© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP
Most of the discussion around bitcoin last week had to do with its wild price swings and continued movement upwards on the back of multiple reports the price had reached a bottom late last year and Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency announcement. But there was another rather interesting Bitcoin event last week that was somewhat overlooked.
Two individuals who were responsible for creating some of Bitcoin’s key building blocks were on stage together at the Bitcoin 2019 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. Near the end of a discussion with Bitcoin YouTuber Naomi Brockwell, Blockstream CEO Adam Back, who was responsible for creating hashcash, and Yugen Partners Chief Scientist Scott Stornetta, who co-authored three other papers cited in the white paper (PDF), were asked to share their thoughts on the future direction of Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency space more generally.
Stornetta Foresees a Broadening of Bitcoin’s Technology
Stornetta responded to Brockwell’s question first, and he started out by joking that the fact he was wearing a suit and tie and now works as a private equity investor in the blockchain space does not mean he’s “gone to the darkside” or sold out.
“Let me just state unequivocally that I am a fundamental believer in the ability of these technologies, basically the cryptographic technologies writ large, to level the playing field . . . I’m not a crypto-anarchist, but I certainly am a crypto-libertarian. And I think we are going to get to the world that we want and that we deserve. We just need to find a path that leads from A to B,” Stornetta said to the cypherpunk-friendly crowd.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
More to the point of the question, Stornetta noted that he’s extremely bullish on Bitcoin and other related technologies over the next ten years, but he believes distributed ledger technology will be further broadened and diversified in the future.
“I think there’s plenty of potential for Bitcoin to kind of work out the issues that you’re talking about, but there’s potential for other things. I think we’re going to see a real flourishing, and it doesn’t all have to be about money, of course,” said Stornetta.
Back Sees Bitcoin as the Standard
According to Back, who apparently did not need to talk about his cypherpunk credentials since he was wearing an unbuttoned shirt with a Blockstream t-shirt underneath it, Bitcoin has come much further and faster in its ten years of existence than people expected. He noted that “Bitcoin time” appears to move even faster than “internet time,” which is a reference to the fast pace at which new advancements and innovations are made in the space.
“It’s pretty challenging to even keep up with the pace of new things that are being developed — new ideas and implementations of them,” said Back.
The Blockstream CEO added that there are still areas of innovation in Bitcoin that have yet to be realized.
“Blockchain and bearer electronic cash is a whole new sort of building block, and it has implications with smart contracts. Basically, it’s sort of like picking up a new programming language with a new paradigm, and it takes a while for people to natively understand it and reach the conclusion of what kinds of things you could build with it,” said Back.
To back up this claim, Back pointed out that the Lightning Network is a somewhat recent development for bitcoin in the grand scheme of things, and there are other new advancements, such as the recently revealed Statechains, that could continue to enable new functionality on top of the base Bitcoin network.
The Lightning Network has been growing at a rapid rate this year, with Bitrefill reporting that the secondary protocol layer for bitcoin payments has already overtaken all altcoins in terms of payments they receive on a daily basis.
“It strikes me that there are still major discoveries about the implications of the tech being found, so we’re still early stages for what can be built. So, I think it does provide a sort of programming model for electronic cash, and it’s surprising the number of things you can build on layers above it that retain interesting properties of what’s beneath,” explained Back.
Back also shared his view that there will not be a need for many different cryptocurrency networks.
“In terms of coins, I tend to view it as sort of like TCP/IP — that there’s one interoperable standard. And it’s kind of lingua franca for exchanging value. And if any kind of innovation can be adopted in layers or, ultimately, people can import Bitcoin’s UTXO set to another data structure if a new data structure is found,” said Back.
In the past, Andrew Poelstra, who works with Back at Blockstream, has explained how the Bitcoin user base prioritizes the soundness and stability of the bitcoin asset over implementing new, experimental features on the network.