordner: Yeah. Yeah. And again, this comes from the project structure. I mean, it’s decentralised, there’s no group of investors looking for a return from it, which means we can be more honest with the community about what’s going on technology wise. You know, everybody has an equal opportunity to come along and get involved and be a vital member of the team.
Peter McCormack: But I’m assuming you’ve probably had people try some venture capitalist, get very interested.
Michael Cordner: They’re interested. We’ve had, I’m pretty sure we have tons of venture capitalists just willing to throw tons of money at us if we could tell them how we actually give them a return on this money. And the thing is that we don’t, all of our funding, and we can talk about that a bit later, but our funding is completely through our community funding model, so the only thing that I need an EBC would get by funding us is sincere thanks and have their logo up on our friends of Grin page at this point. And again, there are just a lot of other challenges as well.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. So let’s talk about funding. So how’s that going? And this is obviously also an opportunity for you to reach out to a bunch of people and explain to them how they can help support the project.
Michael Cordner: Yes, absolutely. Our community funding model is … It’s challenging, but it’s the only model we think that remains completely fair to everybody involved in the project. So the way we do it is we identify the need for something to happen. So an example would be my own funding campaign, you know, in order for me to continue working full time on Grin, I need, you know, X amount to cover me for the next … Like contractor rates for the next few months. And we started doing that about a year ago now, I think the first campaign was. And the first campaign was great. I mean this was during the height of the bitcoin insanity markets that we have at the end of 2017.
Peter McCormack: When we were all rich.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, exactly. And it got filled more or less in two days, and that was great. So I could continue working on it. The next one was around March or April and it took a little bit longer. The third one took quite a bit longer to get out, that was a couple of months ago we did obviously. And we’ve also identified the need for since then, identified the need for a security audit. And we’ve tried to raise some funds with that. We’ve raised quite a good amount, but not enough to do the full audit. So I mean that funding is becoming more and more challenging, especially given the market.
Michael Cordner: Now at the same time we know that there are quite a few parties out there investing many millions of dollars or intended to invest many millions in the Grin infrastructure, particularly mining Grin, and what we’d like to say to these people is, “Look, by indirectly supporting our project through donating to these funds, to these campaigns, you’re actually helping to secure your investment because it means we can continue to operate, we can continue to develop the project and work on and have full-time focus on it, as well as other needs such as security audits or any infrastructure needs we might have.” So that would be my main message to anybody who’s considering investing in Grin or considering donating, being part of the community.
Peter McCormack: So you’re raising for the security audit at the moment and you’re also raising … Are there any other specific items have raising for?
Michael Cordner: Not at the moment. I’ll probably be doing another campaign for myself just after launch and that would be the only one at the moment.
Peter McCormack: Are you converting instantly or has the price crash meant that you’ve got to raise more again as it kind of put you back?
Michael Cordner: Well, in my cases soon as the funding was done, I converted immediately, because it’s not a gambling fund basically, and it was obviously burned quite hard during the first campaign, that’s when it crashed. That’s why we’re trying to keep these campaigns relatively short at the moment because it means that we can do it, cash it out, you can kind of mitigate the effects of up and downs on them or the mitigate the ups and downs in the crypto market, which has been a big problem for about a year now.
Peter McCormack: What other main kinds of criticisms you’ve received about Grin that you’ve had to deal with?
Michael Cordner: Well there’s the emission rate probably, we’ve talked about that. A lot of people think that the bitcoin issuance was the word Satoshi, that’s the way it should always be. Hyperinflation forever, which again, we get a lot of criticism about that, but not very much qualified, thought out, argued criticism, if you know what I mean.
Peter McCormack: Is that because you think people are seeing this as a potential better or a replacement for bitcoin and therefore they want it to be the same?
Michael Cordner: They’re excited about seeing a new coin out there that has some merit to it, and they’re annoyed that they can’t jump in on day one and mine loads of it and see it deflate and see their price going up. That’s where most of that comes from. There might be a few people in there who really do genuinely believe a deflationary currency is the way to go. Nobody on the Grin team does. So, yeah. I mean, anyone who wants to criticize that had better come to us with very, very well-reasoned, thought out arguments.
Michael Cordner: Other criticism would be about the privacy aspects of it may not be as certain with the transaction graph, which I talked about earlier, maybe still be traceable. Again, those are valid criticisms. Nobody’s claiming that any of the technology that’s in Grim is perfect and the be all and end all, there’s still a lot of work to do, and a lot of thinking to do in a long ways to go to achieve ever improving privacy in the chain.
Peter McCormack: Right. Okay. I watched a really great video by Jackson Palmer explaining Mimblewimble, it was very helpful. One of the things he said about, as a criticism, was that both parties need to be online at the same time, but that’s not true, right? That’s just something you’ve temporarily put in place?
Michael Cordner: Yeah, exactly that. That’s one way of doing it. So, when we say a Mimblewimble transaction is interactive, you need input from all parties involved to create the transaction. That doesn’t mean online. You can print it out on a piece of paper and meet someone else with their other piece of paper and put it all down that way if you really, really want to. So there is a bit of a kind of confusion about that, that you need to be online. No, you don’t, you just need to interact somehow. And you can do that in a back alley with your mobile phones or exchanging USB drives if you like.
Peter McCormack: Could Mimblewimble be implemented on bitcoin?
Michael Cordner: Potentially. At this stage I’d say that’s highly, highly unlikely because of the amount of technology that would need to be developed, as well as how difficult it is to get any changes to happen in bitcoin, because it’s, you know, the most popular coin, but it’s also the most conservative, technology-wise.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Fair enough. In terms of the launch coming up, obviously, that’s quite exciting. What kinds of things are keeping you up at night? What are the main worries that you have?
Michael Cordner: Well, I mean I’m doing a lot of work on the wallet recently because of the way of the UX challenges, and the challenges involved in doing Mimblewimble transactions. That’s actually what I’m focused on the most at the moment. I’m doing a lot of testing documentation. I’m trying to make sure that’s as ready as possible so people don’t accidentally lose their coins through some mishap in the wallet. I’m also-
Peter McCormack: Will the wallet has a GUI launch?
Michael Cordner: Unlikely, no. There is a web wallet that I did a bit of work on, but since the launch date was announced on a lot more focused on kind of getting the command line working and together, and by doing … That the command line wallet itself is actually built on a layer that should be able to service any kind of wallet, so it should be able to service web wallets or, GUIs, or what have you.
Michael Cordner: So by focusing on the kind of underlying technology and the API behind it, I think that’s a much better thing to be focusing on shortly before lunch
Peter McCormack: Okay, and outside of money how can people help? What kind of help you looking for? Or is it just money?
Michael Cordner: Well money obviously is good, but no, I mean, the great things about this project is that it, it’s a really open and welcoming community. If somebody wants to get involved, if you’re technical or a designer or you want to write documentation or you’re a mathematician or a cryptographer, there’s a place for you on the project. All you need to do is start kind of talking with us through either a Gitter channel, look out GitHub issues. And there are no big egos on the project, on the currency at the moment. If you come with valid, reasoned opinions, everybody will listen and we’ll talk to engage with you. Nobody’s going to put you down for coming on and joining us and sharing your opinion
Peter McCormack: And where are the different places that people can track the project and get in touch?
Michael Cordner: Well, there’s a few now. The quickest way to get in touch with any of us to join the Gitter channel, which is the GitHub chat where everyone talks about the projects. There are a few channels there that have evolved over time. So you have a main lobby open, we have a developer channel, we’ve just put out a designer channel where people give to give us their design thoughts around, you know, designing the UI for the wallet or the website. We also have the mailing list you can subscribe to as well as a forum for discussion of more complicated topics perhaps.
Peter McCormack: I can include links to all that in the show notes. And you personally, how do people keep in touch with you?
Michael Cordner: Well, the best way to find me, like I say, is on Gitter, so anybody should be able to find me there.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Have you got any closing thoughts? Anything you want to add before we close out?
Michael Cordner: A personal note. I’ve been involved in a lot of projects in my life, some of them corporate, some of them personal, some of them … The Grin project I think is actually one of the best and most genuine products I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with. All of the people on our team are very knowledgeable and know what they’re doing. I’m continually learning new things from them. I feel like I need to bring my A-game to everything in order to contribute to the community, and I really encourage anybody who has any interest in it to get involved no matter what your background or your technical capabilities, to come by and talk to us, get involved.
Peter McCormack: Well, I think it sounds super interesting. I guess from my personal side, one of the reasons I’m really interested in it is that I didn’t really come into Bitcoin until around late ’16. I discovered it first in ’13, but not too late ’16. I think it’s almost like a second chance, just outside of the money, just forget the money, is just a second chance to be involved in something early on, and follow a project and see how it develops, and I think personally that’s kind of super interesting.
Michael Cordner: Yeah, absolutely, I definitely agree with that.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Well listen, thanks for coming on Michael, this has been great. I’m looking forward to getting it out and hopefully, we can drive some interest towards the project, and some of the listeners will contribute towards your fundraising.
Michael Cordner: Yeah. Great. Yep. Thanks for doing that as well. It was fun.