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Craig Wright goes ‘full billionaire mode’ and doesn’t care what you think: The Modern Consensus Interview

The man many believe to be Satoshi Nakamoto opens up to Modern Consensus

Craig Wright

Craig Wright Skyping with Modern Consensus’ Brendan Sullivan. Note the suit of armor.

On November 15, 2018 the biggest names in crypto will square off over how Bitcoin Cash (BCH) will operate going forward. While it’s not surprising that Dr. Craig Wright would step into the ring: it is surprising that he would Skype with us for the afternoon and let us ask anything we wanted.

Since Satoshi Nakamoto released the original Bitcoin white paper in 2008, arguably no one has been more involved than Wright. Many documents show that if Nakamoto does exist, then he worked closely with Wright both before and after the launch. But if Nakamoto does not exist, then he might be a creation of Wright and/or his early partners. Wright won’t say either way and the last time news of him as Nakamoto leaked, his home in Australia got raided by the tax authorities. So he has little incentive either way.

One thing is for certain: Wright is still involved with Bitcoin, specifically BCH which he often reminds folks: “Bitcoin Cash is Bitcoin.” If he really were the elusive founder of Bitcoin, then surely he wouldn’t have to worry about the day to day operations of a decentralized system. And yet this week he has declared war on Jihan Wu’s Bitmain and the conspiracy to change how BCH gets mined. Either everything you read on crypto-Ponzi chat sites is wrong or Wright is onto something.

Wright often gets referred to as “prickly” by the crypto press, but we had quite a nice conversation with him. We covered the basics of the hash war, but also found time to chat about Adam Smith, wine collecting and, briefly, his suits of armor.

 

Modern Consensus: Jeez, what a wild week for crypto.

Craig Wright: What we’re seeing right now is just prefork paranoia. Basically, the way Bitcoin is designed to work is the problem with the cap. Bitcoin should be the base system and everything else gets built on top of that. When we start the game, the rules don’t change halfway through. People don’t understand how critical that is.

 

You’re something of a libertarian. In choosing a side in the hard fork, is that what you would call societies working on their own?

I’m stepping in because this could have dramatic effects down the line. Take something like smart contracts, they’re not really all that legal. Code is not law. Law is law. Just because you have a smart contract no one cares. A court can overturn it. In the case of real property, you need the blockchain in a mortgage to last 25 years. But code can change over 25 years. So what happens to the smart contract locked up in that code? Part of the problem is that the moronic idea that code is law. We’re starting to see the SEC realize that blockchain means nothing. The peer-to-peer is you and I doing a transaction. I hand you cash. Bitcoin allowed us to do an IP-to-IP transaction.

 

But we are still in the early stages here.

Bitcoin is not outside the state. It’s sound money. Technology is irrelevant to fungibility. If my coin came from something that is traced back to gambling, who cares? It doesn’t matter where it came from. If you’re talking ZCash or Monero with privacy, the fact that it is privacy sourced means you lose the ability to use it as money. It is basically an illegal token for illegal goods.

 

So part of your defense is in keeping Bitcoin as money within the law?

Money acts within the law. If you believe in money, then you believe in law. If everyone has their own version of law and if no one says fraud is bad, then you don’t have society.

 

Why shouldn’t Bitcoin Cash be open for changes? Everything else in crypto looks much different than it did in 2008.

Capitalism is not about greed. Any business can be greedy. If you look at Nazi ideals, they are the business form of socialism. Capitalism is a form of businesses and trade. Where people have self interest is in long term investment. We’re looking at things like our families and communities. That’s what capitalism is all about, not about the short term.

 

Ah, so much of crypto is people trying for short-term gains, which they hope to hold in a fiat bank account.

And it is still nothing. They are going to have huge problems with their pump and dump schemes going forward. I’ve seen it before. In the ‘90s—even in 1996—we had freeipos.com and webpaper.com. Tokens are nothing new. We’ve always had toilet paper value tokens popping out. Do you realize the value of Nasdaq peak? The entire crypto market at peak is only 19 percent of the Nasdaq just before it collapsed. We are small. We are not being considered. People look at billions. They are not going to really get off their ass until it gets to real carnage.

 

Nasdaq Composite Index

The Nasdaq Composite Index in all its glory (via Google).

 

Then let’s talk capitalism. What happens on Tuesday if you win but the ABC people can get miners more money and people switch?

There’s nothing from stopping that from happening now anyway. ABC enables proof-of-stake sidechains. But BCH is already giving miners 31 percent less than BTC. I don’t want to see Bitcoin just becoming gas for Vitalek.

 

I do enjoy watching you and Ethereum Founder Vitalek Buterin duke it out online.

I guess I benefit from having what you’d call “Fuck You Money.” Some people have the lazy idea that that means private jets to the beaches and catered parties. I have that. But all that’s just the lazy idea of Fuck You Money. This is what the money is for: to have the ability to turn your ideas into a reality. I don’t have to think, “Oh, I wonder if I got funding for this idea or that if it could be successful.” I’ll just do it. And I’ll hire the best people to do it.

 

So money is not—

I have all that. I’ve got the wine cellar and the private jet. I’ve got a 1944 Patek worth half a million.

 

I had to Google that. You mean you own a Patek Phillipe wristwatch from 1944? Like the one that sold for $5.7 million?

Yes. So when a company comes up against us and talks about how they’re going to throw up a legal challenge costing us $9,000 per hour, bring it on! We can spend $10 million a day and not worry. You wanna spend $1,000 an hour fighting us? Good. We only have to spend $1001.

 

There’s a phrase I can’t imagine using, but I’ve seen you use on Twitter. That you will go “Full Billionaire Mode.” What does that mean to you?

Haha. It just means not worrying about what other people will think. I have the ability to execute quicker on projects.

I’ve heard you on Twitter talking about how the original Bitcoin protocol from 2008 will prevail, but it’s the internet around it that will change. Criticizing Bitcoin today is like criticizing the internet in 1989. You said it’ll change when we have bigger bandwidth, fatter pipes. When do you think that will come?

It’s here now. We can currently run the entirety of the internet through a single fiber. It’s here. But it’s just not ubiquitous yet. People always refer to Moore’s Law saying capacity will double at a regular rate. But look at the proliferation of microchips since then. It used to be that not everyone had a computer. But then those who did got faster computers. Then 10 years ago, not everyone had a tablet or a smartphone. Now you can’t buy a TV without a computer inside of it. They come preloaded with YouTube and Amazon. What’s the effect of that going to be in 10 years when every single item we operate has a working computer inside?

 

I also do enjoy your tweets about wine and wine collecting. If you’re victorious on November 15, do you have a bottle saved for the occasion?

I have a special vintage of Champagne in mind.

 

Like a nice 1990? It doesn’t get much nicer than that.  

No. I was thinking a 2008.

 

I don’t know much about the 2008s.

It’s not about the vintage, so much as the year.

 

Oh! I get it. You’re celebrating going back to the way things originally were in 2008. Because they’ve only gotten better in 10 years, like a fine wine. I get it now. Sorry. Blame that on our Skype connection.

I’ve also got a nice bottle of Armagnac from 1888.

 

Okay, wait. Let me guess—1888 was the year Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King came out.

Don’t read to much into that one. It’s a nice bottle and a nice round number.

 

Do you end up dealing with a lot of grail-hunter types? Most agree you are either Satoshi Nakamoto or the last person who knows who really is.

Haha! Yes, I deal with it a lot. And I deal with people who think they have a right to know. And guess what? They don’t.

[Editor’s note: Modern Consensus currently has no opinion on the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.]

 

I guess if you wanted people to know you were Satoshi Nakamoto, you would tell them. But for these grail-hunter types, they’re almost like hackers trying to find a weakness, trying to outsmart Satoshi Nakamoto.

They want to be famous for finding a famous guy. I’d rather they spent their time building something else. I know I will.

 

It’s a funny thing. These crypto CEOs tell every waitress in Vegas the no-name shitcoin they run. But Satoshi Nakamoto created this new empire and no one has even seen a picture of him. I confess, grail-hunting for him is fun. But I don’t think it would be all that fun to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Not now.

It’s going to take me 30 more years to get everything done that I want to get done in Bitcoin. I’m 48 so I don’t have time to waste.

 

As much as people want to know who the real Satoshi Nakamoto is, they’re perfectly happy with their vision of him or her. It’s like a religion. He could turn out to be a complete libertarian prick—no offense. But he’s not likely to be this benevolent being who just wants everyone to save money on credit card transaction fees.

People forget that Thomas Edison was a bit of an a-hole. Henry Ford too. So was Bill Gates until he got married and started doing his philanthropy thing. Steve Jobs was lucky. He was worse, but people loved him for it.

 

I think that’s what made this week so much fun. We’ve gotten to see you and Bitcoin.com’s Roger Ver and Jihan Wu get out there and dig in. To stand for something.

Haha, yes this is about what Bitcoin will mean in the future. And if I tried to change protocol now, then someone else should step in and replace me with the SV version.

 

So people aren’t going to one day find a Zip drive in the Seychelles* with 1.1 million bitcoins?

No.

 

Okay.

Not unless I want them to.

 

Alright, we’ll leave it at that. But I have to ask this: Are you having fun? You seem like you’re having fun.

I am. I could do anything in the world that I want and I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

 

What do you think people would find surprising about being you? People on crypto boards wants to be crypto billionaires. But what is is really like?

Being in the media is not as easy as people think. It takes a toll

 

You are a heavily published person that people don’t really know anything about. When did you start actually earning money for this?

I started raising money in 2009. At the time I did a fair amount of security consulting. I worked for a number of gaming companies, so I had some income. I also patented an Ultra-HD wire transmit system to stream IMAX movies in Australia direct to theaters without a glitch.

 

But it wasn’t until 2015 that you moved to London for nChain.

I love Australia, but it’s not always easy to find the right talent. And if you can find them, you can’t always count on them having high speed lines to connect with you. Here in London, I have the top talent and a 10 Gigabit line right to the house.

 

How’s the London tech culture treat you?

It’s a shock, coming from the Australian nanny state. You walk through London and you have pubs just spilling right out into the sidewalks and out into the streets. It’s incredible.

 

I hate to snoop on what’s in the Skype window behind you, but, is that…is that a suit of armor?

Yes. Two of them actually [reframes the camera]. I have five in total.

 

Do you ever have people over who want to dress up in them?

Haha! People don’t put them on. But hey, I figure you live in London now, you get a suit of armor. That’s what they used to think of as security. Hey, not long ago, I had a modem with two cups that you had to hook up to the phone. These young guys today don’t remember those.

 

Today they announced that Amazon is moving their new HQ to about a mile from where I live. What would you do if you ran Amazon?

Honestly? Cry. That’s just way too many people to meet. We’re scaling massively now and I’m already having a hard time getting to meet everybody. We’ve been on the phone long enough now that I couldn’t tell you how many countries we are in at the moment.

 

Speaking of which, are you guys behind “Shark Pool”? The mining pool that will mine empty blocks on altcoins and BCH forks to make payouts in BCH?

No, but I love it. That is a perfect libertarian answer to scams. Cleanse the shitcoins. It’s a self-regulated good and naturally profitable. It will drive them into the ground and be self-sustaining. It doesn’t require government or a policing body. When you look as something like the NASDAQ, they’re not a government, but they have the rights of government. You break their rules and you’re off the platform. The world needs more of that.

 

You keep saying that we’re already in our crypto future, but…it doesn’t feel like it.

When I was in Hong Kong, I looked out on the skyline. I said to myself, “That little bit in front of me is 3x the total value of crypto.” Think about that when people sit there going how big this is. Turnover in derivatives is $80-120 trillion a year just in the United States. Does that make you think a little differently about how big Bitcoin is now?

 

Do you think Bitcoin will become the internet some day?

Yes. The internet will become part of Bitcoin. It will be a global mesh between up returns and malleable data. You can have some things that are validate and somethings that are not. There could be archive nodes. Everything will be valued. It will be something that will be hyper-capitalist. Imagine a world where someone in Sierra Leone can trade with someone in New York instantly. Where people can own their own nodes.

 

That might just draw bigger divisions. How are poor people supposed to pay to access these nodes? What if we all had some kind of Universal Basic Income?

That is the stupidest thing a bunch of socialists ever came up with. That is people who are rich who want to give up push for it as responsible. If you look to somewhere like Rome, if you are rich, then you had to spend. There really wasn’t much tax money. So if you were Augustus or someone else, you took the money you had and you spent it. That’s how it should be. If you are a Zuckerberg or a me, you get something done, then you pay for it. And you basically pay your own money.

 

Okay then. Next time you come to New York City, you and I can ride the subway and you can fix it for us.

Hahahaha.

 

I’m looking forward to the 15th. IT sounds like a lot of fun.

I’m hoping so. Hopefully people will start learning how bitcoin actually works.

 

Any advice for the ABC guys?

Yeah: Get a real job.

 

*Whoever is the real Satoshi Nakamoto is likely in possession of about 1.1 million bitcoin. Or knows where to find it. In 2015 Gizmodo received an unfinished legal draft dated 06/09/2011 that proposed how Bitcoin early-adopters Craig Wright and Dave Kleiman would enter 1.1 million bitcoin into a legal trust in the Seychelles off the coast of east Africa. The coins would be returned to Wright in 2020. At the time, 1.1 million bitcoins were worth about $100,000. Later, Dave Kleiman’s health deteriorated and he died unexpectedly in 2015. In November 2018, that amount would be worth $6.37 billion.

Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.

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