Chatting With Blockchain Veteran Esteban Ordano About the Future of Crypto
Discussing the allure of crypto, where it’s headed, and his latest project.
Esteban is the Tech Lead at Decentraland, the first blockchain-enabled virtual world powered by cryptocurrency. Previously, Esteban co-founded Zeppelin Solutions and invented Streamium, the first app implementing payment channels, a crucial technology for scaling blockchain payments. As a former software engineer at BitPay, he co-created one of the leading Bitcoin infrastructure libraries, known as Bitcore. He was also on the teams behind Copay (a bitcoin wallet), Insight (a bitcoin blockchain API), and Poet (a blockchain-based publication tool).
What got you involved in crypto?
One of the books I enjoyed the most while growing up as a computer scientist was Applied Cryptography, by Bruce Schneier. It read like a spy/sci-fi novel, detailing how cryptographic protocols could achieve fascinating results. David Chaum’s work was also influential to me. The possibilities were endless, but it still felt very sci-fi. When I got involved in Bitcoin, I finally discovered real applications for these concepts.
Why have you turned your focus to virtual reality?
I had very similar feelings with regards to immersive VR experiences. I think we are just touching the tip of the iceberg in what’s possible, particularly because we’re usually so constrained to 2D representations of information.
Can you give us an example?
Compare music and programming. Music can be read, listened and danced to, even viewed through the movement of the artist and the instrument. But code is stuck with visual representations. I think that moving around content and creating better interfaces to represent knowledge will pave the way for adoption of VR and AR.
What’s next for crypto?
As software eats the world, crypto-economies will eat organizations based on network effects.
Can you explain that?
“Software is eating the world”, a phrase coined by Marc Andreessen, describes the effect by which services get commoditized into software platforms: tax accountants to TurboTax, hotels to Airbnb, taxis to Uber, etc.
Nowadays, the most successful large scale organizations base their power on the sheer number of people involved. Governments, corporations, and the internet are examples of these organizations: it is almost impossible for a competing product or organization to overtake them due to their vast network effects.
I believe that we will see a similar effect with smart contracts removing intermediaries.
If a group starts to use consensus rules that align incentives for all its actors, and those incentives are well engineered, then the network will grow until everyone that could be on it joins because of fairer conditions or better incentives than the alternatives.
How are these concepts already being implemented?
Bitcoin started that way: a smart contract, with well engineered incentives, competing with all the other currencies in the world. The huge network effects of nation-backed currencies make the bitcoin system laughable for anybody that doesn’t fully realize that its incentives align the actions of all its participants to keep consensus and benefit from it.
What concerns you about the evolution of cryptocurrency markets and technologies today?
Bitcoin as a currency has four main issues: exchange rate fluctuation, long times for confirmations, high fees, and no privacy. In general, blockchains are having growing pains trying to scale to millions of users.
Let’s talk about your latest project, Decentraland. Why is it important to build?
Cryptocurrencies are maturing, reaching a broader audience. With Decentraland, we’re creating an ecosystem that combines many of the solutions being implemented on cryptocurrencies with the impending mass adoption of VR systems. The result is a metaverse, a social 3D world with a native economic network.
What are you most excited about?
The creation of virtual cities and organizations. Basically, economies working in a completely free way. I’m also looking forward to seeing the games that can be built within the platform, especially user experiences across lands, like MMORPGs based on scripts.
What about the Decentraland team excites you?
It’s super motivating to work with such a talented team. Our skills complement each other’s very well and we share an incredibly aligned vision.
Which other crypto projects are you excited about?
Lightning Network, Enigma, and all other concepts on the frontier of what can be done with advanced cryptographic protocols. Working with these innovations should prove very rewarding. The goal is for Decentraland to leverage affordable HMDs, Bitcoin, the Lightning Network, Ethereum, Aragon, IPFS, and a whole generation of software for economies of information.
What work are you doing outside of crypto?
In my spare time, I’ve been building a light show for our art collective Pampa Warro.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Harari.
Biggest role model?
Definitely Richard Feynman.
Coffee or tea?
I drink more Mate than the average Argentine.
The Decentraland token sale starts on my birthday. They say it’s a lucky number in China, so I’m feeling good.