Brock Pierce: There Will Be More Disasters in Crypto, But The Future Looks Bright Anyway
During the recent Unchain Convention in Berlin, ForkLog spoke to Brock Pierce, the chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and co-founder of EOS Alliance, Block.one, Blockchain Capital, Mastercoin, and Tether. In the interview, he detailed his plans regarding the now defunct Mt. Gox exchange and shared the latest efforts within the EOS ecosystem.
ForkLog: Hello Brock, just a few weeks ago you joined the custodian board of eosDAC. Can you specify your role there?
Brock Pierce: I am a big believer in DAOs [Decentralized Autonomous Organizations], I believe in DAOism, where technology meets spirituality, and I believe in DACs [Decentralized Autonomous Corporations]. I am a big believer in the impact this type of structures can have on the world.
But while it mostly had been an idea, I believe that eosDAC has built the absolute best tools to implement and decorate DACs. I think they are the current leaders in that space and I am the big fan of the way their governance works with twelve custodians that are the standing governance structure. And since they are the first and the leading players in this area I think I will run for the election as the elections is every week, every Monday actually.
So now I am one of the twelve custodians. I personally don’t benefit from it, I don’t get any profit, I do these things because I want to learn. I am a big believer in where this is going, I think they are doing the best work, so I want to support them and to learn by getting my hands dirty, by doing the actual work.
ForkLog: EOS has been sitting on top of the Weiss Crypto Ratings for a while, but recently the agency downgraded the project citing the lack of decentralization. What do you have to say about this?
Brock Pierce: This was the main debate that everyone was talking about, whether EOS is decentralized or not. And the answer is: absolutely! The question is how decentralized? Clearly, in its Delegated Proof of Stake system with 21 active block producers I believe it is pretty decentralized. But that’s a debate and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
And that’s one of the trade-offs of this architecture: how you get the scalability, how you get speed and how you get low friction. This requires a different architecture, and we will see what Ethereum 2.0 and others that are now implementing these things. If they are doing a better job of creating something more decentralized… well, I am chain-agnostic, it’s indifferent to me which project wins as long as we, the people, are better off.
ForkLog: Speaking of DAOs, we all remember the infamous The DAO story which resulted in Ethereum’s hard fork and the appearance of Ethereum Classics. Do you think the community has learned the lessons and will not repeat the same mistakes?
Brock Pierce: It was a disaster, and the main lesson, more than anything, is not to rush. Consequences for making mistakes are substantial, and the mistake they made was that they rushed the market when they weren’t ready. You’ve got to do security audits, you’ve got to double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check everything, because the consequences for making a mistake are severe. You have to make sure that you dot your I’s and you cross your T’s, you wear your belt and suspenders. And that’s the thing that wasn’t clearly done there.
The impact was enormous. Out of that it created Ethereum Classic, which set the industry back. If Ethereum Classic wouldn’t have happened, Bitcoin Cash may never have happened, we might not have seen a bunch of other things. Arguably, we still have not seen all the pain and damage that came out of that event.
ForkLog: Sound like you don’t rule out more disasters to come.
Brock Pierce: Absolutely, there will be more disasters. We still have exchanges being regularly hacked, we still have people stealing money and running off. I think I can say with 100 percent certainty that we will have another disaster.
ForkLog: You are said to be one of the largest investors into Ethereum crowdsale. Are you still the stakeholder and what future do you see for this ecosystem?
Brock Pierce: I am a huge Ethereum supporter. I think that what is good for Ethereum is good for the overall ecosystem, and what is bad for Ethereum is bad for the overall ecosystem. Ethereum might not have the same impact as Bitcoin has, like when Bitcoin is down 50 percent it drags the rest down, but everybody should be reading for Ethereum.
ForkLog: Having made a bunch of investments into various companies and projects, what’s your approach to open source projects? What about more cypherpunk things, like CoinJoin, Lightning Network or other developments like that?
Brock Pierce: Open source development is the ideal outcome, but I also understand why people have all these hybrid models. Without economic incentive it is hard to motivate large groups of people. Open source has always been a superior model that benefits people the most, but for a long time open source it didn’t take off in a way it should, because the only time people can work on the true open source stuff is nights or weekends and if they are already very rich. You know, people need to eat, and without the economic incentive it is hard to get everyone to contribute to pure open source ideas. Anyway, I am a huge advocate of open source.
ForkLog: At what stage are your plans regarding Mt. Gox?
Brock Pierce: There’s still a tremendous amount of money held by the Mt. Gox bankruptcy trustee and I want to make sure that these funds end up in the hands of the victims. I also think we have the ability to write a better ending of this story. These are our industry brothers, and I would like to see the exchange relaunched and see the creditors have the economic benefit.
This is what happened when Bitfinex failed [in 2016] and everyone was better off. That was the proof that when an exchange continues to operate, the losers benefit. Is it too late? Has too much time passed? We don’t have the answers to all these questions, and there’s only way to find out. I hope this can be also successfully done to Mt. Gox and this is what my objective is.
ForkLog: So ultimately you believe this can be done?
Brock Pierce: I have a decent track of actually doing what I’m saying and I wouldn’t be doing that had I thought I wouldn’t be successful. The point it’s not about my own success, I want to be 100 percent sure that the money goes back to creditors.
ForkLog: You sound pretty altruistic.
Brock Pierce: A lot of I am doing is altruistic, but this is also because I’ve been so blessed. I’ve been so fortunate that I can’t be. I have more than I will ever need. I care more about our industry that I care about its reputation. I am also a story-teller, I love good stories, and I’d like to write the best possible end of that story.
ForkLog: What was the best story in Bitcoin space so far?
Brock Pierce: The biggest story is Satoshi, the most elusive group that created perhaps the most innovative that we have ever seen in technology, and they have done anonymously. That’s quite a story. Craig Wright has clearly made this story a much harder topic.
Then we also have the Silk Road story, which is clearly one of the main ones, and that story is certainly not over either.
ForkLog: What about Bitcoin Foundation? Is it still alive?
Brock Pierce: I am not sure Bitcoin Foundation is a big story, but this is a sad one. This was the first foundation set up to represent the needs of the ecosystem as a non-profit. It received a lot of donations and it had a meaningful endowment, but the early management was overspending, they assumed the donations would continue to flow in. However, the Foundation is still active, even if it is not doing much.
ForkLog: Are there any meetings being held to decide on certain issues? From what we know, today you are mostly focused on EOS.
Brock Pierce: This is true, today I am more into the EOS Foundation. I believe in decentralization and that is why I am doing this eosDAC thing. If we succeed in making the EOS Foundation fully decentralized, I will try to put this into the Bitcoin Foundation, where I am still the chairman.
ForkLog: If we go back to the stories, which of them were the most memorable for you personally? Can you name three of them?
Brock Pierce: Obviously, that was MasterCoin, which didn’t make me any money because I never sold the token. It was a very interesting one since this was the first ICO ever held. The ICO market itself was a pretty amazing innovation, and to be part of that and to see the impact it had across hundreds and hundreds of projects was very cool. This is the first one. It was a good opportunity to learn, which I am fully ok with.
Tether was clearly a very interesting one, it is now doing tens of trillions dollars in transactions and is the most traded token, in terms of volumes it is even bigger than Bitcoin today.
The third one… Probably, this would be Blockchain Capital, the first investment fund, the first STO held and pioneering the market about not about the utility token but about how we can tokenize everything else around us. It was a tiny $10 million experiment, but it was an awesome one.
The important thing is that I care about innovations, and as you can see from my answers that’s not the things that made me most of the money. But these were the most important projects since they made the biggest innovations: ICOs, putting the first real world asset on the blockchain, and STOs. These are the things that we will be looking back in 50 years and realize that how they have changed the world.
ForkLog: Do you think the future will be multi-chain?
Brock Pierce: I think we most likely to have a multi-chain future. Some architectures will be better or worse, depending on what you want to do, it’s all down to the use case. So based upon everything we see today, there are going to be different chains that serve different purposes.
Still, that doesn’t mean that in the future we might not end up with one chain that is totally flexible and can do all the things. I can see a world with a single chain, it’s a possibility, but still most likely will see a multi-chain future.
ForkLog: If there’s one chain, what’s the most likely candidate?
Brock Pierce: Bitcoin. This is the most likely that chain. But there’s a lot to happen for Bitcoin to do that. It has to able to scale, it has to do smart contracts, it has to do a lot of things that it doesn’t do today.
Now, with Lightning Network, we start to see transaction scaling, but we still can’t really see that development a lot. Today Bitcoin doesn’t work for most of other use cases, but that doesn’t mean that it will be always like that and that it won’t be able to do more than it currently. This is what Blockstream and other people, including Craig Wright, are exploring, how to expand Bitcoin’s use cases and functionality.
ForkLog: You have just mentioned Craig Wright. Taking into the account the money involved, do you believe Bitcoin needs a slower development approach in order to properly secure the chain, or maybe bigger blocks are the solution?
Brock Pierce: We have to see how bigger blocks work. I believe in experimenting. For me this is more like an A and B test. Clearly, the biggest and the most important chain, which is Bitcoin proper, is the one we should be the most careful with. If we make a mistake with Bitcoin proper the whole industry’s credibility will suffer. Therefore I’d rather see sister chains, sidechains going for more aggressive experimentation, while the most important things going slow and steady. Bitcoin and Ethereum have to be the slowest. If people doing experiments prove that it works we can always adopt it, but you don’t do experiments with the main chain.
ForkLog: So is the future bright for the crypto industry in general?
Brock Pierce: I always believe the future is bright, just sometimes it’s darker before the dawn. But the dawn is coming and the future is bright.
ForkLog: You often call yourself a digital nomad. How do you physically cope with so many activities and tasks?
Brock Pierce: I used to be a digital nomad indeed, but now I am a Puerto Rican. This is country I am now spending most of my time.
I used to sleep three or four hours a day on average, but I often go on two or three days without sleep, and then I normally catch up. These days I’m trying to sleep five of six hours a day and I’m always trying to dream. But normally I’m the night and morning person who wants to see the sunrise. Historically I’ve been always burning the candle at both ends, which is part of the reason why I get so much done.
When you sleep less than everyone else, you are always productive, all your missions and projects are moving forward, and you will be amazed how much you can accomplish. Just do the math: if you sleep four hours less a days than anyone else, every ten days that’s 40 hours, that’s an average work week. So, in one month you have three work weeks more than everyone else. This is like compounded interest, and effectively I have lived 10 or 20 years more than most people of my age. I might be 38, but I have a life experience of a 50 or 60 years old, and I still have the energy to get things done. I’ve been blessed with that energy.
Brock Pierce was interviewed by Andrew Asmakov
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