Who is Jameson Lopp?

Cypherpunk: A person who uses encryption when accessing a computer network in order to ensure privacy, especially from government authorities.

– Oxford Dictionary

CRYPTO 101 recently sat down with Casa infrastructure engineer, Jameson Lopp. Yeah, that’s a pretty significant understatement. As you’ll hopefully read below, there is much more to discover about Jameson as a person and much to learn from the content-rich digital trail he has blazed for most of his professional life. The curious thing is though, that’s probably how Jameson would introduce himself to a stranger these days – “Just Jameson”. It sounds like an 80’s sitcom if you say it outloud. Let’s try to stay focused.

There’s quite a few resources and articles out there to help you follow Jameson’s trail. But while they tend to focus on shop talk and whatever the “crypto” issue was at the moment, CRYPTO 101 wanted to take a slightly different approach; to try and get a better feel for the man behind the public persona. What makes him tick and what does he really think…about the world, and about society. Where is he from and how did he get here? How has he changed along the way?

Hailing from North Carolina in the United States, Jameson is a well-known Bitcoin enthusiast and successful entrepreneur. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in computer science and worked for Bronto Software as a software engineer until 2015. His affinity for cryptocurrency’s flagship protocol started in 2012 and he hasn’t taken his foot off the mental gas pedal since.

Jameson founded Bitcoin SIG in December of 2013, a central hub that functioned as both public access to a well-curated library of bitcoin-centric resources and a connection point for fellow certified MENSA members (with similar Bitcoin interests) via a private special interest group. Full disclosure: most of us are still “on the outside looking in” for that fellowship. Perhaps for the best, but it must be interesting to read through some of those posts. In the meantime, we’ll continue our studies and Jameson’s Bitcoin Resources is a great place to start.

And Mr. Lopp was just getting started, too. Further inspired to grow accessibility and overall  knowledge level of the Bitcoin network for both users and noobs alike, Jameson began asking himself in 2014 – how could he gain more insight into the internal operations of Bitcoin nodes? By June, he had his answer in Statoshi, an open source fork of Bitcoin Core that he created to log network metrics into a usable format. This gave Bitcoin node operators a mechanism by which they could measure their interactions with the greater network. As a follow-up, Jameson created a publicly accessible version of this platform at Statoshi.info. It translates the data into beautiful graphics via Grafana, an example of which can be seen in the image below.

Statoshi.info
An elegant, user-friendly look at how the Bitcoin sausage gets made (statoshi.info)

How does one size up this guy? Essentially, Jameson is an avid communicator when it comes to sharing his views on just about anything – but especially cryptocurrency, and specifically Bitcoin. Backed by his technical credentials, Jameson has established his public presence via podcasts, interviews, articles, and social media appearances. He is often armed with well crafted presentations and some thought leadership that makes no apologies to those on the opposite side of a debate.

Debates? He’s had a few of those, with some other well known personalities in the space. A quick search will turn them up and most of them are really entertaining. Or, for some folks – maddening. Case in point, he was a victim of swatting last year as the heated scaling debate surrounding Bitcoin reached critical mass prior to the SegWit2X hard fork’s ultimate cancellation. This type of prank is pretty dispicable. It’s dangerous for all involved and creates a safety risk for others by locking up valuable public resources. In news coverage of the event, Jameson came off as handling it with a very cool head. That actually seems very cypherpunk of him, but it must have denied somebody, somewhere, the result they were seeking.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Jameson joined BitGo in 2015, a company that was founded in 2013 and is best known for their multi-signature bitcoin wallet. He played a key role in developing the company’s flexible model and could often be found spreading word of the company’s product(s) as a colorful ambassador. At this point, he was already deemed by most to be a knowledgable leader within an industry experiencing exponential growth. That’s a powerful combination, so it should not have been a total surprise when he recently announced his departure to join the team at Casa. As a new startup, Casa is only about seven months old, but boasts some impressive bench depth.They’re hoping to take the secure wallet game to the next level, in direct competition with storage options like Coinbase Custody.

But what about the man?

Jameson can trace both sides of his family lineage back to the late 1700’s, consisting of a rich tradition of rural farming and agriculture. He is the self-professed urban and “techie” prodigal son of his kin, having left the staunchly conservative environment of his youth to make his way into a more diversified world, via the contrasting lens of a liberal institution of higher learning. Jameson credits his “real world” experiences post-Chapel Hill with further molding his personal ethos as a libertarian before finally settling into his comfort zone as an anarcho-capitalist. Coupled with his field of study and professional path after college, an eventual intersection with the bubbling genesis of Satoshi Nakamoto’s brain child seemed quite the fait accompli.

NC Farm
Roots (note: not actually a Lopp family farm)

Throughout that journey, Jameson recalls that his growing attachment to and reliance upon such basic principles as the scientific method and logical reasoning continuously challenged his perception and put him at odds with many ideologies – like the religion from his past and the political or financial system(s) he had come to question as an adult. This is a personal journey that many of us are familiar with but Jameson’s unique approach begins to take shape when he refers to himself as an “equal opportunity offender” when it comes to his views these days.

Whether it is a topic like Bitcoin scalability or Second Amendment rights, Jameson knows exactly what he believes in and, perhaps most importantly, why. You might not agree with him, but you won’t have to deal with a changing baseline or vanilla talking points on loan from ‘the movement’. Jameson’s thoughts are his own and he has plenty of them; what his audience does after they hear them is up to them. He bases his ideologies upon the principle of non-aggression, which…to an extent, conflicts with the pervasive behavior model for most of the world’s nation states (particularly the powerful ones). On face value, this principle might even seem to be at odds with his belief in the right to bear arms. Does this expose Jameson as a confused or misguided imposter?

Not so fast. With regards to gun control, he is quick to admit that he would completely support the idea of removing guns in totality, for everyone. Since this is simply not possible, his support of the Second Amendment stems from a drive to see an even distribution and protection of all types of power among everyone. Financial power, political power, and yes, even power of deadly force. This is a very controversial topic and it should be emphasized that it is not the intent of this article to dwell on this issue as a primary focus or give the impression that this defines Jameson anymore than his other beliefs or causes. It is one of many, but one that simultaneously demonstrates his passion for the distribution of power while also providing some insight into how he views and thinks through complicated matters.

Speaking of views and topics filled with complicated matters, he sees digital currency as a means by which some of this aforementioned power can be retained by average citizens and inherently protected from institutional abuse without risk of harm. It is the relationship between these personal beliefs and his technical acumen that has fueled his participation and advocacy in the rise of Bitcoin and other blockchain applications.

Jameson Lopp
Jameson Lopp (via www.facebook.com/jameson.lopp)

“I am striving to bring crypto-anarchy to the world,” Jameson told CRYPTO 101. He hopes for that world and its population to enjoy the activities, freedoms, and fruits of commerce and communication without the threat of third-party oversight and its potential responses to those transactions. Not surprisingly, he views Bitcoin as both an inspiration for this pursuit and a tool with which to achieve the endgame. Since Bitcoin’s beginnings in 2008, a portion of the movement’s participants viewed the currency as a means to disrupt nation state-issued currencies. Along with many others, Jameson sees these currencies (and their abuse) as contributors towards the existence of welfare states and a harmful military industrial complex.

But if it is the use of debt, taxes, and central bank manipulation of currency that serves as a mechanism for nation-state power retention, how can blockchain technology possibly hope to have an impact on that scale? Jameson sees the key value-add residing in the removal of the proverbial middle man. Most present-day services and systems rely on the convenience provided by specialized third parties but usually have to sacrifice some degree of anonymity or sovereignty (or both) in return.

For example, a bank can safeguard some of your assets from cunning thieves in a cutting-edge vault. This is highly desirable but you may not have access to those assets on a Sunday afternoon or, if the asset is fiat in an interest-bearing account, the bank is obliged to report that interest to government regulators. An average person may not necessarily have a problem with those limitations, but would they feel the same way if they lived in a country with a more volatile currency or dictatorial government? One can’t help but acknowledge that Jameson has a good point in this regard, and at least recognize the potential for blockchain technology to fill the role of today’s third-party trust system.

self bank
Who do you trust? ( via unsplash.com / @sharonmccutheon )

The practice of personal data mining and its manipulation for profit by corporations is a very hot topic right now. When considering the potential role of digital currency and blockchain technology in solutions for returning that profit to the data generators themselves, Jameson takes a macro-view and practical approach. Embracing his roots as a programmer, he sees potential in the use of these advanced networks, algorithms, and protocol for the digitalization of skills and trades. What does that mean, though?

Building upon his example, think of your craft being turned into a matrix of inputs and outputs with some decisions along the way. Uber and Lyft are seen as modern, progressive companies on the cutting edge of technology, right? But what if things were taken a step further? What if the cars were driver-less and there wasn’t a requirement for centralized administration of the system – no single point failure that could take down the whole system?

An electric autonomous car company might take in blockchain-driven customer data and be better equipped to meet the client’s needs as a clean energy transportation solution while also improving the life of their passengers through safety and productivity. The interactions could be seamlessly integrated and fair through smart contract execution.

 

Despite these highbrow concepts and ideas, Jameson is quite humble when the subject of conversation turns to his social media popularity and overall impact. He has reached the 150,000 follower plateau on Twitter and has engaged in discussions and debates with other power players like Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and early Bitcoin investor Roger Ver. But his social journey in public forums hasn’t alway been so…rosy. Jameson readily admits that he was very angry and a bit extreme in his early days as an online personality in the space, but says that he now realizes this wasn’t at all productive. Yes, he was upset with the direction of Bitcoin. He was at odds with a faction of its community and some decisions that were being made regarding the future of the network. But he became aware of the echo-chamber that he was a part of and the “negativity cycle” that it created. He decided to abandon his early approach and try instead to focus on the positive, productive aspects of what he and his constituents hoped to accomplish – mostly through education and awareness. Again, with more than 150,000 followers on twitter, you could say that his awakening and new approach has enjoyed some success.

jlopp twitter avi
@lopp

Jameson drew an interesting parallel between modern political activism and similar upheaval in the online crypto community over the years. Both scenarios usually involve a lot of passion and are motivated in part by some altruistic intentions of very intelligent and generally nice people. Unfortunately, both scenarios also have very loud, angry mob components that may sometimes join in. These groups drown out the true stakeholders and are frequently clueless when it comes to the real issues being discussed. But in Jameson’s opinion, the similarities stop there.

yelling
Modern discourse (image courtesy of theverge.com)

While activism that relies on its volume can sway political actions based on voter accountability and a natural inclination for elected officials to stay in office, Jameson reminds us that Bitcoin and other crypto asset networks just don’t work like that. Their natural attributes of distribution and consensus not only ensure the preservation of accurate data in their blockchains, but they also provide a natural impediment to change that only solidifies under pressure from activism that does not involve diplomatic discourse. The SegWit2x campaign last fall was truly a high water mark for discord and debate within the community. Regardless of one’s own view on such topics, it should be reassuring that such sweeping change, though nearly initiated, was never an absolute  given. Checks and balances, if you will.

CRYPTO 101 is grateful that Jameson took the time to speak with us. While many may disagree with him on numerous issues, he justified his positions logically during the conversation and was always willing to continue a discussion on any topic. He seems to say the things he says because he truly believes in the personal creed that he has developed over many years while living in many different environments. It’s all too rare to encounter anyone these days who can explain their beliefs and actually adjust their positions as their understanding evolves. There is no sense of a “damn the torpedoes” mentality when you peel back the layers of this self-proclaimed cypherpunk, and that should be a pleasant surprise. Most importantly, a lot of his efforts center on education – something we can all agree on and recognize that this space needs now more than ever, and for many years to come.

You can follow Jameson on twitter, medium, and (for now) facebook     


Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing, and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter, @ryanlamonica.

 

 

 

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Blockchain Applications: Facilitating Democracy in Brazil

The old adage warns us not to witness the production of two things in life: sausage and laws. I prefer bacon myself, but when it comes to the laws that govern our lives, citizens of all nations have an inherent interest in their creation and implementation – regardless of how much they might actually lay eyes upon. Unfortunately, many people don’t enjoy the privilege of civic mechanisms or legal recourse that facilitate the proposal and legislative consideration of ideas conceived by the general public. In the case of Brazil, even when such a mechanism is provided for in the constitution, logistical challenges and government corruption doom the majority of these public petitions before they begin.

Enter the possibilities of blockchain technology, where the fundamentals of a distributed ledger are being harnessed to overcome these hurdles of the past. Brazilians have a constitutional right to have their public petitions heard by Congress if they are endorsed by at least 1% of the electorate. In a diverse nation of 207 million with nearly 150 million voters and variable internet access, gathering and verifying the required signatures has been a monumental task. The results of successful petitions are even more discouraging, yielding the passage of only four laws. Without a modern method for verification, the petitioners rely upon individual legislators to adopt proposals as their own, a risky venture for both parties in a nation with a declining democratic environment. According to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Brazil’s democracy index score has fallen since 2014:

Brazil B

One of the primary computing platforms thriving in the current blockchain technology renaissance is Ethereum. Released in 2015, the Ethereum platform is open source, public and blockchain-based with high “smart contract” functionality that utilizes a global infrastructure network to thwart third party interference. Simply put, the Ethereum protocol presents itself as an ideal solution for Brazil’s need to record, preserve and independently verify data (signatures). Two innovative Brazilians recognized this potential and strengthened their collaboration and resolve during the Ethereum Foundation’s annual developers conference in Mexico last November.

Brazil A

Everton Fraga (left, Ethereum software engineer) and Ricardo Fernandes Paixao (right, Professor and Congressional economic advisor) view the use of blockchain technology as a way to finally implement the public petition provision within their nation’s constitution. A government-backed mobile application could transform the signature-gathering process from pickup trucks with crates of physical paper into a digital on-ramp into the Ethereum blockchain. Daily hashing could then attach batches of signatures to encrypted transactions with, perhaps most importantly, one-way capability for verification. At that point, the record of signatures has been permanently recorded on the distributed ledger without the need for third party verification.

The political landscape in Brazil is highly volatile amidst recent scandals that have entangled dozens of top government and business leaders. Leading up to national elections in October, many leaders are trying to establish a forward-looking agenda while considering all kinds of proposals for reform and beneficial progress, including this petition process enhancement. For now, Fraga, Paixao, and the countless Brazilians they represent must eagerly await their government’s decision and the potential impact of Ethereum blockchain technology on the democratic nature of their country.

 


 

Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

Sources:

  • The Economist: 

https://infographics.economist.com/2017/DemocracyIndex/

  • Bill Purcell Photography via Flikr:
© Bill Purcell Photographry
  • Quartz:

Brazil may write new laws with data stored on the ethereum blockchain

  • Cointelegraph:

https://cointelegraph.com/news/brazilian-government-plans-to-process-petitions-and-write-laws-on-ethereum

(header image: http://www.blockchaintechnologies.com)

 

Information Overture: Everipedia and Overhauling an Icon

As Wikipedia changed encyclopedic information, Everipedia will shake up the user-generated platform that’s quelled our curiosity since 2001.

Wikipedia has long been a staple of the web. A common top search result when your curiosity is tickled. The place you go to begin research on anything. An obligatory donation at year-end when you’re sick of looking at that obtuse plea box.

Information is what makes the web great and, unlike centralized sources of information from the past, its content is generated by anyone who wants to contribute. Wikipedia has been a stand-up example of this user-generated, diversified curation. However, it’s been slow to adapt to the changing times and depends on a disappearing model of monetization.

Enter Everipedia, the champion of creative commons that’s decentralizing every facet of information gathering, including how it supports itself financially. With a social networking feel and a sharing economy empowerment for contributors, Everipedia has quickly become the largest English encyclopedia, by content volume, in the world. Their modernized approach is poised to change the way we search, source, and cite information from the web.

Why?

While Wikipedia is an amazing resource and has continually become more and more reliable, now often being thought of as a reliable, citable source – it’s also a centralized conglomerate that determines what information is published. Though it laid the foundation for spreading information by enlisting it’s users, it also put a politically correct filter on nearly everything that’s published. As a passionate lover of Wikipedia, yearly supporter, and occasional contributor it feels odd to be saying anything negative about my most frequently visited website – but that’s before I understood how much better it could be. That’s before I realized that the site has looked exactly the same for decades (save for larger donation pop-ups).

The truth is, Wikipedia needs competition in order to remain relevant. Everipedia intends to do this and more. Not only competing directly with Wikipedia but subverting their model of information gathering/curating as well as their support system. Everipedia’s founders Sam Kazemian and Theodor Forselius are setting out to encourage a different way forward, a world where those who consume and provide the information share in the value of it. This model intends to bring the money to the surface and make it an integral part of everyday use of the platform, instead of an afterthought.

Print isn’t dead, it’s just a lot different

Everipedia embraces the changes publishing has experienced in recent decades. Look around at the rest of the web – anyone can post anything they want. No doubt the downside is ‘fake news’ but the upside is collective collaboration that forces transparency. Kind of the same way cryptocurrencies and ICO’s are subverting institutions that control who, when, and how people can invest their money.

With a clean, non-technical editing system that allows structural changes along with content and a tokenized system to reward contributors and editors coming soon – Everipedia is ushering a new wave of authority that is completely decentralized. Shucking the negatives of publishing gatekeepers and giving control back to the contributors will revolutionize information gathering, prioritizing, and consumption.

But wait, what about those trolls?

Turns out not everything you read online is true. While this might come as a shock, some people want you to believe their agenda and they are willing to lie to make that a reality. Of course Everipedia has thought about this and is simply applying a collaborative approach to subvert false information. And hopefully you’re thinking blockchain at this point because that’s exactly what the founders thought. Why not leverage blockchain to secure and solidify information with verifications from the community?

“Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a damn thing. Knowledge is information-in-context…connecting the dots.”  -Michael Ventura

As they move their entire editing and information storage system to the EOS blockchain, they are developing tokenized governance alluded to earlier. While I’d love to dig deeper into how this will work, we don’t know just yet how that will look. Once we do, so will you – as this project is near and dear to the Crypto 101 family’s heart. Really anyone in cryptoland should be interested in this because it is true to the core values of what many of us believe. Free and open access with free and open contribution; blockchain for a better world.

Save us from the tabbit hole

The tabbit hole is the endless string of new tabs opened when learning about a new topic. The ones that help with the jargon and background necessary to feel conversational about something. On Everipedia, simple pop-outs on each hyperlink, when scrolled over, give a brief overview of the referenced item, providing a better learning (and user) experience. It might seem simple, or nominal, but the curious learners among us will greatly appreciate this – to the point that using Wikipedia has instantly become an experience, and preference, of the past.

 

Everipedia is taking the wide world of information by storm, garnering support from Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger who now serves as Chief Information Officer for Everipedia. If that’s not enough to believe in this project and change your information-gathering browsing habits, then perhaps you’re a beneficiary of Wikipedia – oh wait, you can’t be – yet another reason to love Everipedia.

Vote from Your Phone: Decentralizing Decisions for the Betterment of Democracy

Massive population growth makes individual participation difficult to manage and has become dangerously close to discouraged at times. Blockchain has the potential to rapidly reverse this anti-democratic trend and pave a better way forward.

Ancient democracies were, in many ways, more true to the individual empowerment ideals that the form of government is originally modeled upon. Massive population growth makes individual participation difficult to manage and has become dangerously close to discouraged at times. Blockchain has the potential to rapidly reverse this anti-democratic trend and pave a better way forward.Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 7.33.14 AM.png

In many governments, and organizations, representative democracies create a buffer between decisions that directly impact the population and the people whom they affect. Boulé intends to bring the power back to the people and provide a secure voting platform, leveraging innovations in the blockchain.

Boulé is a decentralized voting platform built on the blockchain to retain accuracy through unique identities. Named after a Greek system of representation – an advisory group of people selected, or appointed, in ancient times who helped local authorities make decisions for their communities – fitting in its ancient understanding of democratic ideals, i.e. participation of the population.

“We are living a second age of the internet and we are able to create any kind of application using [the consensus] of the blockchain, which will encourage more people to take action.” ~Claudio Perlini, CEO of Boulé

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 7.36.07 AMAs participation is crucial to a healthy democracy, this technology has the ability to facilitate involvement through incredible convenience. Imagine avoiding the polls completely and voting from your mobile phone. Imagine being able to participate in decisions from Presidential elections down to whether your road will be paved and how much of your tax money will be allocated to it.

Secure and accurate voting is essential to this process. Moreover making it easy for the individual to put in their opinion on a rolling basis with unparalleled convenience will completely transform large-scale decision making. Not only decentralizing the ways democratic decisions are made, but decentralizing the way the decisions are collected. Truly creating a new way forward for governments and organizations around the world.

Moving closer to the participatory democratic ideals of the past with innovative approaches in the digital space will likely change the way elections and decisions are made. Whether a single-voter system for governmental decisions or fractional, percentage-based systems for companies, decentralized voting gives the power back to the people. Be a part of the change and voice your opinion through the blockchain!

Ross Ruffing, lead writer @ Crypto 101