I had the pleasure to spend a couple of weeks with MaxSan in Satoshi House, MaxSan is an early Bitcoin adapter full of energy and ideas. Spending time with MaxSan was truly inspirational. We had many late night discussions about Bitcoin, Open Source, governance, and private cities. Here is an interview with MaxSan in Q and A form.
Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what projects you have been working on?
Answer: Well, I would like to consider myself a general technologist with a deep interest in Bitcoin and freedom enhancing technologies. Over the years I have been involved in most sectors of the scene, mainly development, trading and supporting third party projects.
Question: Why is Bitcoin important too you?
Answer: I have trust issues. The idea of removing trust from something as fundamental as consensus reference to the value achieved throughout time is incredibly important. Our previous ability to do this rested on a very short list of feasible assets, A quick reference would be Fiat (constantly expanding, terrible store of value) Commodities (manipulated with derivatives, hard or expensive to authenticate IOUs), Real Estate (illiquid, causes unexpected casualties such as housing shortages for lower to middle class).
Question: How do you see Bitcoin changing the world we live in today?
Answer: The eventual decentralization of power where consolidation of power becomes ludicrously expensive to dictate. Governments becoming service providers rather glorified dictatorships for the masses. Consumerism will be lowered, growth will slow and we will move to a more sustainable world overall. Maybe high hopes but I think at least some of this will become true.
Question: When I asked you for an interview you said, yes but not on video why is that? How important is OPSEC (Operations security) for you?
Answer: OPSEC should be a priority for everyone. Warning — YMMV ( Your Mileage May Vary). It is one of these types of issues where it's not a problem until it is a problem. Think about a situation where details of your whereabouts are in real time (Snapchat, Foursquare, etc). The more people looking at this information the more likelihood of a problem there is to occur. Algorithms and data sets that can work out how much you are willing to pay for flights and how much you can afford to pay for services such as medical insurance. These are some of the more common everyday problems citizens could have, Bitcoiners have an extended extent of worry in a “be your own bank” situation.
Question: I agree with you people give away far too much information about themselves on social media platforms, what would you recommend people to think about before they are posting about themselves?
Answer: Not so much what they post, but what services they are using to share information with one another. For instance, posting a picture of yourself drunk tied to a lamppost on Facebook may get you fired, posting it on a self hosted OwnCloud instance within an encrypted container will give close to zero chance of your boss finding such an image. Having a checklist for libre software and sticking by these principles should help achieve a reasonable amount of privacy from snoops and snitches. Open Source, Self Authenticated, Always Encrypted
Question: Max, you have been involved with Bitcoin for a long time can you tell us how you discovered Bitcoin? And why you got into Bitcoin?
Answer: Quite a frustrating situation actually. A friend told me about it during a totally separate conversation, instead of searching for it myself I took their word as it was “basically the same as e-gold.” Six months later I came across it again and done my own research. Within 3 days the choice to go out and spend my money on some miners seemed like an obvious one.
Question: How have you seen the mining climate change over the years? What would you say to someone who is considering to start mining today?
Answer: This can go either way. First of all, you need access to a reasonable quantity of free or very cheap electric (0.02c kw/h). The income garnered would need to outweigh the time it takes to manage and deal with the process. ASICs may be at a prime time to be purchased if you can access the latest chips. As the chip size is reaching in line with GPU / CPUs at the high end range the actual growth of hashrate may actually come in line to expectation rather than these huge leaps and bounds we have seen in previous years. Overall though, probably just easier buying Bitcoin.
Question: Which is the craziest Bitcoin story you have been involved in?
Answer: Difficult one. I recommend looking at https://reddit.com/r/BitcoinHistory for a look at some interesting weird stories from years gone by. Sub is nearly dead now so if any OGs want to add to it, would be good.
Kris, comment: There are some good stories there. Someone is trying an old iPhone for 100 000 BTC, that made me smile. I recommend everyone to have a look at this thread.
Question: What projects have you been working on in the past?
Answer: Well, most of the commercial work which I have done was not on cryptocurrency related technology. I have dabbled with the initial work with non-fungible tokens, the first iteration, which had issues. Authentication systems via blockchain and how these can be integrated in a simple way for users. Support comes in many forms though and hopefully, I have brought value into other projects in a more indirect type of way.
Question: There are many ways to contribute to Bitcoin without being a coder. Ex. You can host meetups, create awareness, educate. What would you recommend a noncoder to contribute to Bitcoin?
Answer: Use Bitcoin! Accept it for payment of services. Take it as a wage. Setup your finances to bypass the current financial system. I have not run the numbers but I would make a sizable guess that dollar cost averaging from any point in time until now would still yield you a significantly better return on purchasing power than holding fiat. Language translations for applications can also be a huge help. Meetups and education can be tricky as its an unknown audience and sometimes without having an answer for everything can make it seem like there are flaws in the system (which there are, just none which people expect).
Question: How would you explain Bitcoin in three sentences to a “noob” that have no idea of what Bitcoin is?
Answer: Everyone is different and comes from a different background. The first question should always be, what is your background?
Economist? Explain the deflationary properties and comparative gold like release rates for the asset.
Mathematics? Explain the cryptographic properties of sound money and how we can use it to secure value for generations to come.
Business owner? Explain the cost basis of accepting payments with Bitcoin in store rather than the traditional card networks.
There is no single answer for this, my own concise statement though would be “A single source for transactional validity that can reach a global population”. It is as short and concise as it can possibly be, but probably not comprehensible for a “noob” hence my previous retort.
Question: What do you believe will be the catalyst for Bitcoin mass adoption?
Answer: Inevitability. Fiat is always a slow bleed to value loss. The only reason this charade existed for so long was the market participants all played against each other (eg nation states). When other options exist to have actually libre money it becomes more difficult to force people not to choose to switch sides. Privately issued money from companies (such as many of the other cryptocurrencies) never existed so to speak either. The only comparable situation was the private issuance of money in America a few centuries ago.
Question: Do you think a country will use Bitcoin as a national reserve and why would they do it or not?
Answer: I don't think a single country will, everyone country will eventually have to. When I was young I always hear the phrase “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.” It fits very well in the situation for nation states as an outflow of capital from restrictive countries inevitably go towards freedom enhancing jurisdictions and tech. This creates a race to the bottom and the only way to stop this is a worldwide consensus on the illegality of it. This is far from a realistic situation and we are deeply passed the point of no return. Adopt or die.
Kris, comment: I believe it’s impossible even try to ban Bitcoin, we have seen countries do it before and it has just made Bitcoin stronger. Bitcoin doesn’t care about country borders. The countries that choose not to adopt Bitcoin will be left with sticks and stones.
Question: Are you a Bitcoin maximalist, and can you explain your reasoning around this?
Answer: Yes. There are a few reasons.
Bitcoin is a protocol. Having competing protocols are almost pointless. The feature sets required to make this work fully are already researched and either going to be implemented or rejected for one technical reason or another. Think when an altcoin chooses to implement some initial research by Bitcoin developers and fail to see the reason why it was not included in the protocol. Some signature schemes take up orders of magnitude more space than current Bitcoin transactions, this may break the base of having decentralized currency, having anonymity in a transaction is not useful when only a few hundred people in the world are running the nodes.
Kris, comment: Right, we use one protocol for internet and email. Websites, internet services, email, and business are built on top of these protocols.
Question: Which Bitcoin development are you most excited about?
Answer: On the base layer Looking forward to seeing Schnorr / BulletProofs / MAST / Taproot. Any combination of these will be awesome improvements. They all have tradeoffs against each other but overall improvements to the functionality and overall capabilities of Bitcoin.
Higher up some excellent projects are ZeroLink framework (currently implemented by Wasabi Wallet) and obviously the Lightning Network teams which there are a number of. Personally, I can't wait to see the marriage of these two technologies to support opening and closing channels within a coinjoin to ever increase fungibility of the coins on the network.
Kris, comment: The development in Bitcoin never slows down, there are so many interesting projects being worked on at the moment. We have exciting times ahead of us. We have already the Lightning Network live and Lightning wallets. Have a look at this guide written by Pierre Rochard how to setup your own Lightnin node
Question: Are you working on any projects currently?
Answer: Just started looking at some FOSS (Free or Open Source Software) with friends and trying to get some stable lightning nodes running (without using Some Other Persons Computer*). Up-time is always a challenge though.
Question: You are going to a lot of conferences which is the would you say is a must to attend?
Answer: HCPP. A great mix of technical and non-technical talks. The dedicated Bitcoin events look fantastic too but sadly I seem to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when I hear of them.
Question: If you had 5 minutes with the Satoshi Nakamoto, what would you talk about?
Answer: OPSEC & cooking.
Question: Nice! What kind of cooking would you be talking about? What dish would you cook with Satoshi?
Answer: Obviously we discuss different cuts of meat and the best way to cook em. Maximalism at its best I would say.
Question: Jack Dorsey recently took on the Lightning Torch and said Square will hire three or four engineers and one designer “to work full-time on open source contributions to the Bitcoin/crypto ecosystem.” In what way do you think this will affect Bitcoin?
Answer: Honestly it probably won't. Its great more people are getting involved and paid to do this work but they are not the first and won't be the last. Props though. There are a lot of other companies in the space who should pay attention to this type of mentality. Many I know have done their bit.
Answer: Kosmos I can take absolutely zero credit for. It has been a ground up approach on building a compatible and better communications systems with libre principles. I've only just started looking at it and the work done there to get this far is all on the current team. Hacker House is an extension of the Hacker Beach project. Its easier for those interested to look through the site and wiki to see what we have been up to. https://hackerbeach.org/
Question: Where can people find out more about you and contact you?
Thanks, MaxSan it was great having this talk with you. Let’s do this again soon and hopefully, I’ll see you at HCPP.
Get in touch with Satoshi House.