Hi Adán! I’m excited to be doing this interview with you after months of hard work on getting Witnet off the ground. Could you tell us a bit about you and your background?
Thanks Jose! So thrilled to have you on board as a community organizer.
I started programming when I was 12 or so by creating homebrew games for Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii, so my first programming language was C. It was funny; I learnt systems programming the hard way and I even won a couple of awards for my indie games.
I soon entered the cypherpunk scene and moved my focus towards P2P and messaging protocols. I was one of the first ones to work on reverse engineering the WhatsApp protocol, and started a couple of successful projects building on that knowledge.
The first one was Loqui IM, an open source Whatsapp-compatible messaging app. Loqui IM was the most downloaded app on Firefox OS, it got translated to more than 30 languages and it’s still developed and maintained by the community.
The second one was Whatools, a CRM app and bots API on top of the WhatsApp protocol. It started to get real traction but Facebook wasn’t happy about it and forced us to shut down by sending over a threatening Cease and Desist letter.
By that time I had been working with Daniele (Witnet’s Operation Lead & Stampery CEO) and Luis (Witnet’s whitepaper co-author) in other blockchain projects for a while, so I took that as a chance to move full time into Stampery, where I’m the CTO.
What made you dive into the blockchain space?
I’ve been involved in different movements and organizations fighting for technological sovereignty and the Commons for a decade, including Guifi·net, BitValley Hackerspace, the Phone Liberation Network and the Internet Defense League.
I’ve always believed in the power of technology and cryptography as tools that must be placed at the service of people’s rights. As soon as I heard about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, I understood they were an immediate materialization of those beliefs.
At the end of the day, purchase decision is the ultimate form of freedom in a capitalist economy. It’s one of the few ways in which the individual can model the world is by spending their discretionary income on what they consider good, fair or worthy. If one pursues a more democratic and “peer-to-peer” society, then decentralizing money and business is a great place to start — and that’s what this space is all about.
For people who might not be aware, what’s Witnet and why does it matter?
Well, you know that smart contracts are nothing more than programs that are run in a distributed way, without anyone having the possibility to block them or tamper with their output. Ethereum efficiently solves this by providing a distributed store for your code, a distributed way to maintain the state of your program and a distributed execution environment (the EVM). But the truth is that the output of a program doesn’t depend only on its code but also on the data it operates upon. It doesn’t matter how distributed is your execution environment: if you want your program to run trustlessly, you still need a trustless way to feed information into it. Otherwise you’re missing the point why you used a smart contract in the first place.
But trustless data retrieval is not trivial. This is called “the oracle problem”. Any smart contract developer perfectly knows that’s the reason why mission critical and real world use cases are not feasible as of today.
Anyone who has been watching the “crypto” space in the last couple of years has seen plenty of projects raise crazy amounts of money to create (d)apps. They promise to leverage blockchain technology and smart contracts for a variety of sexy use cases. Yet, here’s the ugly truth about blockchain and smart contracts in 2018: it’s still nascent tech and it’s not even close to be able to support mainstream adoption.
Most importantly, there are a number of tools and abstraction layers that still need to be built in order to conceal the complexity of blockchains from the user-facing application layer. It’s all about separation of concerns: if you are building a website you don’t really want to handle DNS, TCP, OSPF or IEEE 802.3 or any low-level protocol by yourself.
Witnet, as a decentralized oracle network and a fat protocol, is one of those missing tools that are much needed for any (d)app to operate in a completely trustless way. It connects smart contracts to the outside world. With Witnet, any smart contract can easily retrieve data from the Internet without relying in any single entity that could be corrupted or hacked. All data retrieved using Witnet is reliable not because of authority, but because all parties involved are economically incentivized to abide by the protocol and not to tamper with the data they handle. Just like any other solid blockchain protocol should be, it’s 1% cryptography, 99% game theory.
Witnet is in early phases of development. How do you envision its future milestones?
We envision Witnet as one of the key building blocks for all decentralized technologies in the years to come. It will underpin a whole ecosystem of autonomous organizations and applications that will allow new business opportunities to thrive while bringing power back to the individual.
We have very disruptive ideas in mind that we’ll be announcing and implementing in the following months and years. Many of them are geared towards removing most pain points from creating and operating smart contracts. But all of that will come in good time — we’re now focused on publishing a thorough specification of the protocol and building the first implementation. We want it to serve as a solid foundation for other people to build their apps upon.
There are hundreds of projects and technologies in the crypto landscape. What are some of your favorite ones?
To make a quick list:
- Bitcoin and Ethereum, needless to say why
- Payment channels / state channels: Lightning Network and Raiden
- Governance and DAO tooling: Aragon
- Decentralized communities and marketplaces: district0x
- Other takes on smart contracts: RChain
On a personal note, what are some things that interest you or that you like to do as hobbies?
Every minute I’m not working I’m sharing quality time with my girlfriend. Leading a project so ambitious as Witnet is really demanding, yet she’s quite understanding. She puts up with me despite the evening meetings or the random coding on weekends.
Regarding hobbies, I’m really into music. I even used to have a bluegrass band back in my hometown. Playing instruments and songwriting are a “pressure release” valve for me. It also brings me to a “state of elevated consciousness”, as Manuel Araoz recently said.
In the past I devoted much of my spare time to learning electronics and building my own 3D printer. Also took Japanese classes for some years.
If I weren’t working in the blockchain space and solving the oracle problem, I think I’d be equally addressing a big problem and proposing a radical solution to it. I’d love to start a project seeking to allow peer-to-peer production and trading of electrical power in autonomous self-managed microgrids. Yes, moonshot thinking is my thing ;)
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Adán!
You can follow him on Twitter to get to know him a little better /👁/