What I learnt from Dan Larimer at the #eoshackathon Grand Finale
The #eoshackathon grand finale is currently underway in Cape Town, and what better way to get it going than to have a Q&A session with Block.one CTO, Dan Larimer himself. I’m going to quickly summarise some interesting questions asked and Dan’s responses interspersed with some of my commentaries.
1. “Which businesses do you believe will be using blockchain in the future?”
“Any business with a database and more than one user will benefit from blockchain technology” — Dan Larimer
It's obvious that Dan fundamentally believes in the power of blockchain and massive benefits it can bring to businesses. As software such as eosio continues to develop and mature, business all around the world will be able to easily deploy their own private blockchains ensuring complete accountability for all internal business actions. It might eventually become some sort of industry standard, where investors and consumers alike gain confidence, in the fact that the business is using a blockchain internally to ensure full accountability of all actions.
Perhaps another one of Dans most telling lines was that his belief that:
“Blockchain will be as prevalent as SQL databases” — Dan Larimer
2. “What is the biggest misconception the public has regarding blockchain?”
Tokens… All blockchains (and blockchain projects) need to have a token. — Dan Larimer
In the case of eosio, tokens are necessary as they are a way to allocate scarce system resources such as CPU, RAM, NET etc… Tokens represent a way to economically incentivize certain behaviour within an ecosystem. This is why we so often hear the phrase “tokenomics” aka. token economics. There are however other ways to incentivize behaviour within a blockchain system. In many cases, user liability thanks to the auditable and transparent nature of blockchain is enough to ensure honest system participant behaviour.
“Tokens have been around for a long time, think about airline miles, chucky cheese points etc…” — Dan larimer
Dan emphasises the fact tokens haven’t been introduced by blockchain, but rather they have existed in various forms for a long time. My thoughts are that many people are fixated on tokens as they believe “tokens = value”. I make tokens -> they must be worth something -> I can, therefore, sell them -> reap benefits, buy a yacht. It's a misconception that the value is in the tokens and not the underlying platform itself.
I recently attended another interesting talk at the MIT Sloan business school where regulation amongst other concepts around ICO’s was discussed. The speaker mentioned something that I’ve heard crop up time and time again, a line definitely worth repeating:
“Why do you need your own token? Why can’t you just use bitcoin, EOS or ETH?” — Everyone
3. “What do you believe will be the timeline for industries adopting blockchain technology?”
Obviously, Dan expressed his uncertainty regarding this. It’s never easy to make predictions as to exact timing regarding things of this nature. He did say that within the next 5 years he believes blockchain will be adopted by a large number of industries. One of the key challenges is migrating current systems onto this new technology. In general, the more legacy attached to the company, the more difficult the task may be.
One of the really promising teams I met at the #eoshackathon grand finale (winners of the Sydney hackathon), smart.press, is taking a big step toward furthering blockchain adoption. The smart.press developer platform democratizes smart contract technology enabling developers of all skill levels to easily harness the transparency and audibility of the eosio blockchain. This really bridges the specialist blockchain developer knowledge gap to fast-track the rate at which industry players can start migrating toward this technology.
I will leave it to the CEO of smart.press, Lachlan Greenbank, to hop in and answer any questions you may have about this in the comments.
4. “How could Google use blockchain technology?”
Regarding the search engine, this was fairly obvious:
“Searching is not really a suitable application for blockchain technology. Its a read only operation. This doesn’t require a distributed append-only cryptographically-secured ledger. ” — Dan larimer
As for other ways in which Google may use blockchain?
“Google can definitely use blockchain. Google has a massive account management system. ” — Dan larimer
In my opinion, Dan was alluding to liability. By cryptographically signing an action, such as sending an email from your Gmail account, there is a complete and auditable trail of all actions stemming from all users. This is the same for Google employees who will have to cryptographically sign to authorize system changes at any level. Everyone is now accountable for their own actions, and we can mathematically prove their actions.
To understand this further, imagine Google was hacked and a crazy email was sent from Elon Musks email account — who would be liable (Google or Musk)? We may not be able to prove that Musk sent the email, but we cannot prove that Musk didn’t send it either. Blockchain starts to solve this liability issue which is huge. The problem, of course, is key management which brings us to our next question:
5. “Currently what is the biggest issue facing the general publics adoption of blockchain technology?”
“Private key management.” — Dan larimer
The mathematical nature of public/private key pairs means we can’t just hit the ‘reset password’ button and get a new private key. Also, anyone who has worked with private keys knows that memorization is impossible.
Dan thought that the future solution will probably involve every individual having some type of hardware wallet with some kind of attached biometric security. I am sure there are many companies out there working on this already, but to risk stating the obvious, whoever manages to package this easy, secure solution and effectively distribute it to the public stands to make a good chunk of cash.
Dan also said he wouldn’t be surprised if key management services arise in the future and are maybe somehow part of the solution. The issue is of course then that these services may have some degree of liability for actions signed off using those keys in question.
6. “What is the biggest benefit blockchain will bring to our society?”
“Eliminating fraud throughout society.” — Dan larimer
This has already been alluded to throughout the article. Blockchains auditable nature ensures that everyone will be completely liable for their actions undertaken.
Imagine a Government tender scheme. All actions taken with regards to awarding and compensations for tenders will be directly attributable to certain individuals who are cryptographically signing off on these actions. There will be no more shifting the blame, but rather every individual will have accountability for their exact actions within the system.
Thanks so much for reading. I‘ve tried to keep it quite brief, but if you have comments or thoughts on the questions I’d love to discuss it in more depth. Drop a comment or message me in the Stackr telegram channel: https://t.me/gostackr
I’ve made every effort to quote Dan Larimer as best possible using notes I made during the session, but please note this is my recollection of the talk and questions, and I could have definitely misquoted him or made some other misrepresentation or mistake. My thoughts are also given throughout the article.