Data Dash & Ben Goertzel | Bitcoin at a Crossroad: Evolve or Die


Hi, everyone, I’m Giovanni, welcome to our
show. Today, we are going to talk about artificial
intelligence, blockchain and how these technologies can determine humanity’s future. I am thrilled to announce our guests. Prominent YouTuber and trader Nicholas Mertens
aka DataDash and Dr. Ben Goertzel, AI scientist and CEO at SingularityNet, a blockchain-based
AI marketplace. Thank you guys for joining us. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you. I want to remind our audience that both Ben
and Nicholas will be guests at Blockshow in Singapore on the 14th and 15th of November. For all those who aren’t aware, Blockshow
is one of the most important conferences on blockchain and crypto. And this year, there will be an amazing lineup
of speakers. We bring you very exciting content from there,
so stay tuned. Now let’s get started. So, Ben, in a recent interview with Joe Rogan,
you said privacy is pretty much dead nowadays. Can you explain what exactly did you mean
by that? In the modern world, with the exception of
perhaps a handful of people, you know, living in a log cabin in the Alaskan wilderness on
the mountain in the wilds of Ethiopia for essentially everyone in today’s world most
of what I do throughout the day is logged in the various electronic devices, and an
awful lot of that is then being stockpiled and searched through by at very least, government
intelligence agents. These in many cases commercial entities looking
to mining the data for advertising and other purposes. And this is the way it is right now. China has been most systematic in sort of
correlating all the data about everyone in China from different media into one database. But I mean, in the end, in the West, we have
big companies stuck on this data. And then behind the scenes, these companies
are cooperating with intelligence agencies. So, I mean, this is where we’re going. Now, Europe has GDPR and is making more of
a push against this in some ways. But I would place a bet if you looked at the
information at the disposal of European intelligence agencies, you’re going to find it’s essentially
the same stuff. Well, I know it’s supposed to be a crypto
duel, but I have to say, I kind of agree with Ben on this. It seems not only that governments have enforced
that privacy will be irrelevant in the 21st century, but people have kind of generally
consented to it to some degree. And as someone like myself, who is a privacy
bug, for a reason that, you know, we shouldn’t have every single thing we do track and trace. At the same time, I think there can be room
for a tax free benefit people. So this is why I would say if a user consents
at the end of the day for a company like Amazon or Google or Facebook to collect their data,
and in many ways they can not only be able to separate their identity from the advertisers
who are collecting that information, but along with that as well, you can provide a service
where I actually get to receive some of that income. I actually want my data collection too much. I really hope over the next few years we start
to build new incentive structures for people to be transparent when it’s required. The systems that we have don’t work at really
catching the people who are trying to avoid the system. We obviously see much like, for example, when
we try to censor drugs in the United States and we also try to censor criminals laundering
money or financing terrorism. They don’t really capture people and they
actually penalize a lot of individuals who aren’t just acting everyday in their normal
lives. Yeah, that’s very, very sensible. I mean, it’s not as though we don’t have the
technology to enable privacy. If that were desirable, I mean, there’s plenty
of efficient encryption technology, you know, we could have a case where you had end to end encryption, the video and text and voice and so forth. So the only way someone was going to violate
your privacy was, you know, at the end of the barrel of a gun. And that’s technologically possible now. It’s not what’s being deployed now. And in practice, most humans don’t care and
they’re not willing to pay a little more or undergo slightly more inconvenience to have
more privacy. What we have now is diminution of privacy. But we have a few powerful entities who are watching
everyone and then using the day they get to pull the puppet strings and the crypto world
doesn’t escape that. Like who’s pulling the puppet strings of Bitcoin
and Ethereum. I mean, there’s a lot of layers here. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s clear
that, you know, the pervasive data is being used to perpetuate and increase many inequalities
of power in the world today. Yes. So, Ben, that’s very interesting because I
remember that in the latest interview you said that, yeah, you are aware that people
are spying on you like governments and other kind of a centralized organization, but you
still don’t care because you don’t have anything to hide. How do you make these work with what you just
said about. I mean, as a pragmatic matter, I mean, I’m
not engaged in politics. You know, there is no country on the planet
that’s run the way I would run it if I were in charge. So it’s not like I’m happy with everybody’s
party, but I’m choosing not to engage in that level of activity now, because I think that
building different sorts of decentralized information that works, they’re sort of off
to the side of politics is actually what can drive humanity and toss humanity toward a
better future. Just like the Internet didn’t come about because
of politics. Linux didn’t, the mobile phone industry didn’t, these came about to the side of politics,
right. And these are the things that are really driving
the next stages of evolution, the political gamesmanship can just continue and then the
real source of evolutionary progress is other than that. Mark Zuckerberg was recently questioned by
the U.S. Congress on a number of issues, among which Libra – Facebook’s controversial cryptocurrency
project. There are more than a billion people around
the world who don’t have access to a bank account, but could through mobile phones if
the right system existed. And that includes more than 14 million people
right here in the U.S. Being shut out of the financial system has
real consequences for people’s lives. And it’s often the most disadvantaged people
who pay the highest price. I believe that this problem can be solved
and Libra can help. Bill forgot to answer it, but let’s be clear. You’re going to be making powerful burglary
tools and letting your business partners commit the burglary. Nicholas, you said you were disgusted by the
quality of the questions that were posed to Zuckerberg, which share a lack of concern
for actual progress. Why were you disgusted? Yeah, so I’ll start off by making it very
clear, because I don’t want people to have any misconceptions. I’m not the biggest fan of Libra and along
with that I really don’t even see Libra as a cryptocurrency because I believe a cryptocurrency
should never have the potential vulnerability of having your account frozen or having someone
else be able to freeze or track transactions to that kind of degree. But when it comes to the case of Mark Zuckerberg
testifying before Congress, I think we saw very clearly over the few hours that he spent
testifying there, spending a good chunk of his day to actually talk about trying to innovate
and push finance forward, that congressional representatives that we duly elected have
no concern for expanding across the financial board of improving technologies, improving
past the old outdated payment networks from the 1970s like Swift and actually trying to
reduce the ridiculous wire transfer fees, the overdraft fees and the sheer lack of competition
that we don’t have in the financial sector, all right. So this is something that I feel really concerned
about. As much as I don’t think Libra is the solution,
I think it’s going to come in the form of decentralized currencies and stablecoins. I think at the end of the day, I would like
to have Facebook and the other cooperating companies in Libra and the Association to
actually have a fighting chance. I don’t believe in trying to censor other
people. It would be ironic for me to do that because
cryptocurrencies are founded in a permissionless nature. It’s about everyone equally having an opportunity
to compete and build the best system possible. Ben, what do you think? Did you have the same reaction to looking
at the Congress session? I mean, there was a song by Elvis Costello
in probably the 80s. I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be
amused. I think that’s sort of summarizes it. I mean, it’s what you would call a shitshow,
right? It’s just a complete joke. You have this huge company whose greatest
claim to fame was violating everyone’s privacy in a ridiculous way and being used by the
Russians to manipulate U.S. elections and programming people’s minds for the most idiotic
sorts of consumerism and fake news. And now this company wants to dominate the
world payment system. And by paying $10 million, it can be a node
in this network. I mean, you couldn’t make this up, right,
it’s ridiculous. And I think it has no chance of success, because
I think the leaders in the developing world don’t want Facebook to supplant their currency. I mean, if you’re the president of India or
Ethiopia or Philippines, you don’t really want some U.S. company to be sort of taking
the place of your national currency per transaction. I sort of wish it grows out and then failed. I was a little disappointed when it seems
like it’s going to be squashed because I figured like Libra coming out with a bang, then having
some horrible privacy scandal, which will be inevitable and failing in a huge mushroom
cloud disaster would might accelerate progress towards something really good. Okay, so basically make them try and then
let them fail. We’re not going to make them try. But I certainly agree, U.S. government has
no reason to stop them from trying. But I just think the world doesn’t want that,
right. And the world is probably correct not to want
that. One thing to add there, I think then the point
you made about competitive currencies across the world under national governments. I don’t think they’ll ever want to give up
that restraint. I mean, if you were to think, for example,
the places that really need this like Argentina, the thing is, I mentioned on my channel why
Libra was most likely to fail us for that reason. If you think of it, Argentina or Venezuela,
where this is most needed, they will, on a dime, block any Libra wallet from the app
store from their country, cutting out that kind of adoption. And I think that it’s going to be one of the
biggest difficulties for a company like Facebook that has so much of a presence and is so well
known to actually try to penetrate those markets where a stable currency would be very beneficial. Ben, you previously claimed that the biggest
risk for AI is that machines that are smarter than humans will eventually be controlled
by big corporations or governments. So how can blockchain help preventing that? Yeah, I think there’s a lot of potential risks
associated with AI. And once you get AIs that are 100 times smarter
than people, there’s probably many risks. We’re too stupid to think of now, right. But I mean, in the shorter term, it’s pretty
clear that having AIs of, let’s say, roughly human level intelligence, which are, however,
controlled by saying advertising company or a large bank, I mean, it’s pretty clear that
this a) is going to lead to some bad things in the immediate term as these entities with
their selfish, narrow ends leverage the world’s smartest AI and b) as the AI owned by these
military or corporate organizations moves toward general intelligence, I mean, what
sort of mindset is it going to have? You’re going to have like an advertising agent
or a killer robot or a Wall Street, you know, shader trader or investment banker with a
hundred times human intelligence. I mean, this is probably not what we want. Blockchain is really one of the tools that
can be useful for combating this. I mean, what you need is a technology that
enables a network of software programs and hardware devices involved in a global probably
distribute AI system. You need all the hardware and software agents
involved in this system to be cooperating to control this overall dynamic network without
a centralized hub. And I mean, the key reason you need that is,
in essence, political. And then in the broad sense, it means to do
the embedding of this network in society as a whole. Because if there’s no centralized hub, there’s
no one that can be locked in jail. There is no one that could be put out of business. There’s no one that can be bought out with
a billion dollar offer, right. So you have something that is resilient. It’s resilient to the various pressures that
society as a whole can or the power elite in various parts of society, including the
network that threatens to change things in an undesired way. Nicholas, do you have any specific opinion
about that? Can blockchain help AI or vice versa? Can AI help blockchain technology? I mean, in terms of future development. Yeah, I think in the case of what Ben’s putting
forward and I actually kind of agree with him on this, is that in order to make sure
that we can have some sense of democratization with something as powerful as AI, or at least
if we get to a stage of artificial general intelligence, then in that case. So we definitely want to have it where there
would be at least be some sense of decentralization, where people would be able to get access to
that freely, where it’s not in the control of a few select entities. I think in that case, you’re going to have
at least more of a sense of openness by being able to have it on some form of blockchain. And again, as has been mentioned, having it
resilient in this case, so that, again, something can’t shut it down in this case. It’s not just one entity that owns it, right. So I think that’s going to really let the
technology itself flourish. And blockchain again, as much as I think blockchain
is kind of killer application is focusing on finance in this case, being able to make
something resilient or censorship resistant is where blockchain and a good consensus mechanism
can actually provide a lot of value. Bitcoin’s original vision is to give people
full control of their own money through a decentralized system. However, new digital currencies are being
developed by centralized entities ranging from corporations such as Facebook to state
actors like China. So is their original vision of a decentralized,
privacy focused, widespread digital currency still possible or it is kind of dying? I think I could probably put a good remark
on this. I would say that I have no issue, as I mentioned,
and I think that I agree, no matter how centralized or decentralized, everyone should have the
opportunity to try to build one of these systems. But the problem is, is that the more centralized
you tend to get when it comes to the team or the contributors of these projects, you
tend to find that there is an equal amount of control by those centralized entities. And as we talked about Libra, the idea of
Libra is that there could potentially be some, you know, potential behind the project. But the problem is, is that they say, oh,
we’re going to become a permissionless network a few years down the line. We need to have, as has been was alluding
to these big nodes, in this case, that are actually operating and putting these investments
up front. And it can make sense on the surface, but
the problem with that is that you are putting your trust in centralized actors. It would be as if JPMorgan, Bank of America
and a dozen other banks came together and built a permission network where they are
the only ones who get to validate transactions. So it goes against what Bitcoin offers. The value of Bitcoin is knowing that there
are thousands of nodes and miners out there that have an economic incentive to act in
the better interest of the network, to propagate transactions and to be able to earn the reward
for doing so. And I think that that simple model of turning
electricity into security has worked extremely well. Proof-of-stake as well has worked quite nice
because you have a stake in the network as well. But these consensus mechanisms do not rely
on centralized institutions. It is a vast network of different nodes participating
in economics, a certain economic set of behavior. Yeah, but still, Bitcoin is lacking scalability
and there are still problems regarding adoption, mass adoption. So there is no decentralized cryptocurrency
at the moment, which managed to create… There was no Internet before there was one. I mean, of course, it isn’t quite early days
for cryptocurrency and blockchain and related technologies. So I have zero doubt that the goal of extremely
rapid, scalable, decentralized, secure payment and currency framework for both store of value
and transmission value. This is technically possible. And I mean Bitcoin and Ethereum fell fairly
egregiously achieving this on a technical basis in their current forms. And then they also fail at being decentralized
in practice. I mean, as economies each of them is controlled
evidently by a pretty small number of actors who manipulate most of those markets. But these are sort of early like working prototypes
of a whole new field of technology. And so the question isn’t whether that can
be built. Now, the question isn’t even whether it will
be built, because I’m sure it will be built by many brilliant developers in the space. The question is, once something that really
meets that requirement is built, whether as a new version of Lightning Network or Ethereum
or some completely different basis when that is eventually built, will people bother to
adopt it? Will they be just be brainwashed, so to speak,
into using centralized solutions? Just as people now don’t care about giving
all their data to large corporations and governments. I mean, if people don’t care that their payment
methods that they’re using are basically owned and controlled by governments and companies,
which gives these entities great power over their lives. If people don’t care, then once we get to
that really scalable, rapid, decentralized payment solution, it won’t matter and it won’t
get penetration. And that’s a highly non-trivial risk, I would
say. The real issue is actually getting people
to adopt crypto. And I think the biggest kind of, I guess,
mishap as a community that we’ve had out of the last decade is that we focus so much on
how great blockchain is without actually trying to make it digestible and usable for users. So, for example, take the world of wallets,
for example, wallets have really been built for the 1% of people who are actively involved
and want to learn about crypto. It’s the same thing about privacy is as you’re
alluding to earlier, Ben, so little people will care about these elements. So what I think we need to do for cryptocurrencies
by not only providing a better experience, both in the user experience on the design,
but also on the functionality. We need to make wallets feel like you’re operating
through a bank. But even better, it needs to be a new age
bank in the sense where people can actually digest using the platform and extract the
utility that you get. I mean, there are earning pools in crypto
space now where you can earn 50 to 100 times the interest rate, what you get in your savings
account, you can send money across the world for nearly free or few pennies at the max. And I think that that’s the kind of utility,
when you sell that to someone, you don’t have to explain how Ethereum works or how Bitcoin
works, it just works. Yes, so it was actually a curiosity from my
side to know. Ben, do you hold any cryptocurrencies? Yeah, I mean, I have some Bitcoin, some Ethereum,
some tokens from Ocean Protocol, for example. I’ve never sold any. So I just hold everything I got, and I’m not
a trader. I mean, I bought some tokens in things that
I thought had some fundamental value, even if they’re very early stage. And then you just wait and see how the world
evolves. I mean, I think, not to say that you can’t
make money crypto trading, obviously, I know many who have and there may be strategies
that work and just being engaged with other stuff. We recently have been at Sibos in London,
where we talk to many people from the traditional finance world who are very excited about the
potential use of blockchain technology and AI for disrupting supply chain and other industries. But most of them were less enthusiastic about
the future of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. So why do you think there is this kind of
distrust towards cryptocurrencies compared to blockchain as a technology? I think that the requirements for which Bitcoin
was created are not the requirements of today. I mean, it’s a brilliant design having this
replicated ledger because it means if you have like five guys in the world in the network
and three of them get hit by a bus, then the whole thing will keep propagating, right. So I mean, if you want to create this currency
framework, which serves as a store of value, starting from nothing with very few users
and users may go offline and come back online after years or something, right. So the design meets those requirements quite
brilliantly. On the other hand, if your requirements are
well, we have millions, tens, hundreds of millions of users. Most of them are online all the time. They’re doing an insane number of transactions. I mean, this is a fundamentally different
set of requirements than what Bitcoin was made for. We’re going to end up going back to basics
and creating entirely new decentralized protocols. I’ve been working a bit with the guys from
the TODA.Network, Toufi Saliba and Dann Toliver. They’re trying just to start all over. No replicated ledger, no distributed ledger. These two have decentralized secure messaging
platforms, no centralized control. It’s sort of like you shard all the way down
and each TODA node, each unique object that you communicate with has its own history in
it and which guys it transact with but you don’t need to store copy of ledgers all over. I’m not here to show TODA. I’m just pointing that out, that’s an example
of just taking a fresh start and saying, well, we have totally different requirements now
because we can assume we have scale, but we also have the need for speed. So, I mean, I think these guys are right. Not to one use Bitcoin or Ethereum, but they
should probably use Hyperledger either. The bottom line is we don’t have yet the infrastructure
that really meets the needs of these corporate customers in the way that, say, Oracle or
my sequel meets the database needs as the corporate customers. But that’s because it’s early days. In two to four years, we probably will. And there’s a whole bunch of projects from
different directions working on that. Yeah, I think to build on your comments, but
I think you actually make a really good point that at least a lot of the current existing
blockchains for enterprise are going to have a lot of competition over the next few years
because for those enterprise use cases like supply chain, like he pointed out, Bitcoin
doesn’t add much value to the supply chain system. I mean, the only value it can add is that
you could maybe send a wire across the world of Bitcoin. But then after that, you’re either buying
Bitcoin on one and you’re selling it on the other. And so you’re just using it for the transmission. So doesn’t mean that really there’s much of
a demand for Bitcoin in the long term. But there is a demand, I believe, I think
for protocols like Bitcoin and possibly Ethereum with the DEFI movement in the sense of acting
as a store of value for retail clients. So for everyday people, right, for people
in developing countries and also here in the Western world, we’ve seen that the banking
system can be unstable. We saw what happened in 2008. So I think that systems like Bitcoin provide
a hedge. And right now they’re seen more as a speculative
digital collectible in a sense. But over time, I think as the market evolves,
as you get more users, as you make it easier for people to have access to Bitcoin and become
their own bank. I think that owning a fraction of Bitcoin
will start to act as a hedge, a store of value, where if there is a fiat currency collapse
of some sort in some currency, whether it’s as large as the dollar or a smaller currency
like the Argentinian peso, it’s something that if you had 5%-10% in your portfolio,
you’re able to hedge your losses of your traditional currency over time. So that’s where I think the services, it’s
not for businesses. Businesses would much rather operate in stablecoins,
something that actually has a relative value to a world reserve currency and for the actual
corporate use cases of blockchain, it’s going to come very much in the form of what you
talked about, Ben, which is a blockchain can scale much larger and actually compete with
databases and other traditional systems. So, Nicholas, a lot of people are watching
your YouTube content, looking for trading advice, they are very much attracted from
the speculative side of blockchain technology. Did you see any evolution in your audience
interests as the crypto space evolved? And do you think people are still too much
focused on the prize while missing the bigger picture we were talking about? Giovanni, I’m glad you asked this question. It’s probably one of the most important questions
to ask, I think in the YouTube space. Yes, I’ve seen an absolute change, at least
for my channel. But the issue that I see with so many people
in the crypto space is that many got in obviously because of price and there’s nothing wrong
with that. But if you’re too focused on the short term
moves of Bitcoin and you don’t focus on the long term evolution and this next phase of
money, then you’re going to miss out on the longer term potential and might get caught
up in the shorter term moves. I’ll give it a good example. Over the last few months, we were in a bear
market over this summer and into the early part of this fall in 2019, and Bitcoin went
down about 47%. Many people thought Bitcoin was a dead technology,
they thought it was over, that this experiment of monetary policy was completely done for. And a matter of a week later, once I started
to hear so many people were selling their Bitcoin, giving up on this revolution, we
see a 42% rise. So what’s the summary in this point? It’s to understand that we are in a fraction
of a percentage of individuals that know about this technology, who truly understand it,
have some correlation or ownership to it. And if you’re gonna be in this market early
on, you have to have that long term vision and not get caught up in the short term swings. There’s a lot of potential in this space,
whether it’s just for Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Most people in the cryptocurrency space are
thinking just much of our audience. I would say there is an awful lot of fixation
on ups and downs and price of various coins and tokens. And I mean, of course, we each have our own
personal lives. And if someone puts a lot of their money into
something they’re going to be paying attention to its ups and downs. But in the end, this is a bit like looking
at the fluctuation of temperature each day and going apoplectic over like rising and
falling of the thermometer or something, because there’s going to be ups and downs on many
different scales and you can fix it on those if you want. But there is much more fundamental processes
that are happening here. And we want to look at how what’s happening
in the crypto and blockchain where all couples with not only AI, but there are all these
other technologies that are advancing so rapidly. And there are many, many interconnections. You know, I have, from an investment standpoint,
which is not my area of expertise, but if you went back to the .com era and I’m old
enough to have been through the .com boom and bust, it was very hard to take back then,
which internet companies were going to do what you’re going to find out which you would
somehow managed to just invest across the board and a large number of random internet
companies, you would have made a shitload of money by now because some of them would
have become you. And in the same way, if you could place a
bet on the whole blockchain and crypto space, just randomly a bunch of different projects
doing cool things. I mean, you would be tremendously successful,
in my view, 5 to 10 years from now, because it’s clear that the space has a very critical
role to play in the next stages of human and technological evolution. And none of us can guess exactly which project
is going to succeed. But the ideas and technologies being dropped
across these projects and these are going to be a huge part of the future. Yeah, I guess that’s people that get discouraged
looking at their crushing price of Bitcoin miss a bit of this much larger picture of
human evolution and technology advancement. So it was an incredible discussion. Thanks again, guys, for being with us. Giovanni, it’s a pleasure, thank you, man. Yeah, yeah, thanks for having us, it’s a fun
conversation.

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