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Intro: You’re listening to the DYOR podcast where your host Tom Buonincontri helps simplify blockchain and cryptocurrency for investors and crypto enthusiasts. If you’re looking to learn about blockchain, bitcoin, and cryptocurrency without all the hype, your in the right place, all opinions expressed by Tom or his guests on this podcast are their own and do not reflect the opinions of any organization they are associated with. This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not investment, legal or tax advice. Remember to always do your own research. Now here’s your host, Tom Buonincontri
TB: Hey Guys, welcome to episode two of DYOR. I’m your host, Tom Buonincontri and in this episode we have the one and only Jamison Lopp, Chief Technology Officer of Casa come on and just kind of discuss some of the things that he’s been seeing around on the space and his viewpoints on the lightening network as well. If you don’t know Jamison, he is one of the largest figureheads in the cryptocurrency and bitcoin space, incredible technologist and just extremely brilliant guy. It was an awesome conversation. Just chatting with him, seeing what he thinks is going to play out over the next couple of years and also learning about his work at Casa as well. So make sure you stick around and listen to the whole thing, let’s get into it.
TB: All right guys. Today I have the honor of sitting down with Jameson Lopp the CTO at Casa Jamison. I cannot thank you enough for showing up for the show today.
Lopp: Happy to be here.
TB: It’s an honor. I know you’re one of the most respected guys in the bitcoin space, so your input is going to make a huge difference for the audience. I’m expecting my audience to be more on the beginner side of things. So if they don’t know too much about you, can you give a little bit of introduction about your background and how you fell down the bitcoin rabbit hole?
Lopp: Sure. I really started getting interested in Bitcoin around 2012. Of course this was not when I first heard about it as, as most of us do. We hear about it and dismiss it and uh, and then it just keeps coming back and coming back and then eventually we get hooked into it. But, uh, once I did start reading the white paper and reading forums and participating in some of the conversations, I realized that it was a very elegant computer science problem. And at the time I had been a software engineer for a five or six years and, uh, had been working on online marketing software that wasn’t really that interesting to me. It just, you know, had some, um, technical scaling challenges that kept me busy. And so once I started thinking about money, which most people don’t ever really think about other than your immediate needs, um, I realized that money is this abstract concept that really belongs to humanity at large.
Lopp: And so it, it made a lot of sense to me that money should be an open collaborative project rather than something that just gets decided upon and by a smaller group of people behind closed doors. So I was interested in it both from the technical aspect and more of a philosophical aspect at the time. This led me to create a fork of bitcoin core and try to apply some of my own software engineering and development skills too. This a primary bitcoin implementation to try to help some of the other engineers better understand what was actually going on inside of the bitcoin knows that they were running. I felt like that project was fairly successful. It got referenced by a number of Bitcoin core developers over the years to make arguments about various technical changes to the protocol. And um, yeah, I mean I was just a hobbyist doing a few side projects and you know, tweeting and talking to people on social media about Bitcoin for, uh, three or four years until it got to the point that 2015 a lot of venture is rolling in.
Lopp: And I decided that there was probably enough opportunity in the space for me to go full time and that’s when I became an infrastructure engineer at bit go. They’re a multisignature enterprise, uh, Wallet Platform. They, they basically power a lot of, uh, exchanges and payment processors and such. And, uh, you know, that led me to learn a lot more about the day to day operations of actually, you know, running web infrastructure that sits on top of blockchain platforms. Did that for about three years and then, uh, transitioned slightly to a, another multisig security provider called Casa. The main difference being that instead of focusing on helping enterprises secure, they’re a private keys, we’re more focused on helping individuals. And our primary focus at Casa is to help empower people to, to make self sovereignty a more feasible thing for the average person. And really to lower the technical bar that is required to achieve this promise of being your own bank. It’s always been possible to be your own bank in Bitcoin is just required a lot of technical expertise and a lot of dedication to doing really mundane it data practices. And so we want to, mmm. Build those best practices into the software to provide a better user experience so that the average person can get into this and actually benefit from, uh, the level of security that bitcoin promises.
TB: I think that’s super important because back in 2013, if the average Joe is China get into Bitcoin, I think it was a huge hassle for them if they didn’t have any type of technical background to set up your wallet and make sure that you’re securing your keys the right way and everything like that.
Lopp: Yeah, I mean we still have a long way to go. Um, I see three main things that bitcoin needs. If we really want to continue evolving, there’s the, the scalability side in order to actually be able to process enough data for more and more people to use the system. There’s the security side of the fact that people quite honestly don’t want to be their own bank. They don’t want to have to go through all of the hoops and think about all of the edge cases, uh, to protect their private key is to protect their money. And, uh, and then finally, you know, just a usability in general. Is that a, as you become a part of this system that it really has very few safety rails? Uh, we have unfortunately not done a good job of, of building safety rails into the software. And so it’s still very easy for users to shoot themselves in the foot. And, and basically you have financial catastrophes just due to the result of not being knowledgeable about something or just making a simple careless mistake.
TB: Yeah. I was actually having a conversation with someone yesterday and they said that they lost their private keys to about 40,000 stellar lumens and they’re trying to figure out how to recover that and everything. But it’s a huge importance for people that are trying to get into this space, private keys and securing them. Because if that’s gone, you can’t call like 1-800-SATOSHI and ask and that we’re funded your private keys for you.
Lopp: Yup. That’s the pros. And the cons is that you have a lot more freedom, but the result of more freedom as you have a lot more responsibility.
TB: Of course. So let’s break that down a little bit more. So you mentioned scalability, security and usability. Scalability, uh, obviously you believe more so in the lightning network more than you do for the bitcoin cash segue. Correct?
Lopp: Yes. So on chains scaling, um, it’s, that’s an interesting way to describe of what I would call vertical scaling. Um, in, in computer science when we’re talking about the technical scalability of a system, what we’re really saying is we want the system to be able to process more data, to process more events and do more things without increasing the costs of running the system faster than like the amount of things that is processing. So you start talking about things like linear scaling or quadratic scaling or what have you, basically saying, you know, as we put, uh, you know, this amount more data into the system or have it processed this amount more things, either the cost goes up at the same rate of the, the data and the events or the cost may go up even faster or the cost may go up slower. Uh, and the best type of scaling is where the cost of running the system, uh, it goes up a lot slower than the amount of things that it’s to process.
Lopp: And there are two very high level ways to scale any system. Uh, you can call it vertical scaling versus horizontal scaling or some people call it scaling up versus scaling out. And basically what that means is that you can either just by much faster hardware and have that hardware continue to do the same thing, but it’s able to do more of it because it’s faster. And of course this hardware’s going to be a lot more expensive or you can try to find ways to offload onto other hardware. Uh, one way to think of this as is the way that Google does it where basically they were the first ones to invent this idea of cloud computing where they just buy a ton of really cheap computers and use software to turn them into one large effective super computer that is a horizontal scaling or a scaling out where you’re spreading the data out across many different things and the cost of processing it does not go up nearly as quickly as it would if you were trying to buy one single super computer.
Lopp: What we’re trying to do in the bitcoin space is to offload as much of the data processing on onto other networks or specifically if we’re talking about lightening network, we’re trying to create layers of other networks on top of bitcoin where they are leveraging the security of the Bitcoin blockchain, but they are doing most of the data processing off of the actual chain and doing it in a more private way so that only the minimum number of participants even need to know about it in the first place. And the way that I’ve described this is, it’s actually very similar to the Internet itself and the way that the Internet was scaled where the Internet is actually a seven layer stack of technologies and the very lowest layer of the internet is called Ethernet. It’s a very dumb pipe network basically where you put data onto the wire and it goes out and gets propagated to everyone else, um, on your local network.
Lopp: And this is really the way that bitcoin works, where you put data onto the bitcoin network, it gets propagated out to all of the other nodes. They all have to process it, validate it and relay it. And of course this does not scale. Like if the Internet worked like that, then you and I would not be able to have this conversation right now because everyone else who was having a conversation on the Internet would also have to send their data through our computers and our computers would have to process it and relay in whatever. And there’s just not enough computational power to do that. So, you know, how do we make the Internet be able to do these things? Well, we build other layers on top of it, which include layers like TCP Ip, which route to the data through the minimum number of other participants on the network.
Lopp: And this creates a much more efficient way of sending data around because uh, we’re able to limit the hardware requirements of, of who needs to process it. And it’s the same thing with the lightening network where when we want to send a transaction on the lightening network, instead of broadcasting it to everyone on the lightning network, we actually use routing and pathfinding to find the minimum number of lightening nodes that are necessary to actually do the data passing between one another. And, and so I think it’s a fairly tried and true way of scaling a distributed, decentralized permissionless networks. But of course it has its own interesting new quirks that are, uh, providing plenty of unique challenges.
TB: Of course. I think there’s anything with the developing technology there. I think it’s interesting because from my understanding, the main argument is that at some point in time the block sizes are going to get full or it’s going to be, as you mentioned, driving up the price to actually make these transactions occur on chain. That’s kind of where the huge division happened between segwayed and lightening over. Is that correct?
Lopp: It’s actually a technology that was implemented on bitcoin and helped enable the lightning network. Um, it also helped enable a little bit of on chain increase of capacity, but only about double the amount, which is still pretty low. Going from maybe seven transactions per second to like 15. Of course there’s many variables that take place that can change that. And even talking about transaction throughput on these networks is a complicated thing because in bitcoin it’s not necessarily that one transaction is just one person to one other person. A single transaction could be from one entity to a thousand other entities. It just depends on, you know, what data you’re actually looking at. And of course when we’re talking about the scalability of off chain protocols like lightning than the privacy features that are a part of these protocols actually make it so difficult that you can’t even really know how many transactions are happening on those networks.
Lopp: You can only make some even refer educated guesses, but I would say that the primary contention between what some people call small blockers versus big blockers or on chains scaling proponents versus off chain scaling proponents is an argument between the cost and the people who are proponents of just putting more data on the blockchain. They tend to prioritize a low cost of transacting and and by that I mean a minor fee that is attached to a transaction. They want there to be a very good guarantee that if you put a transaction out onto the network with the minimum minor fee that it will get confirmed basically in the next block. Now, the trade off to this is that you end up creating nearly unlimited block space and somebody has to pay for that block space because somebody has to process all those transactions, validate them, store them, relay them, and ultimately it means that if you’re providing practically free block space, people are going to use it.
Lopp: It’s this is basically a common good that you can end up suffering from a tragedy of the Commons where people put really silly things like you know, entire movies on the blockchain or something like that. We’ve seen this happen on some of the other bitcoin forks where people are just putting a ton of data on there and the result is that it makes it impractical for the average enthusiasts to run a fully validating node on those networks. The storage requirements and bandwidth and computation requirements. We’ll just go through the roof. The flip side of this, like the people like myself who have spent many years running nose on these networks, we tend to prioritize having a low cost of validating the state of the entire network. Basically a lower cost of storing and validating and relaying all of that blockchain data. And this, this is kind of a more conservative position because the trade off is that we’re not entirely sure what the cost of transacting will be.
Lopp: We only know where we’re, we’re setting these limits of how much data can be processed by the network and the, the general assumption is that if too many people start putting a lot of data on there, it creates a market for the transaction fees and ultimately those fees will fluctuate. They, they may even go pretty crazy for periods of time. I think we’ve seen a short periods of time where fees are in the tens of dollars for a transaction and what that does is it economically incentivizes people to be more judicious about their use of block space. And ultimately, you know, the more valuable types of economic transactions will be the ones that get put on the blockchain. The response to this and the fact that it could potentially make it a uneconomic for people to send small amounts of value to each other is what led to the creation of lightening network and off chain protocols. Because then you can create a transaction on the blockchain to essentially anchor into it and then send basically as many transactions as quickly as your computer can process them for a negligible of fee on this other network because it’s not being processed by everyone on the network anymore. And what we’re seeing on lightening is that, you know, you’re able to make transactions more in the range of like one Satoshi fee as opposed to many thousands of Satoshi’s of fees, uh, for transacting on the blockchain.
TB: My understanding of it is kind of like a private channel. So if me and you wanted to transact, we would open up a channel, we would upload a certain amount of Bitcoin to the network or uploaded into the channel and then we can transact as many times as we want until one of us wants to settle out. And at that point the records would get reconciled and uploaded onto the blockchain, is that correct?
Lopp: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, you can think of the blockchain itself as being the record of truth. Uh, the, the sort of the judge, jury and executioner for what has actually happened. So you can engage in these other private transactions off the chain, but what you’re really doing is you’re just exchanging real valid bitcoin transactions privately between different parties, uh, the parties that are operating these channels. And at any given time you can just take one of, you can take like the most recent of those transactions and post it to the bitcoin network and, and settle out as you were saying, there is of course a lot more game theory involved to, to cover various edge cases and, and to improve the robustness of, of being able to, you know, get your money back and make sure that nobody is cheating you privately, but that, that is the long and short of it is that you’re exchanging perfectly valid bitcoin transactions. You’re just choosing to defer the posting of them to the entire network because you know that you’ll be able to transact a lot faster and save a lot of money on fees the longer you can defer settling onto the chain.
TB: Thanks for clarifying that for me. The one piece that I really don’t understand too much is I guess the aspect of watch towers. They’re supposed to be the players in this space or in the network that are essentially making sure that there’s no bad actors, correct?
Lopp: Yes and no. Um, they’re not the only ones doing that. There are a number of tradeoffs with lightning that, that have to be made in order to get this, you know, higher speeds and lower transactions and lightening from a pure like theoretical security model is less secure than, uh, transacting bitcoin purely on chain. Like you can never make a protocol that is more secure than the base protocol that it is reliant upon. Now, one of the tradeoffs is that when you’re operating these lightening wallets, you are required to be more vigilant because like I said, what you’re doing is you’re passing bitcoin transactions privately between different parties and therefore you’re creating the potential for situations where a channel counterparty may try to cheat you by posting an old version of a bitcoin transaction where they had more money on their side of the channel then, and they haven’t in the more recent version.
Lopp: And the way that you protect against this is that when your, you’re updating your channel state and you’re, you’re, you’re basically creating new private bitcoin transactions, you’re actually signing a variety of different transactions, some of which are, um, what are called, uh, I believe it’s like recovery transactions or clawback transactions where if your counterparty tries to cheat you by posting an old invalid transaction that would give them more money. Um, you can actually take all of the money away from them because they are required to have already signed a transaction that, that spins those outputs and sends them back to you. But of course in order to be able to take advantage of that, you have to be online and listening for them, you know, to potentially try to cheat you by posting that invalid transaction. And if you’re not online, then they could post that transaction.
Lopp: And if, and if enough time goes by, there are various time locks and evolved, but if enough time goes by, then you would not be able to claw that money back. And so what the watch towers are doing is that they can listen on your behalf. I would say, you know, preferably you should be online listening 24 seven you know, if you have your own computer that is running your lightening software, you can essentially be your own watch tower. But if for some reason you’re only using a mobile wallet and you’re not necessarily going to be online all the time, then you can actually delegate responsibility to an arbitrary number of third party watch towers. And you can incentivize them to do this by offering them fees, you know, to say, you know, if you save me from being defrauded, then I’ll pay you. You know, some small fee as a result of that. And so this is all just another way of trying to improve the robustness of the network against various adversaries and watch towers are still in the very early stages. Um, I think the first real like production ready code for it just got merged recently in, uh, it may, they may have gone out in the, the most recent, uh, l and d release past week, but it’s, it’s so early that it’s not even something that I’m, I’ve played around with yet.
TB: So what do you think the major hurdles are for the lightning network right now and how long do you think it’s going to be until it’s going to be user friendly?
Lopp: The Fun thing about, you know, asking for timelines on any of these, uh, types of, of networks is, it’s tricky because the work is so decentralized. Uh, you know, there are many different teams that are working on different aspects of the network. And so, you know, at Casa we have a team of engineers that are working on several lightening related products. But, you know, we are not lightening protocol engineers. We are reliant upon changes, uh, coming from the, the lightening labs folks because we are building software on top of their software and um, as a result, you know, I don’t know exactly what the timelines are going to be for, for all the things that they’re trying to work on. I, I’m only really, uh, concerned with what we are able to do right now. And then as more functionality comes from the lightning developers, you know, we will try to make that as user friendly as possible for the people that are on our products.
Lopp: So it’s, it’s one of those things where software is never done. There’s no magic threshold to be cross where, you know, suddenly we will be mainstream adoption ready. I think that, you know, we have made great strides even over the past year, but there will be plenty of challenges ahead, uh, not only on the usability side, but also on the understanding of how the liquidity on the, the lightening network even operates. That’s one of the bigger unknowns. And you know, we’re going to be playing around with a number of different ways to try to onboard users onto the lightning network and then offer them, you know, a variety of different security models and, uh, kind of have to play it by ear, you know, see, see what things actually get people engaged. Because if you can’t provide, you know, some real value for people to, to spend some time, uh, to learn how this system works and actually use it, then it’s going to be pretty much relegated to the, you know, Techie enthusiasts types who are interested in it more for like ideological reasons. So I, I think that it’s not just about the software, it’s also about, you know, what are the different, uh, use cases that are going to come along. Uh, you know, things like, uh, uh, try Lawley for example, is a interesting, you know, cash back. But in Bitcoin type of, um, of user experience, you know, stuff like that where we can actually people to, to use these networks, that’s also going to be an important piece of, of getting them into the door.
TB: That’s interesting. So can you talk a little bit more about the liquidity issue that you were just mentioning?
Lopp: Yeah, so the way the, the, the lightening network works, you know, is that you are opening channels with different providers and these channels have certain amounts of value in them and you know, there will be a certain amount of value on one end of the channel and a certain amount on the other end. And when you’re quote unquote sending money, all you’re really doing is you’re updating the, this, the values on each end of the channel, you know, subtract x from one end and add x to the other end. Now this gets really complicated when you’re sending through routes that are many different hops. It creates, um, a more complicated routing problem of you, you know, having to find a path where there’s enough liquidity to be pushed all the way through that path to make that full payment. A one way that this is being addressed is through something called atomic multipath routing, which will actually be able to split up the payment across.
Lopp: I don’t even know if there’s a limit, but an arbitrary number of different paths so that you don’t necessarily need to have one single path with all the liquidity but can instead branch out through many. And then reconverge uh, from a variety of different, uh, kind of angles of attack with the net within the network, uh, to your final target. Uh, but then that’s kind of like the, um, mmm micro scale liquidity problems. Uh, I think there’s also going to be more macro level issues that need to be dealt with. Interestingly enough, I spoke or I wrote about these in a coindesk article over three years ago, maybe even maybe even four years ago now where I talked about the liquidity challenges that I felt were going to be needed to address. And, um, I’m sure there will be different types of, of liquidity attacks that could happen where, you know, you try to push too much value from like one portion of the network to another portion of the network.
Lopp: Because if the channels get too imbalanced, you know, if all of the value gets pushed from one side of the channel to another side of the channel than it effectively becomes unusable in one direction. So then if you want that channel to be usable for sending value in both directions, you need to figure out, you know, how can I rebalance the liquidity inside of this channel. There has been some work done on this already. There are, there’s at least one piece of open software that I’m aware of that is actively uh, doing channel rebalance logic. I’m aware of have one other team that is working on that because they presented at scaling Bitcoin, um, in Tokyo. And then there are other functionalities that are being released. Something called loop out was released by lightning labs recently, which is a way to allow you to rebalance channels, I guess with on chain transactions.
Lopp: And then I also expect that this issue is going to get more interesting when we start seeing both a dual funding channels become a thing, which they, those as far as I’m aware still are theoretical and uh, none of the software supports them yet. And also there are folks, I think it’s a block stream with their l two software is working on multiparty channel management, which basically means, uh, you know, the ability to have tens if not hundreds of people or entities that share a single channel. So I mean this is all going to get very complicated, but these protocols and I mean networking protocols in general are complicated. And so, you know, if the average person is having to worry about all of this, then we will have failed. But I don’t think that’s the way that it’s going to go. Almost nobody has podcasts these days where they talk about the intricacies of http two which was finalized I think just in the past year. All of these various networking technologies, they just work under the hood and they get abstracted away by many layers of software. To the point that all in end user is doing is pointing and clicking and you’re following instructions on their screen. So wild people like myself are very worried about all of the intricacies of this because we’re basically building the infrastructure for what we hope to eventually become a main stream usable system. It’s not something that the end user is going to have to worry about
TB: And thankfully we have very intelligent people like you to build the infrastructure for people like myself that aren’t all that technical. I think working on that, it’s going to be huge to make it easier for people like myself. But I think that’s a good segue into the second issue that you mentioned before. It was security and that’s your main focus over our Casa right now, correct.
Lopp: Yeah, it’s, it’s fairly evenly balanced between our different products. I mean we have two main products. The first one, the original one that we were working on when I joined is a multisignature he management product, which is trying to get people to basically have better than bank level security and robustness on there private keys in a very user friendly like mobile apps style interface. And then of course we also have our lightning product, sort of bitcoin light lightening node in a box plug and play product. And then we’re building a few other things around that. But you know, the, all of the, the lightening related stuff is still fairly experimental. Um, and still fairly reckless to be using. Like we, we don’t recommend anyone put substantial amounts of value into lightning a software at this point, but you need to be able to, you know, secure your, your larger amount of wealth that you have in bitcoin.
Lopp: If you want to be able to take advantage of these things in the future, you know, otherwise you, while you’re really more likely to just lose access to it, uh, then, then even you are to have someone, you know, hack into your computer and, and, uh, steal your money from you. So where we’re trying to build a system that is robust enough that you know, people don’t have to do all of these really complicated it data practices to continually ensure that the integrity of their backup systems are, are still functional and that you know, if they run into some sort of a catastrophe that it won’t result in them losing access to all of their private keys.
TB: And that’s the cost of chemo staring the custom node respectively.
Lopp: Correct, yes. So the, the key master, we have a couple of different levels or tiers on that are sort of premium solution.
Lopp: The first one that we came out with is a three out of five multisig and then Justin, the past month or so we’ve started to announce new tiers with two of three multisig for the masses, if you will. And that’s going to get paired with anyone who is also buying a node. But the three of five multisig is the product that I think kind of stands in a class on its own because we’ve created a system where the user has four out of. You were asking about the key master, right? All right, so our key master is essentially a private key management solution and we have a couple of different tiers on the key master, the flagship product, the one that we first came out with a year or so ago is a three out of five multisig and this is a setup where the user has one key on their mobile device and then three keys on geographically separated hardware devices like treasurers and ledgers.
Lopp: We support off the shelf hardware. We’re not trying to be like a hardware security company and then the last key is held by Casa offline as a disaster recovery scenario. But what we’re trying to do to make this a more user friendly solution is a couple of different things. First of all, we totally got rid of the need for people to store their recovery seed phrases. We believe that that’s a very user unfriendly thing that very few users understand how to properly secure and backup those seed phrases. And those seed phrases are essentially all of your private keys. And so it’s kind of weird that as a ecosystem we have developed really excellent hardware for securing private keys. But if you go buy a Trezor or a ledger, the first thing it does is it shows you the seed phrase and it says, you know, write this down and keep it safe.
Lopp: And there’s just like an, an iceberg of security and data practice information that is laying underneath those simple words of, you know, keep it safe. And we think it’s unreasonable to expect the average person to really understand everything that is involved in that. And so as a result, we decided to try to get rid of the need for seed phrases. And the way that we’ve done that is that, like I said, we have these multisig wallet products where if you lose one of your devices or really if anything happens to one of your devices and you can no longer access it, we have actually built the key rotation functionality into the mobile APP itself. So all you have to do is go in and click on that device and say, hey, I need to replace this device. You Go buy a new trezor ledger, what have you and plug it in.
Lopp: And we walk you through the basically recreation of that key set and creation of a transaction to to rotate you over to the new he said, and then you’re back at full integrity in a matter of minutes without having to go around and like try to, to find your seed phrases and, and hope that they haven’t been lost in all this other stuff. It’s just a more like flexible and dynamic way of approaching multisig security. And so, you know, there’s a three to five product. We’ve also got the two of three and products that we announced recently. It’s going to be more available to the masses at a lower cost where I think anyone who buys a node actually we’ll get that gold level membership as well. And so what we’re trying to do is offer a product that we want it to be, you know, that one of the most user friendly on the market.
Lopp: But we also want to be able to provide a level of service that is not really seen in the crypto security space and merging that altogether with a a more like full fledged suite of products where you know the node is also becoming a part of this whole self sovereignty package is that we want people to be able to have a a level of independence where they feel comfortable, they are in full control of their assets, but if something does go wrong, they can reach out to us and get some professional services to help them out, but not in a way where we actually have any influence or control over their assets.
TB: Can you talk a little bit more about the node and what a node is and why it’s so important?
Lopp: So a node or you know more specifically a full node or fully validating node is in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of these decentralized distributed networks.
Lopp: It really plays into both the security of the individual that’s using the network and the security of the network as a whole. You could even make an argument that it has a lot to do with the quote unquote governance or lack thereof within these networks. Essentially what it means is that we have created a protocol and this protocol allows us to talk to each other and say, Hey, I’m going to make an update to this ledger and I’m going to move this value from one address to another address. But there’s a whole lot of stuff going on underneath that various rules and validations and there are different levels of validation that you as an end user can be participating in on these networks. You could be using these networks with essentially no validation whatsoever by using a like custodial, web-based wallet, for example, where all you’re really doing is manipulating IOUs in somebody else’s database and you’re trusting that they’re not gonna do anything bad or screw up.
Lopp: There’s a, uh, a level of validation on the networks called SPV or simplified payment verification where you can be running software on your computer or on your mobile phone, whatever. That does reach out to the nodes on this network. And all it really does is it asks for a very simple like cryptographic proof of inclusion. It looks for, you know, certain addresses in the blockchain and then asks nodes to prove that a transaction that was related to one of those addresses actually happened in some specific block. This is basically a like proof of existence that that thing happened, but you’re still susceptible to things such as a node lying by omission and just not giving you any proof or anything. You’re also susceptible to the fact that there are dozens, if not hundreds of other rules within the protocol that could be broken and the the full node could lie to you about that.
Lopp: The highest level of security and validation on these networks is the full note or the fully validating node and that is where you’re running a piece of software, preferably 24 seven three 65 that is listening to all the transactions and blocks on the network and for every piece of data that it gets, it validates the entirety of the rule set of the protocol and decides whether or not to accept or reject that transaction that block. What have you and when you’re running a fully validating node, you are no longer having to trust anyone else on the network. I have a very lengthy blog posts from a few years ago on coindesk entitled and Bitcoin Security Model where I go into all the details around this, but the, the security model is essentially such that you only need to have one single honest peer talking to you on the network even if all of the other peers are lying to you as long as you have one honest peer giving you the real data, you can validate that that’s the real data and everything else is a lie.
Lopp: As far as I’m aware, this is one of the strongest levels of security on the Internet in general that you can get with regard to like not being lied to by anyone. And so if you’re running a fully validating node, then you can validate that the money that you’re receiving is real. You’re not being defrauded with, you know, fake transactions or double span transactions or what have you, but you can also participate in a way in the governance of the network of saying, I am running this rule set and if you or other people on the network decide you want to change the rules, then I am not going to follow along with your rule changes unless I explicitly agreed to them and I change the software that I’m running to basically change the, the rules that I’m validating, and this in my opinion is also a fascinating thing because it inverts traditional governance.
Lopp: Traditional governance is hierarchical, top down command and control where you have a small number of people who are making the decisions and they may be dictators or autocrats, they may be democratically elected, they may be founders or owners of a company or on the board or whatever. It doesn’t really matter pretty much all traditional governance concentrates power in the hands of a few people because that’s a more efficient and effective way to get things done. But now this is flipping that all on its head and we have bottom up governance where it’s not democracy, there’s no way for anyone or even any set of entities on the network to compel anyone else on the network to do anything. It is I believe the purest form of anarchy where every single individual gets to decide for themselves what rules they want to agree to and what they want the governance of the network to be. And so that has resulted in some very fascinating dramas and forks and, and other governance debates over the years. Um, but it’s just one other interesting aspect of all this network, um, and the evolution of these protocols. And I do believe that it is very important at as many people as possible have the ability to run these nodes because it will make it more difficult for any centralization of power to try to change the network in a way that, that most people disagree with.
TB: That was really insightful. So you guys are trying to essentially make the custom node, so it’s more like a plug and play type thing and it’s very user friendly. So people have this sovereignty and can protect themselves.
Lopp: Yes. So when you have the Casa node, you’re running a fully validating bitcoin node and then you’re also running a lightening node side by side and the lightening note is talking to the bitcoin node that is increasing the security of your lightening wallet and all of the things that you’re doing on the lightening network.
TB: You guys also have a health check on the website?
Lopp: Yeah, I believe that’s just like our, our general, uh, security guidance that we’re doing.
TB: Okay, cool. I’m interested, I know we’re running out of time. I’m just interested to get your opinion on what do you think that the main driver of bitcoin adoption will be?
Lopp: MMM. I have speculated for a while now because I spent my first several years in the bitcoin space, you know, kind of evangelizing it to all my friends and family and it was only probably a single digit percentages of people who actually believed me or thought I wasn’t completely insane and you know, listen to me and, and bought into the ideology behind it. As a result of that, you know, I stopped really trying to reach out to, to people who are, you know, comfortable in first world countries that, uh, have pretty decent financial infrastructure. I suspect that the people who will be most incentivized to adopt these technologies will be the ones who do not have access to traditional banking infrastructure despite the fact that we have seen many failures and traditional banking infrastructure. In my experience, not, not many people give it a second thought.
Lopp: It’s almost like, uh, the, the people like myself who are worried about that or, you know, we’re worried about long term inflation or you know, the things that central banks may do. Uh, we’re, we, we are generally dismissed as being overly paranoid at least by the other folks in the first world countries that I’ve talking to. But, um, you know, the people who are in countries that are actually suffer from hyperinflation, uh, or who have very limited access to a banking networks, like the disparity is so great for them that I think that it is sufficient incentive for them to adopt this new technology that may be, uh, too challenging or too much of a learning curve for someone in the first world. But, uh, for someone who doesn’t have the ability to send her storm money very well at all, I think that they would be more likely to learn how this new talent technology works and actually try it out and, uh, and benefit from it.
Lopp: So it would be very interesting to see, uh, if that is the way that it plays out where are basically third world countries up with faster adoption than first world countries. But, um, you know, it’s just, it depends on efforts from a lot of different people, uh, because, uh, for whatever reason, I think technology in general is still very, uh, you know, first world and English, uh, focused. So I’m, I’m very happy like whenever I see new efforts on the translation side of trying to make things a more clarified for people who don’t speak English.
TB: Cool. What are you looking forward to the most? What excites you the most about this space right now?
Lopp: Uh, while we’ve got a number of interesting things happening both on the privacy front and the scalability front, um, and interestingly enough, uh, they actually tend to go hand in hand.
Lopp: Things like, uh, aggregate signatures for example, will um, continue to decrease the size of on chain transactions, but also increase the privacy by essentially obscuring, you know, who the participants in the transactions are in the first place. And that level of scalability can, can then even be, um, additionally applied to lightening channels themselves. So it all goes hand in hand. I am definitely interested in seeing like improved privacy on the bitcoin network because I think that’s been lagging behind for a number of years and it, it actually ends up effecting the fungibility of the money itself, which is one of the most important properties. So until we get to the point where it’s not even possible for someone to look at a bitcoin transaction and say, oh, you know, that money came from, from these addresses are these entities with these like wallet clusters and we still have a fair amount of work to do to, to make more fungible.
TB: What are some of the myths or misconceptions around Bitcoin or blockchain specifically that you’d want to help clear up?
Lopp: Oh, there’s so many. I mean it’s hard to even keep track of like which ones are the most popular these days. Um, I was actually at a conference recently, it was a, a traditional financial conference and I was asked about some things of like, well Warren Buffet and Charlie monger say things like bitcoin is rat poison in Bitcoin, has, you know, lots of criminals and, and scam artists and whatnot. And I actually tend to agree with some of those statements in the sense that, uh, you know, bitcoin is rat poison for anyone who wants to control how money works. Um, and it does attract a lot of scam artists. Any new technology tends to attack a attract criminals and scam artists because they know that law enforcement hasn’t yet caught up to the way that the technology works. We have already seen various cases come out where law enforcement is showing that they are catching up with how the technology works and are able to incorporate different tools into their investigations.
Lopp: Where looking at like, uh, the analysis of funds flow on Bitcoin for example, is still only one part of the investigation. I don’t think that it is a single conclusive thing in and of itself. I mean any money earliest, any sound money that is censorship resistant is going to be used for illegal things. And of course cash is the best example of that. And uh, it’s probably controversial, but I say that the way that we know that bitcoin is working well is if it is used for more illegal things. Um, if anything, I think despite all of the hype around like terrorists using crypto for funding, I think there had been several reports that have shown that that’s generally not true, that uh, they much prefer to use cash or gold or you know, uh, things that are even less traceable than bitcoin is.
TB: You recently tweeted that you have an article coming out probably around next week or so regarding Craig rate. Is it safe to say that you don’t believe he’s a real Satoshi?
Lopp: It is a very long and complicated story and I’m not sure that many people even know everything. Even. I only still have theories around Craig whole life and what led am to get to where he is today. I have not really found any of the attributes of Satoshi that I would expect. Uh, when I look into the things that he’s done or what he’s said, I’m not even sure that he knows how to write very much code or he really has the level of expertise that he claims have from all of his academic credentials. There’s just a lot of really questionable things in his history that I have found and while my article will not have all of the questionable things, what I really tried to focus on was a lot of the contradictions and I think that there is pretty conclusive evidence that he has made a lot of things up over the years and, and so for me it’s less about whether or not he is Satoshi or was connected to the creators of Bitcoin. It’s more about whether or not he’s a credible person.
TB: Gotcha. Well, I’ll definitely make sure to link to that article in the show notes when he does come out. Final question. What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone who’s just starting out and looking to invest in this space?
Lopp: Well, that it is still the wild west. There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you get in over your head. I would suspect that almost everyone who has been in the space long enough has lost some money at one point or another. Do too. Various screw ups. I mean I have plenty of incidents that I could come up with myself off the top of my head of times that I have screwed up. So it’s really just that you have to be careful when people ask me whether or not they should invest in bitcoin. I tell them that if they have to ask, then the answer is no. What I basically mean is that you should invest in education yourself. Um, I, I have some pretty good educational resources on my website that you can easily spend months going through. And it’s not until you have convinced yourself that is a system where a supporting that you should actually put any money into it.
TB: So if still listening, I want to learn a little bit more about the resources that you have or even the cost of key master and node. How can they do so?
Lopp: So my educational resources firstname.lastname@example.org and lightening dot. How and then a Casa. His website is keys.casa. That’s keys dot c a s a.
TB: Awesome. Again, Jameson, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. We’ll have to do this again sometime soon just to catch up, see what else you’re working on over at Casa and maybe some other just general bitcoin questions.
Lopp: That was good. Thanks for having me.
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