JW Weatherman on Truth, Lies and Blockchains
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Interview location: Skype
Interview date: Sunday 3rd Feb, 2019
What is a scam in crypto? Is it the explicit decision to defraud investors by raising funds for a project you have no intention to build? Does it include projects where the founders make claims to be developing technology which they are not sure they can create? Should it include altcoins which are similar to Bitcoin but have little chance of success?
The term scam is thrown around regularly in the industry. Hardcore Bitcoiners may claim that anything which is not Bitcoin is a scam while others will defend altcoins as part of a free market for money.
In this interview I talk with JW Weatherman about the projects he believes are scams, why it is so prevalent in the crypto industry, and we also talk about his course 10 Hours of Bitcoin, a primer to help onboard newcomers to why Bitcoin is so important.
00.03.45: Intro and welcome
00.04.08: Why is JW so hardcore Bitcoin
00.07.37: Why people are so entrenched in their opinions
00.11.22: What defines a scam?
00.13.38: Is Litecoin a scam?
00.18.41: JW’s background and credentials
00.23.43: Is Bitcoin a problem for venture capital?
00.30.25: Is Ethereum a scam?
00.39.04: Thoughts on MakerDao
00.46.10: The “blockchain” industry
00.52.33: The web 3.0 narrative
00.57.15: Is Monero a scam?
01.04.01: Bitcoin education
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Peter McCormack: Hey, JW. How are you doing, man?
JW Weatherman: Good, good, man. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Peter McCormack: Yes. Nice to finally speak to you. You’re properly one of the most hardcore Bitcoiners there is. I almost feel embarrassed that I’m not Bitcoin enough for you, ’cause I’ve watched some of your videos, and yeah, you don’t accept any prisoners. What’s the deal with that? Why are you so hardcore Bitcoin?
JW Weatherman: I don’t even know that I would say … I know everybody says this, right? Like, I’m not sure I’m a hardcore Bitcoiner. I think I’m just technically competent and that comes off as really, really arrogant, but a lot of people have been like, “Hey, you know you’ve only been here for a year. You shouldn’t have such strong opinions,” but I’ve been doing this stuff for two decades. This is part of software security. It’s part cryptography. I’ve been designing systems, not electronic cash systems, but systems that use all of these same building blocks to solve problems, for a really long time.
It’s a lot easier for me, with that kind of background, to look at what’s going on in the space and just call things fraud that is fraud. For me, if something makes claims about its capabilities or its technology that is obviously vaporware, obviously nonsense, even then I’m pretty patient. Even then I won’t call somebody a scammer. Probably until I talk to them and have a little bit of back and forth, and realise that they’re just blatantly determined to lie about the technology in order to rip off innocent people. But from that point on, yeah, I’m pretty comfortable throwing around words like fraudster and scammer and crook.
Peter McCormack: What was quite interesting for me this week is I’m doing something in this interview that I’ve never done before. I’ve never had a pre-interview conversation, but I did with you because there were a few things I just wanted to get clear on with my structure. You’ve probably noticed that in preparation for this interview I’ve put out a couple of provocative tweets just because, in preparation of this interview, knowing what we were going talk about, I wanted to test the reaction. It’s not necessarily that I entirely agree with them, but you’ve probably noticed, ’cause I’ve tagged you in a couple of posts, right?
JW Weatherman: You know what, actually I did notice you tagged me in a couple of posts, but I’m also pretty aggressive about blocking people, so I’m guessing what you’re referring to is some kind of inflammatory response from somebody that I’d already determined is not useful to hear from.
Peter McCormack: Well, maybe, but I put out a couple of things like, for example, I put out a tweet saying, “There are only two uses for a blockchain, which is Bitcoin and a stable coin,” and it was in preparation for this interview. I just wanted to see how hardcore and how entrenched people are in their opinions. It was a real test, and it was probably one of the most hostile set of responses I’ve ever received, from all kinds of accusations saying, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Blah, blah, blah.”
Then I also put out another one, “I’m suspicious of any coin or token which describes themselves as having a great community.” I purposefully started provoking this week in preparation for this interview, to see why people are so entrenched, because obviously we had our conversation about how I’ve gone from being a multi-coiner to a Bitcoiner, and the journey to understanding Bitcoin is really hard. I’m still a long way off.
It’s really interesting then to see, especially with Ethereum bag holders, how entrenched people are in their views. That’s a big build-up, but why is it that people are so entrenched? Because you can identify people are scammers who create scam coins and such, but what about the people who so ardently support these projects?
JW Weatherman: Well, I think there’s a combination of things going on. One thinks that we underestimate how many people are getting paid to be scammers in this space. When I first got involved with Bitcoin, there was a charity that I had actually donated to in the past, and I found out that they were taking money from Roger Ver in order to promote Bitcoin cash. A libertarian, anti-war sort of group. It was really disappointing to me, but that was one of my first experiences.
I would say most people still don’t really believe it. I, being a security researcher and establishing a little bit of a reputation early on … People will send me stuff, so somebody was basically leaking me information on what was going on with this organisation. Publicly, I confronted them, and they never denied it because they knew that the moment that they denied it, I was going to provide evidence of it. But there are still people that will say, “There must be something else going on there.” It’s really hard for normal people.
This is something else that I think makes it easier for me to come off as really comfortable with frauds, is that if you’ve been working in software security for a long time, you’ve dealt with a lot of fraud You’ve dealt with law enforcement related stuff, and dealt with scammers, and even just being in Silicon Valley you get exposure to a lot of fraud and a lot of vaporware in software and things like that. So I think over the years I’ve just developed a much thicker skin, but this the worst space that I’ve ever seen for that sort of stuff. I’ve never seen anything that is this fraud-ridden, and I’m not exactly sure why.
I think that it’s probably a combination of the rebelliousness of the space with Bitcoin, that’s going to bring in sort of a fringe group, and then I think there’s just a lot of money. If you’re a scammer and you were running some kind of shady import business in South Africa, and you heard about what’s going on with cryptocurrencies, this was the place to be. We are at ground zero of the Nigerian Prince scams. All of the Nigerian Prince scams that have been invented in the last five years, I’m sure they’ve all taken place here.
It’s a really nasty spot, and I think it’s just really hard for normal people to believe that there’s that much fraud going on. So that’s the first thing that I would say, is that I just think there are a lot more people getting paid to lie to you and trick you into buying garbage than most people are comfortable believing.
The other thing is that once you’ve been scammed, it’s really hard to admit that you’ve been scammed. I think there’s a lot of that going on as well. Once you’ve invested emotionally and mentally, especially if you’ve put any capital into it. When you’re a bag holder, you’re not just a bag holder because you’ve put money into it, you’re a bag holder because if you say that this was a fraud from the beginning, you have to admit that you were dumb, or tricked. Right? Deceived. But that’s very hard for people to do. I think those are the two things that are at play here in a more intense bigger way, than probably any industry outside of, you know, horse betting or something that’s traditionally been mafia stuff.
Peter McCormack: Well also, I think it’s quite easy to create something that is suddenly traded on an exchange for which you can then offload for money. Whilst it’s scammy, it’s still legally, some of it’s a bit of a grey area, right? Someone like Rhett Creighton who’s created a number of forks of coins could easily argue that what he’s done isn’t illegal, it’s just capitalism and whatever, but other people argue it’s scammy, but it’s kind of like that grey area, and it’s quite easy to do.
JW Weatherman: I don’t think it’s actually that grey. I think that this sort of investment fraud have been around for a long time. I think that what’s happening right now with the ability to digitise them makes them easier in some ways to sell to people, and the regulators are having a little bit harder time catching up, and some of them are just being paid off. There’s enough money to where you can pay off regulators because any Ponzi scheme, if you can get enough momentum behind it, then you don’t really have to worry about the consequences because you just grease the right wheels.
I think that a lot of these have passed that threshold that tends to snowball. But as somebody, again, that’s technically competent, I can tell you for a fact that the people that are telling you that ripple is a cryptocurrency and is using cryptography in interesting ways, or that Ethereum provides secure smart contracts that are worth using, I can tell you definitively that they’re just flat out lying. That’s a technological sort of thing. That requires technical competence just to say these are very obviously false statements.
Then, if you’re comfortable with that, if you’re confident that these are false statements, it’s not really much of a stretch to say that these guys are just flat out lying. I mean, they’re not accidentally wrong. They’re not accidentally falling into all of this money. That’s not reasonable. They’re making false statements that put a lot of money in their pocket. They’re probably scamming you.
Peter McCormack: You know what the other thing is? Strangely enough, nobody … I’ve brought this up a few times recently. Nobody, or hardly anyone, will change their mind and be honest, and go, “Ah, do you know what? I got that wrong. Yeah, my opinion on that, it was completely wrong.”
One that’s come up recently a few times is, for example, Charlie Lee. I mean, I think it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s little to no purpose for Litecoin. He’s had a chance to explain it, but I think it’s almost impossible for him to actually turn around and agree that it’s a waste of time. So now he’s doubling down on adding privacy, and saying it will be a privacy coin. Almost like he’s trying to beat Bitcoin to the gun for having unchained privacy.
JW Weatherman: Yeah, I think that that’s true, but I think it’s true for a couple of reasons. One is, he was a scammer from day one. Nobody’s really comfortable with me saying this. They’re a lot more comfortable now than they were a year ago. When I first said that Charlie Lee was a scammer a year ago, all the Bitcoin people were upset. It wasn’t just the scamcoiners, it was all of the people that were the “Bitcoin maximalists” were like, “No, no, you don’t understand. Charlie’s a good guy.”
Then I went through the same thing with FluffyPony six months later, when people were like, “All right, all right. Litecoin seems to be a scam, but Monero, Monero is solid.” We’re still kind of waiting for that wave to end. But he’s a scammer. When he said that Litecoin was going to be silver to Bitcoin’s gold, he was not that stupid. The guy worked for Coinbase, he understands what’s going on here. He knew that what he did was nonsense, he knew that ASIC resistance was impossible. He knew that it was not possible to come up with an algorithm that would not be solved faster with specialised hardware.
That’s like a law of the universe, right, and this guy is not … he didn’t just, like, graduate from college last month. He’s been in the industry, so he knew that ASIC resistance was a lie, he knew that it was a lie that we needed a silver to Bitcoin’s gold. That’s just a catchphrase that has no economic or technical content. It makes absolutely no sense. He knew that.
He also knew that by decreasing the block times and in jiggering with stuff he wasn’t actually increasing the speed of Litecoin. He knew that he was pretending that Litecoin was faster. But in reality, if you want the same amount of security for me to send you money, and for you to know that you have that money, he knew that you had to wait far longer on Litecoin than you ever had to wait on Bitcoin. He knew all of that from day one, so he was a scammer from day one.
As people slowly realise that they’ve been had, they’re willing to say, “Well, now he’s a scammer,” or, “He should apologise at this point because it’s become clear.” But for people that are technically knowledgeable about this stuff, he had discussions with people before he’d launched Litecoin, and they explained to him why all of his design decisions were stupid and scammy, and he went ahead with it anyway.
Peter McCormack: But, to play devil’s advocate, and even though we’re talking about a form of money, you could also maybe say that Litecoin is a product. Out there, every day, companies are starting and creating and releasing products that are inferior in some ways to other products, and they’ve all just used marketing to sell it. Silver to Bitcoin gold is just marketing. Can we not play devil’s advocate here?
JW Weatherman: The problem is when you lie when you use something that’s not true to deceive people into buying your product. If he had launched Litecoin and said, “Look, I don’t want to trick you into thinking that digital assets are like physical assets. We kind of have this marketing phrase that we’re the little brother to Bitcoin, or we’re silver to its gold, but at the end of the day, digital money is a win or take all game.
“Litecoin is eventually going to go to zero because there’s nothing about Litecoin that is really better than Bitcoin. It’s not faster, it’s not cheaper, it’s not more secure. We don’t even have any design ideas, we just took Bitcoin and tweaked a couple parameters. We really haven’t done anything, but it’s different. So if you want to play with it, if you want to get involved with it, we’ve got a great community,” right, whatever.
He could probably market that. He’s a heck of a nice guy, he probably could have got a lot of people interested in it. He could have even said stuff like, “We’re just going to screw around on Litecoin. Like, there’s no reason that Litecoin should exist in the future because if we do anything good, this is all open source and Bitcoin’s going to copy it. Even though we don’t have any talent, we don’t have any talent compared to all the talent working on Bitcoin, we might get lucky, and we might actually do something smart. And if we do, that’s going to get copied by Bitcoin, so we’re still going to go to zero eventually, but in the meantime, we’re going to have some fun.”
I wouldn’t have any problem with the guy because he hasn’t deceived anybody. But instead, he took some economic fallacies about the way silver and gold worked, he took some misunderstandings about the concept of ASIC resistance, he took some flat out technical lies; technical on the economic side, technical on the technical side, on the technology side; and he deceived people and he tricked them into being confused about the nature of the world so that they would buy his garbage. That’s not just marketing, that is the definition of fraud.
Peter McCormack: Okay, well, listen, look, there’s going to be a whole bunch to unpack here, ’cause I’ve got a bunch of questions for you. But before we dive into that, and I know you protect your identity and your OPSEC pretty closely, but how much of your background or how much of your experience can you explain, so at least the audience understands why you have credibility when discussing this?
JW Weatherman: Yeah, I mean, ultimately the reason that I have credibility is that if you have any question about something that I’ve said, I have a lot of references for it. One of the best places to go is to look at the Bitcoin Threat Model. That’s where I take Bitcoin and I go through it systematically, and I say these are all the ways that I have conceived of trying to break this thing, and these are the safeguards. These are the countermeasures built into Bitcoin that I think would prevent me as an attacker from breaking it.
So, if you take that and you just apply that to Litecoin and anything else, you don’t have to believe me based on credibility. If you think that ASIC resistance is possible you shouldn’t believe me when I tell you it’s not possible, but you should think about it, and hear what I have to say, and come to your own conclusion. I can give you analogies to help you through that. I’ve got like a three-hour course that we’re going to talk about later, on Bitcoin and economics.
But at the end of the day, everything that I say that’s credible can come back to some pretty basic first principles. For example on ASIC resistance, I don’t really want to say, hey, believe JW. I want to say, imagine a problem where humans can not invent tools that make that problem easier because that’s what you’re talking about when you’re talking about ASIC resistance. You’re talking about inventing a problem where no matter what people do, they’re not going to be able to invent hardware or optimisations that make it faster to solve that problem. That’s crazy, right, and all you really have to do is give it that level of thought, and then you realise that people that were selling that knew that it was a lie in the beginning.
That disclaimer aside, what I can say about my background … and the reason that I do work under a pseudonym is it’s somewhat just a habit. People in software security very rarely do all of their work under their government name, and the reason for that is that if you discover a security flaw, or if you discover fraud, it can be very dangerous. We learned early on that it’s a really good idea to sort of taking on the cypherpunk ethos, use a pen name for a lot of stuff, and then have your corporate gig name for your consulting gigs. That’s something that goes back a really long way, and it’s not just for Bitcoin people or just for your JW. Pretty much anybody that you know that’s been working in software security for a couple of decades is going to say, yeah, I’ve used several pen names for my work.
About 20 years ago I started working in cryptography, working with software security, doing stuff like attack and pen test, doing security design work, and I’ve done that for a lot of different companies over the last 20 years. About 10 years ago I transitioned from just doing that to doing a lot of consulting work, so I jumped around to a lot of different companies and had a pretty large consulting firm, one of the more respected consulting firms in the industry. Then I started doing full-product stuff or startups, so done a couple software startups on my own since then.
Currently, I’m experimenting with sort of a new way of doing a software startup, for a project called mathbot.com. Anybody that’s at all interested in learning math or programming should check it out, it’s great for kids and adults to make the transition, but that’s a product that I conceived from the beginning. I designed the programming language, I designed the user interface, and I completely self-funded it. That’s probably the best credibility that I have any idea of what’s going on here.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so that covers the software side, but don’t you have a background in Austrian economics or economics in different ways?
JW Weatherman: Yeah, that gets a little bit dicey, but I have taught Austrian economics at the university level. That gets a little harder. If I go into too much detail here, then I definitely end up doxing myself.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Right. Where do I start with this, because there’s so much I want to unwrap? Last week I, as you know, I was in San Francisco, and one of the things that were quite interesting is that I kind of got this feeling from meeting people and talking to people that there is a kind of like “anything goes” mentality with venture capital, venture funding. There seems to be quite a lot of interest within the Valley with Ethereum, something I’ve really struggled with now, actually. There also seems to be this kind of cloak … It’s not a cloak of secrecy. There’s kind of this unwritten law that you can not criticise a16z.
What is going on … For me, it feels like Bitcoin is a problem for venture capital, and I’ve put this out there, and other people have said, “Well, yeah, but they're going to have invested in Bitcoin, all the venture capitalists,” and I’m like, sure. But I see that as a hedge. I see that they can’t get the returns they want from Bitcoin, so, therefore, Bitcoin is a hedge, but they’re actually pumping any in, any particular project or idea that they think they can hit a mass return on. Is Bitcoin a problem for venture capital?
JW Weatherman: Yeah, I think it is. I think there are few things going on there, though. One is that Andreessen Horowitz, they just have a lot of … Well, there’s two things. One is that some of the people involved in that, in their early days, really did make a big impact on the internet. You see that with a lot of the venture capital funds. There are one or two guys that are sort of the gray-hair guys that really have a great reputation, and they deserve respect because they made in a big impact on the world that we have now.
You know, guys involved with Netscape, or guys involved with early versions of Yahoo, or guys involved with early versions of Google. It’s pretty hard to just dismiss those guys, because they are titans of the industry, and they’ve proven that they’re very competent.
The other thing, though, that’s going on, that these guys take a huge amount of advantage of, is that they can claim that they were early investors in things like Facebook, or they were early investors in Uber or all these other companies, and that gives this really massive error of oh, you’re a visionary. You’re some kind of wizard because you saw that these companies were going to be successful. You must be brilliant if you invest in Airbnb, ’cause it looked like such a bad idea, but you did it, you did it early on, and now you’ve made a billion dollars off of it.
That’s really deceptive because what’s really happening with venture capital is that they’re just trying to get in as many deals as possible. The guy that I point people to as much as possible is Paul Graham, who is another one of these titans of industry guys, just amazing guy. He also created Y Combinator, which is that early stage investing, incubator startup funding mechanism. The reason that he did that is he said, “Look, I’ve looked at a bunch of deals that I’ve done, and I’m considered one of the best investors in the Valley, and my track record is not much better than random chance.”
He realised that a lot of what was going on here is basically arbitrage. The guy down at the gas station that has 20 years experience managing a gas station, he’s not allowed to invest in a gas station. He can have all the expertise in the world, he could walk into a gas station and say, this merchandising counter is set up great, the staff is paid what they should be paid, all the margins are set up. I want to invest in this business ’cause I can tell that it’s going to help me build my nest egg. The answer to that guy is no, you can not because you are not an accredited investor. Unless you have two million dollars between you and your spouse, or whatever it is at this point in the United States, you’re not allowed to do that.
What you can do is you can put money into a 401K, and we’re going to encourage you to do that very much. That’s going to go through five layers of intermediaries before it ends up in the hands of a Silicon Valley VC firm, and then they’re going to, not much better than random chance, invest that in pretty much every startup that looks credible. And, because they have a lot of barriers to entry on that competition because anybody can’t invest in the next Airbnb, it’s only got to be these small group of guys that are running VC firms, they get to look like geniuses even though they invest in stuff … They’ll say that their success rate if it’s one out of 20, is really, really good.
I think there’s a lot of people that can do better than that if given the opportunity, but there’s a lot of reasons that’s not possible. Bitcoin is specifically designed to break down regulatory barriers. A lot of this whole system is propped up on being able to print money, and all of the crony capitalism, and the regulation, and all of the favours, and the shady deals that go on, Bitcoin is set up to destroy all of that stuff. You can’t pay off the founders of Bitcoin to make some sort of a change, or to implement a bad policy, or whatever. Bitcoin is just this beast, this opensource project that has too many eyes on it, and it’s just moving forward in a very honest direction, and crushing a lot of the middlemen in a lot of places.
So it makes sense, in that case, that if you’re sitting in Silicon Valley, you’re not all that excited about Bitcoin. It’s not really going to solve any problems for you, and it might make a lot of problems for you. But if you can get something like Ethereum, that is something where you can meet with Vitalik, you can become buddies with him, you can have a meeting with him and find out how his meeting went with Putin, and all of this sort of stuff that gives you insight or information, that’s a really good situation for you. You can profit from that knowledge. You can profit from those connections.
You can also facilitate things like, we’ll make sure that the senators think that it’s not a security, or that the FTC says that it’s not a security, because of that chairman of the FTC, he’s looking for a job in the Valley when he retires from government. We have this revolving door in a lot of these places. We have it with the Defense Department, but we also have it with the Valley, so it makes a lot of sense that something like Ethereum would be very attractive to those guys. Ethereum is a social justice warrior narrative wrapped up around, basically, the technology that doesn’t exist, this goofy vaporware, but it has all of the things that they would want.
Just as an example, it doesn’t have a cap. There’s no cap supply. They’re putting that stuff at 10% per year, and who gets to decide how much they’re going to print and how much they’re going to reduce? Well, it turns out it’s Vitalik. Well, why do people like to be close to the federal reserve? Because if you can find out that the federal reserve is going to change interest rates, or they’re not going to change interest rates, that’s a money-printing machine. You can do very well from that.
Bitcoin doesn’t have that, but a lot of these scammy things absolutely do, and there’s just a lot more opportunity to profit from those frauds if you’re already really, really entrenched. For the average person I think investing in Bitcoin is an incredible opportunity, but if you already have a billion dollars and you have your straw stuck into the side of this deal flow, it doesn’t have quite as much to offer, and it actually has a lot of ways that it could hurt you.
Peter McCormack: Right, okay. Let’s talk about Ethereum, because I see a mix of narratives from, depending whether you’re a Bitcoiner or you’re an Ethereum person, and there seems to be a whole bunch of people who’ve talked about the creation of Ethereum, “It was pretty much a scam based on false promises and nothing’s been delivered, and it’s all kind of complicated, promises in the future,” etc, etc. At the same time, things are being built on Ethereum that are being used. Whether we like them or not, there are things that have been built on there that can be used, so what’s your position on Ethereum?
JW Weatherman: Look, I think that there is a lot of appetite for smart contracts. Bitcoin has smart contracts, but a more generic smart contracting platform. There’s a lot of really interesting things that could happen there. Why is there no really interesting things happening on Ethereum? The answer is that even though there’s a lot of desire to build smart contracts that are irreversible … Like, it would be really interesting to build Powerball. I don’t know how many billions of dollars a year in ticket sales go to Powerball lotteries in the United States. The UK is actually even more interested in gambling than that, so there’s a lot of money that goes into these lotteries.
Somebody could, in theory, build a very simple smart contract that does exactly what Powerball is all about, and the profit margins on something like Powerball are really, really insane. I think for every dollar that you spend on tickets, something like 95% gets held back, and only 5% gets paid out. You could create a competitor of Powerball that pays out, I don’t know, 20 times, like 20X, so if everybody’s excited about the new Powerball, it’s finally crossed 700 million dollars or whatever … it could be 20 times that. We could be talking about 20 times 700 million, and still work, still be very, very profitable.
Why is it that nobody’s considering doing anything like that on Ethereum? Well, the answer is that we already know that Ethereum is not what it claims to be. As soon as you build a smart contract that results in unpopular transactions, we already know it will be reversed. It’s happened more than once. We also know that it’s not even possible to write some of the simplest smart contracts on Ethereum in any sort of reliable way, because the way that they went about designing their programming language was perfect for marketing, perfect for scamming, and for getting people to think that they have something, but terrible for actually implementing secure smart contracts.
It’s not even a good idea to do a multi-signature wallet on Ethereum right now, and that is probably the simplest smart contract that I can imagine, so that’s how scammy this thing is. Yeah, you know, there’s stuff like CryptoKitties that were built on it and brought the network to its knees, because in addition to pretending to be secure, it’s also pretending to scale. It doesn’t actually do either of those things.
I think that there are a lot of potential really interesting applications, like for example gambling and things like that, but they’re not going to be implemented on Ethereum because people that have the technical competence to build the interesting stuff know that it’s not a good idea to try to do it on Ethereum. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t make a lot of money shilling that token and, you know, playing the game.
Peter McCormack: But Eth 2 is coming, with sharding, and lots of other things I’ve heard about, which is going to solve the scaling issues. Have you looked into Eth 2?
JW Weatherman: I think I looked at a screenshot of their roadmap. The reason that I’m not going to spend a ton of time with Ethereum, so, a year ago I did the Bitcoin Threat Model, and I spent probably six weeks of obsession just going through Bitcoin and figuring out the ways that I could break it. As soon as I released that, a lot of people said, “Hey, can you do this for Ethereum?” And I already knew enough about Ethereum to know that it was BS, but I knuckled down and I thought, okay, I’m going to actually look at this.
I think before the day was over like before eight hours had passed, I already knew that it didn’t have a cap. There’s no cap on the total number of the Ethereum that can be created. That is insane because the only way that you could reliably secure a proof-of-work network is if people want to hold the token for a long term. You’re not going to want to hold the token for the long term as soon as you realise that it has no cap, so I reached out to a lot of people that were excited about Ethereum, and I said “Hey, do you realise there’s no cap on this thing? Do you realise that these guys print more Ethereum every year than the federal reserve by about two to three times, and there’s no schedule, there’s no code-enforced schedule of decreasing the speed at which they produce new Ethereum.”
People that are fans of Ethereum thought that I was crazy, so that told me the only reason people are holding these things is out of ignorance, and ignorance while it lasts, and as that ignorance fades, you’re going to end up with people that don’t want to hold these tokens that are just being inflated. Well, why do I even need to do more security analysis on that, right? It won’t work. Then I just went down the list of like, well, what are all the big scammy things? ASIC resistance. Oh, yep, they were doing that thing. They’re still pretending that they have enough proof-of-work to actually secure the chain.
Do you know why people aren’t 51% attacking Ethereum? Because it’s all security theatre. Because as soon as a bunch of black-hats, or a bunch of people that are invested in Bitcoin, or people that just don’t like Ethereum spend enough money to actually 51% attack it, or prevent it from confirming any transactions, we already know it’s going to happen. Vitalik’s just going to send out an email and tell everybody to change the algorithm. Because it’s security theatre you can’t even attack it in the way that you could attack something that was actually depending on proof-of-work for security. Of course, they’re saying that they’re going to move to proof-of-state, which is another scam.
The smart thing that the Ethereum guys do is they do so many things that are blatantly stupid that anybody that’s technically competent doesn’t even really want to spend the time on it, because within a couple of hours they’re just like, “Oh, this is so dumb.” It works really well as far as a Ponzi scheme, but it’s temporary, and they know it’s temporary. I honestly think at this point the only reason Ethereum exists, the only reason that the 2.0 stuff exists, is that Vitalik and all the guys that ran this scheme, they don’t want to go to jail. It’s not like they have been given a get-out-of-free card. At a certain point, this Ponzi is going to blow up.
The best thing that you can do, if you’ve already got your money out of a Ponzi, does your best to make it die very slowly, ’cause if a Ponzi scheme dies over 10 years, nobody gets in trouble. There’s not enough outrage, there’s not enough proof that it was a fraud and a scam. I think that’s really all that’s going on. This thing is dying, but if you have your money, it’s a good insurance policy to go ahead and throw a little bit more at, trying to make it die more slowly to keep your butt out of jail.
Peter McCormack: Okay. What about Maker Dao? That is getting so much coverage now. Whenever I criticise Ethereum, the first thing will happen is someone’s going to jump in and say, “Yeah, but look at Maker Dao, look at their success, there’s two million Eth locked up,” or whatever it is. I listened to the Laura Shin interview with, I think his name is Rune, I can’t remember his name, but the Maker Dao guy, and every concern I had, she had similar ones and asked questions, and he gave quite solid answers. Have you looked into Maker Dao?
JW Weatherman: I looked into it a little bit, but it’s another one of those things where it’s like, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it because it’s just not all that interesting. But let me walk you through the thought process that I think you should have when you’re looking at any new technology.
The first thing that you got to ask yourself is what problem is this solving. Before you know anything about … the wrench is made out of this kind of steel, and it’s three and a half foot long, and it’s got a curve on the end of it or whatever … you got to know that the job here is we want to turn this nut. This nut is roughly this big, and we just want to turn the thing. Until you have your head roughly around the problem, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to understand the solution.
So what is the problem that Maker Dao is trying to solve? From what I can tell, it’s trying to solve the problem of stable prices. You have something like Bitcoin, it’s going to be very volatile because people are learning about how it works, they’re getting excited, maybe they’re getting overexcited, they’re bidding up the price quite a bit, then they’re getting disillusioned because it didn’t happen fast enough, or they’re getting confused because people like the Ethereum guys are convincing them that it doesn’t have smart contracts, and they’re pretending that they do, whatever. So it’s going to be very volatile as people learn about how useful it is.
If you could solve that problem, it would obviously make for a better currency. I think that it’s very obvious that any new technology is going to be volatile, and any new asset that’s being adopted as money is going to be volatile. I think it’s insane to think that you could solve that problem before it’s fully adopted because that’s what prices are. They’re a representation of much confidence people have in new technology. Normally that’s shares in a startup, and those are very volatile too, by the way, until you get to the point where you have a ton of customers and you’ve dominated the marketplace.
I think the idea that something that’s competing to be money, like Bitcoin, should in some way, or could conceivably be, stable when the world’s understanding of its utility is completely unstable, is nonsense. But that problem is a legitimate problem, so how could we create a digital currency that’s stable? The first thing you have to do is realise that stable is relative, so when we say stable, we’re probably mean tied to something like the US dollar, because the US dollar varies quite a bit. You see that if you’re working in British pounds or Canadian dollars, you’re going to see the exchange rate fluctuates. Nothing in the universe is really stable, but at least maybe we can create a digital token that’s tied to a dollar, that has the same value as a dollar.
The obvious solution to that is just to have dollars in a bank account and have somebody issue digital tokens, and have them credibly promise that if you present the digital token, they’ll give you the dollars. We have that all over the place, you know, Gemini Dollars and all kinds of stuff. In 2018 there was a lot of very credible stablecoins that came to compete with Tether, which surprisingly has been pretty credible for something that I can’t believe hasn’t been tempting enough for the founders just to run off with the money. It appears that they haven’t run off with the money.
So, we do have examples of this problem being solved, and even solved in ways that are very credible. If I have a hundred dollars in a US bank account, I think that that’s probably no more secure, maybe even arguably less secure than if I have a hundred dollars’ worth of Gemini tokens. Because I can move those tokens around, you can’t seize them. You could blacklist them if you knew who they were, and there are some other things there, but arguably it’s better than just having it in the bank account, so we’ve got some very credible ways that this problem is being solved.
Now, let’s look at what Maker Dao has proposed. Well, their idea is that we’re going to create stability through these really complicated systems. One of the things that you’ll notice about things like cryptography or security, or even legitimate software companies, if you’re ever an angel investor, you should probably walk out of the room in the first five minutes if you can’t understand the problem, and roughly the solution.
You don’t need to be able to write the code, but if you don’t understand that Airbnb is going to resell people’s home office space as hotel space, and they’re going to do that even though it’s illegal because they think that they’re going to be able to copy Uber and just do it rapidly and make it popular before they get shut down … you should understand that within five minutes of any sort of software startup.
That applies to stuff like these Ethereum, Maker Daos and things like that as well. If you can’t understand the problem and roughly the solution in about five minutes, it’s probably a lot of BS. What these guys have done is they’ve made complications upon complications, but after spending a little bit of time with it … their solution is roughly, “We’re going to take a bunch of Ethereum, we’re going to put it in a basket, maybe we’ll grab in some other crapcoins, some other fraudcoins, so it looks like we’re diversified, but initially it’s just going to be Ethereum.”
Well, there’s no way that if the price of Ethereum goes to zero, for example, that you’re going to be able to get your US dollars’ worth out of it. Right?
Peter McCormack: Right.
JW Weatherman: So, it’s not a good idea. But it’s not a bad idea for confusing people and making it seem like a smart contracting platform that has been proven so insecure you can’t write even basic smart contracts. Like I was saying before, I’d be worried, and I don’t know if anybody’s even comfortable doing this yet, creating a multi-sig wallet on Ethereum. That Maker Dao thing is some of the most complicated stuff I’ve ever seen as far as logic and what they’re pretending that they’re going to do with this stuff, and they’re going to write that in Ethereum? We can’t even do a lottery on Ethereum yet, that seems too risky, but we’re going to do this crazy thing?
The Dao project, by comparison, was far more credible. We’re just going to take in a bunch of money, and then if you have some of this Dao token or Ethereum, or however they had that worked out, you’d be able to vote on it, and we’re going to issue money out like a virtual VC firm. Very simple. You understand the problem, you understand the solution right off the bat. Of course, they couldn’t actually do it because it was all security theatre, and the guys that were actually trying to build something cool didn’t realise that, but in this case, I think the complication tells you that the guys that are making Maker Dao, they’re in on it. They know that they need to create something that is inconceivably difficult to understand because it’s vapourware.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Couple more things have come to mind. We seem to have a huge blockchain industry. We have blockchain companies, blockchain consultants, everywhere I look there are blockchain experts, but what are the kinds of things that a blockchain should be useful … every competent technical person I’ve spoken to, they’ve said, “You know, a blockchain isn’t great for many things.” Like when I spoke to Peter Todd, his famous saying is like, “A blockchain is a chain of blocks.” What do you make of all this kind of blockchain industry?
JW Weatherman: Yeah, I think Peter Todd’s take on that’s interesting. He’ll say that Git is a blockchain because it’s a chain of digital signatures that include the last chunk of data, so that you have this chain of all of … he makes a valid point, you could call that a blockchain, but I think the problem with taking that approach is it just causes more confusion. By that definition, we’ve had blockchains far before Bitcoin. I would prefer to say a blockchain is something that uses proof-of-work in order to secure a set of transactions.
It’s conceivable that there are more applications than just money that could be solved by that, but probably they would have to be built on top of money or use money, and the reason for that is that in order to secure those transactions, in order to ensure that they’re in the proper order, you’re destroying a lot of useful resources. You’re using a lot of computing power, and you’re destroying a lot of electricity. That’s the security model here. And you have to do enough of that to where it’s not worth it for the attacker to destroy that much real stuff in order to overwrite those transactions, so the value of those transactions have to pretty significant, and it’s obvious that global money fits that bill.
We could probably take 10% of global energy resources and destroy it every day in order to create secure and sound money, and it would be the best thing that ever happened for the environment, and it would be a no-brainer as far as humans flourishing goes because money is really that valuable. But if you’re going to take that same sort of model, and you’re going to apply it to something that could be centralised, you’ve absolutely lost your mind. For example, if Bitcoin didn’t exist, and somebody said, “Hey, we’re going to do this proof-of-work thing to secure deeds to homes. We are going to destroy an incredible amount of electricity to prove that Bob gave his house to Tom.”
That would be insane, and it would be insane because you don’t really want to spend that much money solving that problem. At the end of the day, you’re going to go to a government office, and they’re going to send out the guys with the guns, and they’re going to kick off either Bob or Tom. So you’re already, at least in the world that we’re in right now, trusting a centralised third party to enforce the law, and they’re more than happy to say, “Look, we’re going to keep track of whether this belongs to Bob or Tom or not,” and that’s so much cheaper.
I mean, amazingly enough, we’ve come up with a way to make the government look cost-effective and efficient, and that is trying to take something like blockchain technology and apply it to real estate. There are possibly other applications, but they probably need to be leveraging Bitcoin. Like Peter Todd’s thing, OpenTimestamps, is that what it is?
Peter McCormack: Yeah.
JW Weatherman: It leverages all the works being done to secure money in order to say, “Hey, by the way, throw a hash of this thing in the blockchain as evidence that this set of things happened.” That’s really cool and interesting, and could be worthwhile. The other possibility is that there are things that I wouldn’t call blockchains, I would call something like a database.
A year ago I would’ve said look, there’s two things. There are databases, and then there are blockchains, and if you want to spend an incredible amount of money to secure some transactions becoming global money maybe you can look at blockchain, the blockchain, which is Bitcoin, as a solution. Otherwise, you just want a database, and maybe you want digital signatures, maybe you want encryption, maybe you want to chain those digital signatures together, but all of that stuff is not new.
We’ve had what Peter Todd would say is a blockchain and a database for like 30 years. You interviewed Diffie, he was working on this stuff a really long time ago. There’s nothing really new there, but there are some things now that are in-between. You have Liquid, and Liquid is a sidechain of Bitcoin, and it’s basically custodial. It’s basically 10 or 15 companies saying, “Yep, we agree that this is the order of the transactions,” so it’s much more in my mind like a database than it is like Bitcoin. It’s not using proof-of-work to secure these transactions at incredible cost, but it also allows you to move in and out of Bitcoin.
So we are getting some interesting sort of grey areas between the database and something like Bitcoin, but all the other blockchain stuff is absolute garbage. It’s just taking advantage of a buzzword and doing what Silicon Valley does best, confusing a lot of investors and taking a lot of their money.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. Okay, and then the other thing I wanted to bring up was this umbrella term of Web3 that now seems to be used to kind of group a whole bunch of ideas around decentralised applications, blockchain technologies, and their relation to cryptocurrencies. The reason I’m starting to struggle with it is that, back in … whatever, 10 years ago, when I worked in digital marketing, and whenever Web2 happened, it didn’t feel like somebody sat there and defined what Web2 was.
It kind of just felt like this phase in time where things started to change. We had more interactive websites, people were building things with Ajax, you had kind of fluid web pages, we had social media that came to come into play. It wasn’t like this defined architecture, like re-architecture of the web, it was just this set of new set of more interactive technologies that happened, and if anything, it felt like Web2 was almost like a … it was almost like people looked back on it and said, “This is where the internet kind of migrated from Web1 to Web2.”
Yeah, with Web3, it seems to be there are people now out there defining exactly what Web3 will be. “It’s going to this stack, it’s going to be these technologies, and this is how it’s going to work.” I’m kind of thinking, well, really? Is that really it, or are there going to be technologies that will be adopted, some that won’t be, probably not an entirely new decentralised stack with DAPS at the front of it? I’m just starting to think that’s potential, almost itself, I don’t want to say another scam, but it’s kind of like, it’s a little bit arrogant to start defining what Web3 is, ’cause who really knows?
JW Weatherman: No, I think you’re spot on, man. I think you’ve had enough experience in the industry to where you can see that that’s incongruous, there’s an incongruity there. Yeah, with Web 2.0, or with the cloud, what you probably remember is that things were getting faster. You were just seeing different services. You saw stuff like Dropbox show up, and it was just like, “Wow, this is cool. I have an incredible amount of storage. I can put it in Dropbox. I can buy a cheaper laptop now because I can keep all my stuff in Dropbox,” right.
So you were seeing actual technologies that were coming out, actual better experiences, and then the marketing guys doing their jobs, as they should, run around and they tried to figure out ways to pitch it. They tried to figure out ways to say, “Well, we don’t want to just say we’re leasing out hardware in a data centre. That sounds really, really boring. That’s the way IBM would have sold it.”
So the Microsoft guys were like, “Well, why don’t we call it the cloud,” or “why don’t we call it web 2.0,” or whatever, and that is completely legitimate. That’s creating a narrative and a story around experience, and reality of evolving technology, that is actually there. I appreciate marketing people when they do that because it helps people understand the value that people like me bring, and that I just can’t communicate it. That sort of wizardry is very, very good, but you’re absolutely right, what’s happening with Web 3.0, or decentralised apps or whatever, is it’s backwards.
None of those exists. There are no decentralised apps. CryptoKitties doesn’t really exist anymore, which should make Andreessen Horowitz completely horrified if it wasn’t for the fact that that’s typical. They almost always invest in stuff that’s that stupid or worse. None of these things exists, but the narrative is there. I think that what’s happening is … I mean, in a lot of ways you could say that the difference between a scam and real marketing is that the marketing is selling what’s actually on the truck, or what’s legitimately coming on the truck in the next six months, and a scam is selling people, particularly investors …
If you were running around right now, and you were trying to raise money for a startup that was going to do tomato farming on Mars, I would say, “What, that’s a scam.” That is so far outside the realm of your current technical capabilities, and when you present it to investors like you’re going to be able to do that next month, you’re deceiving them, and then you’re taking their money. That perfectly fits the bill for all this Web 3.0 stuff.
That said, what they’re doing is, they’re looking at technology that real people are working on. People like Nick Szabo and Adam Back have been working on stuff like this for 20, 30 years, and we are getting closer to being able to do that. Elon Musk may eventually end up on Mars, but if you’re running around selling farming on Mars today, you’re a scammer, and that’s what those guys are doing.
We don’t, right now … We’re getting really, really close with Liquid. Simplicity and Liquid are really, really exciting. I think it’s going to be possible to build all of the stuff that is actually not stupid that people have been excited about building on smart contracting platforms, I think that’s going to be able to happen on Liquid and Simplicity as soon as it’s ready. And it might be ready in the next few years, they’re making really, really good progress on that, but it’s not going to happen on Ethereum because there’s just no real technology there.
It’s probably not going to happen on any other proof-of-work chain other than Bitcoin, because all those other proof-of-work chains maybe have to be vaporware, but certainly are vaporware. I can’t tell you that it’s not possible somebody will come up with something that uses proof-of-work that’s better than Bitcoin, I think that’s a possibility, but I can tell you right now, nobody has credibly come anywhere close, and everybody that’s said that they’re doing it is just flat out lying.
Peter McCormack: Wow, so we’ve done 52 minutes, we haven’t talked about Minero or Grin, and I know you want to talk about those as well, and I’ve still got stuff to ask you about Bitcoin. I mean, do you want to quickly talk about Minero, ’cause I know you have a particular issue with that. That was always the one I was like, even though I felt the gravity of Bitcoin, I was like, well, I still like Minero. I still have some, by the way, which I’ve been umming and ahing about keeping, because I was like, well, Bitcoin doesn’t have on-chain privacy, Minero does, so there is a use case there for people who want private transactions. But you have a different view, right?
JW Weatherman: I like Minero … I like to talk about Minero, specifically because I think it’s just, for one, it’s probably the last one to root out of the hearts of otherwise honest and hard-working people that are in this space, but it also is a perfect microcosm of the lifecycle in the strategy of these scamcoins. What happened is, guys like Greg Maxwell came up with the idea of confidential transactions, guys like Adam Back, and it wasn’t ready yet. It was too big, it was going to blow the blockchain too much, it was going to make transactions too large, and so they said, “Okay, we still have some work to do.”
Then they worked on it, and then they came up with bulletproofs not that long ago, and they’re continuing to make progress on it. In fact, they’ve already implemented it in Liquid, even though they’re just now getting to the point where they’re thinking, “Well, maybe we should start talking about implementing it on Bitcoin.” But during that period of time, where honest, hard-working, smart, and capable people were working on this problem, you had the entrance of good old FluffyPony. And what he did is, he showed up and he said, “Yep, it won’t work for money, but it will work for a scam.”
And so he pulled confidential transactions and wrapped them with ring transactions, and he created this scamcoin, and the reason that it’s a scamcoin is that it has absolutely no chance of competing with Bitcoin. Now, one of the ways you can know that is you can just ask it. “Is this thing better than Bitcoin, does it have a reasonable chance of ever becoming Bitcoin or better than Bitcoin”, and he’ll flat out say no.
But then he’ll follow that up with, “It doesn’t have to be. Money can be many, many different things. We can have money for private transactions, we can have money for public transactions, maybe we’ll have different money for the golf course, and different money for the girl scouts.” He creates this whole nonsense narrative that … Actually, Andreas Antonopoulos has been pretty good at supporting and creating as well … that money doesn’t need to be a single thing.
That’s an economic fallacy that any economist will tell you, “No, you just redefined the term money.” Money is something that we use as a medium of exchange, and a store value, and a unit of account, and a unit of account means that we can actually do profit calculation. I can actually know if I started out the year with 300 chickens, and I ended up with a hundred goats, am I richer or poorer. Well, how do I do that? How do I calculate that I’m a richer or a poorer man now?
Well, I need a third asset. I don’t need five other assets, that’s not going to solve my problem. I need a third asset so that I can measure the value of the chickens in that asset, and then also measure the value of the cows in that asset. In order to for that to be a reliable measuring stick, I pretty much need everybody that I’m trading within my geographic region to be using that same thing. That is what we call money.
They’ve done a really, really good job of taking advantage of the confusion that people have around what money is and pretending that there can be multiple monies in the long run. That is an essential ingredient to any of these scamcoins, which is why in the Bitcoin course that I’m putting up on 10hoursofBitcoin.com, it spends a lot of time helping you understand what money is and the history of money, because if you know that money has to be one thing, most of these scamcoins immediately become uninteresting. Because you know that they can’t beat Bitcoin.
None of these guys really want to say they’re better than Bitcoin or they can compete with Bitcoin to be money. Even Ethereum will say, “Well, we’re not trying to be money, we’re trying to be a worlds computer.” It’s the quick switch of the hand, misdirection sort of thing that has to happen. I don’t think any of these things matter anymore. I spent the last year fighting against them because I felt like people were on fire, and they were throwing their life savings into things that were just blatantly deceptions, and I felt like I really had to do my best on Twitter and elsewhere to tell people, “Hey, this is why this is not legitimate.”
At this point, it’s sort of the burned-over district. All that stuff is done, those series of attacks are over, the Ponzi schemes are dead. If you somehow have any money left in these things, I would recommend that you get out. It’s not likely that you’re going to see another pump in them, in my view. But more importantly, I just don’t have to care about them anymore, because they’re probably at the level of normal levels of scamminess, and I don’t think that they’re any longer delaying the adoption of a sound money.
The reason that I get really passionate about this stuff is that if humanity had a secure money, if we had a sound money or a secure money, a money that’s hard for governments to steal and extort from us, a money that allows us to trade with each other, we would all be far more productive. And if we’re all far more productive, we’re going to have a lot fewer things that are painful. We will be able to solve a lot of problems, death and disease will become less, just like it was a lot more a hundred years ago. If we can have a secure money, it will be a lot less in 50 years. But now, all those things are over. They’re not viably slowing the adoption of a sound money, so they’re just another scam.
I’m not super passionate about trying to shut down every Wall Street fraud and every guy that’s selling electronic emitters to get rid of pests. That’s not really my thing. But when it came to trying to defend the adoption of a secure money, I was passionate about it. Now, I think they’re just, they’re done, but they’re interesting to point to as examples of attacks on Bitcoin, but any one of them is not really relevant.
Peter McCormack: All right, let’s get on to Bitcoin and education. Actually, I did a couple of podcasts over Christmas and New Year’s. One was with Meltem, and I think the other one was with … possibly with, I think it was with Marty Bent, and I was kind of reflecting on the previous year and looking to the future, and I said one of my New Year’s resolutions is that we need more education in crypto. Obviously, I’m aware of your course, that’s why we’re talking.
Yeah, it’s taken me nearly, I think nearly two years, to get to the point where I’m really starting to … I say starting to understand Bitcoin, there’s still a long way to go, but I’m starting to understand why it’s so different from everything else, why it’s worth investing my time and energy in it, and why it’s worth getting away from all these other altcoins and tokens, but it’s taken me two years.
You’re always going to have new people coming into the space, and they’re going to come in, and they’re going to see a variety of coins and tokens. It’s very difficult to understand the difference between why one is more important than the other, yet you’re kind of having a go at this by producing your course. Give me a background to the course, why you’re doing it, and what the structure of the course is, and who it’s for.
JW Weatherman: Yeah, absolutely. About a year ago, when I got into Bitcoin and created the Threat Model, I started engaging with people on Twitter. At first, I thought, “I’ll just have the conversation on Twitter. I’ll just explain to people that money has to be one thing, I’ll explain that proof-of-work is incredibly wasteful, and it’s probably not likely it will make sense to do it for anything other than money. I’ll dispel the blockchain myth. I’ll go through all these things on Twitter.”
The thing that I ran into is that it’s, you’re right, it’s just too hard. It’s too complicated to bring somebody totally up to speed in a few tweets and a little bit of text exchange, especially if they have no background in economics and no background in technology. I mean, you guys are walking into one of the most scam-ridden opportunities to invest in technology, maybe that the world has ever seen, and you don’t have a background in technology or economics, and we’re trying to create money here. This is going to be tough.
So I realised that Twitter wasn’t the way to go, and I ended up creating a course that was an online course, but it was like eight hours in person, so there would be a series of lectures, and then a bunch of Q&A time in between. That worked really, really well. We put about 50 people through it, we raised like 15,000 dollars to throw at Mathbot. Saifedean Ammous and Eric Lombrozo came in for some Q&As, it was a really good time.
Everybody that took the course walked out like a totally reformed scamcoiner. It wasn’t just Bitcoin maxim-less people walking in, in fact, we had a number of people that were libertarian podcasters or something like that, but they weren’t really even into Bitcoin yet. All of the 50 people walked out after one full day, basically, saying, “Okay, I get it. I understand what money is, I understand the problems that Bitcoin’s trying to solve, and it’s now very obvious that these other things are BS.”
But the problem with Bitcoin, in particular, is that it’s so extreme, it’s feast or famine, so it didn’t really make sense to continue to do the course and bring in two or three people a week after things cooled down. Especially because if there is another ball run that’s anything like the last one, being able to grab two or three people and put them through an all-day course is just not going to make sense, so the new incarnation of the course is basically a hundred percent free. I was charging for this stuff, but it doesn’t make sense to do that.
There’s not going to be the same one-on-one Q&A, it’s not going to be quite as intimate, but hopefully it will be good enough to get people from zero to at least understanding the mission and the importance, and some of the major design decisions behind Bitcoin so that they don’t get ripped off.
You can go to 10hoursofBitcoin.com right now, and you can see, basically, what it is. The idea is, it’s not reasonable to take somebody in an hour and get them up to speed on Bitcoin. There’s too much. It’s also not reasonable to ask somebody to invest a hundred hours. If you’re just a regular guy, and you’re thinking about buying some Bitcoin, you’re not going to invest a hundred hours upfront. If I ask that of you, you’re probably going to end up investing in Ethereum or Ripple or something else.
So the idea is, if somebody’s willing to invest 10 hours, which is a considerable amount of time, right, people don’t have a ton of free time, but between podcasts and YouTube videos and a little bit of reading, if you’ll invest 10 hours, I’m confident that this course will take you from zero to being inoculated to at least 98% of the frauds and scams that are out there.
Peter McCormack: Wow, okay. That’s pretty bold. I mean, I just skimmed through it, and there’s some pretty heavy stuff in there for new people coming into Bitcoin and crypto. If you were going to sell it to somebody, though, in terms of Bitcoin, what are the keys things that people need to understand and learn about Bitcoin which makes it so different from everything else?
JW Weatherman: Well, I think a lot of it really is economics. The mission of Bitcoin is to create a better money, and most people, even most people in Bitcoin, don’t really know what it means when I say a unitive account. Roger Ver is a classic example of somebody that took advantage of this fact that people had heard “unitive account”, “store of value” and “medium of exchange”. They didn’t really know what that’s like saying it has a beak, it has feathers, and it flies, to describe a duck. We’re not talking about three different animals, we’re talking about three different attributes that help us understand what money is, and how it works and, why it’s useful to humanity.
You really have to have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on with money, at a very basic level, so the course basically starts out by saying, okay, let’s imagine a world of barter, let’s move on to understanding why money would be helpful. Money is a technology, it’s a tool. So what kind of problems … first, let’s understand the problem, right, it’s a nut, it needs to be turned.
hen we’ll move on to the wrench, then we’ll move on to money. We’ll talk about what money is, why it solves problems for these two cavemen, and then we’ll slowly build up to say, all right, what’s the history of money. Well, we ended up using golds quite a bit for these reasons that had these strengths, but then it had these weaknesses, and so we introduced silver, and that introduced a whole set of other problems.
Eventually, we end up with central banking, and that results in fiat money, which results in all of these problems. I think if you have that history if you understand … and that doesn’t take that long. I can’t do it right now, but I can do it in about an hour and a half, which I do on 10hoursofBitcoin.com. If you go through that process, you end up saying, “Okay, well, I understand the reasons that we needed to invent Bitcoin. I have no idea why we would need to invent Ethereum. This just doesn’t make sense at all. Oh, wait a minute. Ripple is a coin, but what about proof-of-work? What about preventing the double spend problem?” No answer, just crickets.
So it is possible, but it takes more than a few tweets on Twitter. It’s definitely going to take a good 10-hour investment, and I would say there’s a lot of people that have been around crypto-Twitter, that have been around Bitcoin for a while, that they still have little holes here and there that I think that this site will fill in really nicely.
Peter McCormack: All right, man. Pretty intense stuff to get through. I’m definitely going to run through the course, I think it’s really important I do, and I’m going to try and get through it before the show’s out because when I do my intro and outro, I want to have been through it myself.
I think the onboarding stuff is great, and I think it’s really valuable. I do think, though, people are still going to dip their hand in the cookie jar. I think, even listening to that, I think it takes people a bit longer, but I commend you for doing it, man. I totally commend you.
Okay, so listen, tell people how they can find the course, where they can find it, where they can find you, how to follow you.
JW Weatherman: Yeah, just go out to 10hoursofBitcoin.com, and just start going through the course. It’s all laid out, it’s really nice, user-friendly, mobile friendly. It’s a combination of podcasts and YouTube videos. We’ve got a couple of essays by Nick Szabo up there, but we also have the podcast version of them that are read. The Bitcoin Threat Model is up there, the Human Threat Model. You’ll see really quickly, just go out there, hit the first listen button, and you’ll see pretty quickly that you’re sucked in and that this is very curated and high-value, high-quality contents, and I think you’ll get a lot of value out of it.
Peter McCormack: Wicked, man. Well, listen, look, it’s been great to get you on. We’ve rattled through that, that’s quite incredible. There’s probably a lot more we could discuss. There’s going to be some reactions, no doubt, but I look forward to seeing what people say.
JW Weatherman: Yeah. Yeah, really fun time, I appreciate you having me on.
Peter McCormack: All right, man. Take care.