John McAfee Talks Crypto and Provides A Bit of Colour in Crypto Land

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I’m going to generalise on the word “crypto” in this article. For many this implies “cryptocurrency” but for me it is just short for cryptography, and which includes things like cryptocurrencies, smart contracts and distributed ledgers.

Introduction

I give talks about cryptocurrencies, and I normally always include John McAfee in there somewhere. He is not a predictable person in any measure of human attributes, but he is part of the debate on how blockchain might change our worlds, and he adds a good deal of colour to our sometimes black and white crypto world. We thus need to enable debate in whatever way possible, and allow for every viewpoint to be properly discussed. John pushes us to think in different ways, and tells us to shake out of our single focus of creating the most amazing tech ever, and get it actually working for our world.

Adding colour to crypto

In an industry which struggles to find people who can engage with the public, John McAfee stands out as someone who just goes ahead and says what he things. From his host security roots for the company he created, John is now a mission to show the world that there is a cryptocurrency future. While others, such as Vitalik Buterin, take a more academic route and ground their viewpoints within the technology and cryptography, John comes out with a truly evangelist style. In the cold world of cybersecurity, both approaches a bit of colour to the area. But, overall, no technological advancement in our history has advanced so fast and at such a scale to disrupt virtually everything that we have done in the past.

A man with a mission

I’ve always listened to John McAfee, and you might not believe in everything that he does, or in his motivations, but he is a significant character in our industry. On his Twitter page, he is shown as a true evangelist and a person with a cause:

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John has now given an interview entitled “The Blockchain is Intended to Change Our Lives” [here], and the stand-out bit for me is:

“We are missing the boat by twisting the intent of many of these coins into a money-making thing…”

And I think he is completely correct there. Most people just see cryptocurrencies as a thing is linked to value. Bitcoin, for example, is a terrible example of Blockchain, as it has no smart contracts, and is slow and energy hungry. A 10 minute wait to determine if a transaction is accepted is not the kind of world that cryptocurrencies have the potential to create. The consumption of so much energy to create a single block is not something that Bitcoin should be proud of, and certainly not something that Satoshi would have wanted. But our first child of the crypto age is not even 10 years old yet (birth: 3 Jan 2009).

The big problem

He then picks off the great problem with Blockchain:

the blockchain is intended or should be intended, to change our lives, not to make one tiny aspects of our lives bigger — like we’re using cryptocurrencies only as investment.

Well said! But then he focuses in on the functional coins:

if you used it for what it was intended it would enhance all of our lives — but no, what are people doing? They are just hoarding it… or abandoning it because it went down [in price]

John has seen his products develop in the industry, and knows the basics about how to scale, so when asked about whether forks are a good ideas within cryptocurrencies such as with Bitcoin Cash, he cuts the argument off with “if you don’t like it don’t use it”, but gets to the heart of matter with the current problems of the usability of cryptocurrencies:

… I think you really do need to do something to bitcoin to make it more and more usable

On fiat currency, John doesn’t see the slow decline of our traditional currency, but that over the next five years we will see cryptocurrencies take over. The “we take bitcoins” signs on restaurant shows the start of something that could grow to rival our fiat currency.

And the future?

While most of the discussion in the interview is around 1st generation cryptocurrencies, John is probed on the move to decentralised alternatives, such as Etherum and EOS, but where the applications are not quite advancing as fast as would be expected. But he dismisses this argument, by saying that the world needs many alternatives, and these can be adopted as required. Not quite the technical argument that someone like Vitalik would give, but a perfectly valid one in an open and free market. It’s a VHS v Betamax argument. Betamax was the better video format, but VHS won because it had the products ready for the market and had the momentum in the market. Betamax, roughly, was backed by one company (Sony), and VHS was backed by many.

In our community, we just seem to be endless talking about forks and scaleability, but it is the market and our those communities outside cryptocurrencies, which will truly define those that will win.

Conclusions

We need people to spark debates, and some of those will take Vitalik’s approach, and he will appeal to those technically minded, whereas at the other end of the spectrum there are those who shot from the hip, and so there’s space for John, who with has track record in the industry, knows a bit about how to build something at scale.

John is as near to a superstar that we have in the industry. While others such as Vitalik are superstars to the technical community, we perhaps need more colour to the debate, as it is something that will disrupt, but few outside our community would really know what we are building.

As a community we not highlighting the basic flaws in our security infrastructure, but keep sustaining them by patching security around them:

  • Without a world where every transaction is properly signed for and can be trusted, we cannot build a new machine at scale.
  • Without proper anonymisation in transactions, we cannot truly preserve our rights to privacy.
  • Without the codifying of our contract, it will always be a world build on 19th Century methods where each word has to be analysed for its meaning and where we implement manual process, and sustain with a legal system that trusts a scribble over cryptography.
  • Without trusted auditing, we will still allow some to cover their tracks, and hide from their mistakes.
  • Without distribution, we will never really scale our Internet to become the machine it was intended to be, and for it to fail due to centralisation.

Long live this new machine we are creating! And let’s start debating this new world, and make it better than the previous one. Our debate should be mainly with other communities … health care, construction, law … and not without our technical communities.

Postscript

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Written by

Professor of Cryptography. Serial innovator. Believer in fairness, justice & freedom. EU Citizen. Auld Reekie native. Old World Breaker. New World Creator.

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