Andreas Antonopoulos is a well-known bitcoin (BTC) educator and crypto commentator, as well as a security and decentralized systems expert. His 2014 book, Mastering Bitcoin, gave an in-depth technical analysis of the top cryptocurrency and a solid foundation of the crypto revolution’s beginnings.
In a recent interview, CryptoNewspeople spoke with Antonopoulos on what he believes is the future of blockchain’s social impact, what’s going on with the current crypto market volatility, and what is still missing in the crypto space.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Crypto market volatility: a problem or an inevitable fact?
Molly Jane Zuckerman: In your opinion, is the recent volatility in the crypto markets a positive development for overall crypto adoption?
Andreas Antonopoulos: Volatility is an inevitable fact that arises from the small size and limited liquidity of crypto markets at the moment. When it’s downward volatility, it creates panicked sentiment and losses. When it’s upward volatility, it creates a wave of fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) investors with very little understanding of the technology fundamentals or principles.
Fortunately, some of those investors stay through the cycle and try to learn more about the technology, building a more solid foundation of users for the next cycle.
This cyclical boom-bust pattern is part of the behavior of this technology and has now repeated more than 8 times in the last 10 years. It is dangerous for inexperienced investors, but it also provides the funding needed to develop each stage of infrastructure and technology. Caveat emptor!
MZ: What are concrete developments that you feel the Bitcoin blockchain needs in order to be more widely adopted?
AA: As new technology is developed at the protocol layer, it does not get adopted until it can be presented in a clear, unambiguous, secure and easy-to-use way as a user interface and user experience. This happens at the product/application design layer and it is where the greatest development is needed. The open blockchain space in general needs more design and creative people, not more software engineers.
Blockchain’s adoption and social impact
MZ: What, in your opinion, went wrong and what went well in the blockchain and crypto industry in the last year? Do you think we are closer to blockchain adoption now than we were a year ago?
AA: In bitcoin, the scaling debate has quieted down, as “forks” have given everyone a choice to pursue any scaling strategy they want. Unfortunately, this has created some confusion as more than one “fork” attempt to use the same name. In the end, the choice is up to users and the name is not as important as the rules of consensus each user chooses to follow.
In other open blockchains, the scaling debates are just beginning, as they encounter the same growing pains as bitcoin did in the last 3 years. Every blockchain will face these issues, despite claims to the contrary. Scaling requires deliberate design tradeoffs, against decentralization and security.
Many open blockchains try to claim they have solved this trilemma but they’re either lying or are unaware of the tradeoffs they have made to gain scalability. In this space, maturity and growth bring new challenges in scaling and eventually governance. All blockchains will face those challenges once they become big enough to matter.
MZ: What is the social impact you personally expect from blockchain technology in the years to come?
AA: The primary impact I see is open and disintermediated platforms and protocols for finance and governance. These can be incredibly empowering, especially for people who have limited access to financial services.
The lack of financial inclusion is not a “bug” of the traditional financial system. It’s a direct result of the regulatory architecture and the intermediaries policies.
An increasingly global world needs neutral, open and borderless finance and governance systems. Open public blockchains will provide those, even against the extreme discomfort, opposition and interference of nation states and corporations. The world needs this too much and the technology itself cannot be un-invented or stopped.