Craig Wright talks to Brendan Sullivan of Modern Consensus via Skype.
Bitcoin

Craig Wright eviscerates everything: The Modern Consensus interview


A decade ago—on January 12, 2008—the first Bitcoin transaction went from “Satoshi Nakamoto” to Hal Finney. Those 10 years were an explosive time where an industry went from a shared PDF to a $500 billion marketplace and now back down to about $125 billion.

Dr. Craig Wright has been involved in crypto for at least that long and his caustic, bombastic style mixed with his academic heartstrings keeps crypto from getting boring. Whether he is Satoshi Nakamoto—or knows who should know the answer to that question—is a fun sort of grail-hunting endeavor. But what is a much better question is how did crypto last these past 10 years and where will it be 10 years from now? That’s what I tried to focus on when I Skyped him in London over the weekend.

Read more: Wright previously gave us an interview in preparation for the great BCH hash war.

The first Bitcoin transaction happened 10 years ago today, actually exactly 10 years ago this minute at 3:30. Tell me what it was like then.

Well, that’s 10 years ago having Bitcoin work. Amazing thing back then. But it didn’t really exist until that first transaction. That’s why you need people. You need to have someone else there. You need someone to say what’s happening. If you’re controlling every terminal then it’s not really a test. Ten years ago today, I was on my farm in Australia, which was in Port Macquarie. Around this time was morning. I’d been up for a while. My guess is it was 7 o’clock in the morning in Australia. It’s been a wild ride of the last ten years, that’s what I’ll say.

Ten years ago was also the beginning of the great recession, which I’ve argued drastically shaped bitcoin.

Yes and luckily 10 years ago, I was given a golden handshake from BDO.

Oh wait. You mean you were laid off due to the recession? And what’s why you had time for all of this Bitcoin stuff?

In Sydney I got handed the golden handshake. They gave me the redundancy check. They said if you want to take money and not come back, have some money and go away. It was fortuitous. A couple weeks before that I was being a bum and I had two spare weeks to try things. My understanding is that this [the first Bitcoin transaction] was the start of the week. It was a weekday. In 2008, I would have been off working in the city and wouldn’t have had time to do anything. If it hadn’t have happened I probably would have quit anyway. So having them hand me a lot of extra cash was quite. I ran the IT audit. I ran digital forensics. I did CATS—computer aided audit technology. Audit firms everywhere started panicking. We were losing auditors in the recession.

Let’s just open up with a nerd sandwich here. The book Jurassic Park begins with an abstract that points out that even though bioengineering is the hottest scientific topic of the day, there are “few watchdogs” in the academy. “It is remarkable that nearly every scientist in genetics research is also engaged in the commerce of biotechnology.” You were recruited by nChain, one of the biggest blockchain firms, and yet you still pump out academic papers.

We want to start explaining what we were locking in so people can start building. That takes old fashioned scholarship. I’m doing it because it needs to happen. If we want this to be what it needs to be we need to point toward a single protocol. Not juggling the blockchains we see now. Bitcoin needs to be a base protocol, like the internet is a base protocol. We have to allow people to start building. The only way it will take off and be something is to allow people to stand and grow with Bitcoin.

I’m surprised that not many of the early people are as involved as you are. At least on paper, Bitcoin should have made its founders rich in a way that they could invest in growing the industry.

The idea that people don’t get is that the early subsidies were so people would get interested in growing things. Those who were around 10 years ago weren’t supposed to be sitting on a yacht and doing nothing. They should be taking that money and making more money. That’s what capitalism is designed to be. You get paid money because you can drive it back into the economy. You can invent things, write software, create systems of what you have as your base. That’s what it’s mean to be about.

Which chain are you calling “Bitcoin”?

The only been one that’s ever been. Bitcoin SV is an implementation of the white paper. There’s no lightning network. Beta script hash will be gone. All the other shitty editions will be gone. We will have 2010 Bitcoin again, but scaled.

I was reading the old forums from 2009. Were there limits to the technology then?

2010 would have allowed people 32 & 64 blocks then. The problem was a whole load of people with stupid ideas. The concept of trying to make Bitcoin something it is not. This asinine idea that everyone needs to be running nodes so they could be equal. There is equality under the law and equality by opportunity. To do that you need to take away someone’s ability. So you lose their equality. Then you don’t have freedom anymore. You either have freedom or socialism.

What do you consider socialism?

Interaction, anything in the middle of the road welfare state. You start giving people an minimum wage law, you start interfering with the economy, I got some of my first starts because I worked for free. That’s now illegal. People complaining about internships. The reality is that having an intern doesn’t pay an employer. An intern is a negative. They’re a suck on money. For every dollar you pay someone, you are sucking $10 out of your company interns take away. They take not only their wage but the wage of those who are productive. The stupidest, most asinine idea is to tell people what they can and cannot do.

My son is doing an unpaid internship in Australia. And that’s a good thing. The guy who started Walmart did six months of unpaid work. We’ve become fat and lazy.

The other argument is that you need rich parents to be able to work for free for an internship. So internships lock out middle class families.

Bullshit! This rich parent shit is bullshit from a privileged little shit. It’s little fucking cunts with privileged upbringings who don’t know what it’s like to be poor. I hope everyone of them gets taken out and beaten to death. This is not even the tip of my anger for these guys. I actually worked gutting chickens at horrible hours to do my internship. What they’re doing is making sure poor people never have a chance. No one is going to give you a paid internship. You realize you had to pay to do an apprenticeship in the past.

Some things you call socialism are normal things in Australia and the UK. Things we don’t have here.

Part of the problem now is that everyone thinks they have to get a loan to go to uni. Stop people from thinking that. Have people go out there and learn what they’re doing and why. If you’re getting a liberal arts degree, don’t ever fucking expect to get a job. And I’m not knocking liberal arts; I studied them for my own sake. But if you’re looking to do something in the real world, do STEM, do research.

How much is a year of uni in Australia?

These days, I have no idea. I have only done postgrad. Probably about $10,000 a year.

Is that Australian or U.S.?

I think I’m paying about £8,500 for my law degree.

At Columbia here in New York, it would be $50,000.

Yeah, U.S. schools are ridiculous.

That’s actual socialism. People in your country can afford education. It is pretty admirable that you’re getting a law degree in your spare time. You’re also quite the Audible workhorse. What books have you listened to this year?

I only do one at a time. At the moment I’m listening to Ripples in Spacetime. Which I’ll be finished by tomorrow. And the other one I started in Identity and the Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama. I read some of the other things by Marx earlier this year. I quite like history, so I enjoyed some of the early Sumerian origins and one on North American civilizations. I read one called Why Marx is Right. I actually quite liked it because it was so stupid, not because of what was in there correctly. I read Moral Epistles by Seneca the Younger. I’m a terrible stoic. I do try at times to be stoic.

I recommend the Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, since you just moved to England.

I actually visited a few places that Karl Marx went to and read quite a lot of his. He was a very insightful man. He had this idea that we should all people pathetic and live in a hut. Basically Grizzly Adams. That doesn’t allow us to have a modern world, or even the number of people we have on earth.

Like Thoreau.

He tried that and it fell apart. People don’t realize how badly. His society sounded very good if you were male. The women did everything so the men could sit there and he could pontificate and write and everyone would support him.

Last time we spoke, you had two bottles to open after the Hash War: Armagnac from 1888 and Champagne from 2008.

The champagne is opened. We have now done a 100 make block. We have a sustained 64 and 128 block level coming. Once the update to the software comes in February, we will have 128 bit blocks on Bitcoin SV. Soon the world will see. Then I’ll open the 1888.

Any other good wine I should try next?

I do like a little bit of Scotch. Macallan and Lagavulin are still my favorites. You don’t pay as much tax as in Australia, it’s like 40 percent. There were people getting drunk very easily on low-cost Sherry for about $5 Australian. So what the politicians decided was to put a 40 percent tax on anything more than 20 percent alcohol and make them go back to beer. What happened is not that the ethanol content went down. You can get this 160 proof absolute shit that is cheaper than the stuff that is 20 percent. I travel to Japan next week and I’m going back again and that’s a lot easier to pick up over there. It’s one of the great things of traveling a lot. I travel so much now that I don’t even bother collecting wines as I go through. That’s sort of old times when I didn’t have so much money. But even now it seems wrong not to deprive the government of a little bit of tax.

Haha. You’re funnier in person. A lot of people on the social internet say you’re a prick. I think you’re more of a son-of-a-bitch.

I’m aussie; we have that wacky sense of humor. Socialism is worse than stupid. People are selling equality and what they want is to take over your life. I was telling my wife today that I need to tell everyone I have Tourette Syndrome so I can have an excuse to swear. She wasn’t happy. She’s a psychologist. So she didn’t think it was funny.

I think libertarians are hysterical. What do people get wrong about libertarians

The worst part is that people sit there and take it down too far and take it to anarchy, not realizing that you need order. There is a free-enabling government and restrictive one. We need a court system. We need police. What we don’t need is a nanny state. There have been concepts of allowing people to opt out. I can’t decide that I don’t want government to help me. Why should I have government help whether I like it or not?

For example?

Say for healthcare. If I decide I want to do something myself. Obamacare made people have plans whether they like it or not. I will say personally that not all life extension matters. I don’t want to have extra old, I want to have extra life. I don’t want to be 102 and have some nurse keep me alive to get a government handout. I want to be able to say, pull the damn plug.

We have very expensive healthcare here; $20,000 if you get hit on your bicycle. That’s not exactly a choice.

That’s how the system is constructed at the moment.

What does a libertarian FDA look like?

If you want to stop the war on drugs, just make it all commercial. Have them pay for people who have cancer. Imagine legalizing heroin but making all the organizations to pay for the loss of death or treatment of the addicted. Think of how many people would be selling heroin after that. Probably none.

That’s…what we have. People get arrested for selling it. So now you want to fine them?

Exactly. You gonna take opiates, take opiates. But if you get addicted, make the opiates people pay for the treatment.

I mean, I do like that idea. But the FDA should sue the billionaire Sackler family for falsifying information that opioids were safe. You’re saying that…drugs will be too dangerous to sell commercially. So people will just…stop dealing drugs?

You won’t have crime and violence because no one will be fighting to do it. But if you defraud someone, you have to pay for it.

Let’s talk about the next 10 years.

Scale. It’s going to be easier, it’s going to be like plumbing. We will build the system in such a way that we can start putting things on chain. Allow people to use a private, paid version of the internet all over again.

Is this a utopia? That sounds kind of centralized.

I don’t think there’s anything quite like utopia. It’s one person’s idea of the way the world should be. And they’re always wrong. Thomas Moore’s Utopia was terrible. We all lived in concrete things that were the same. We moved every year, you were randomly assigned, not differentiation. All look the same. For someone who was a priest that might be an idea.

What’s the biggest surprise from 2008 to now?

How much stupidity there can be out there: the anarchist stuff in Bitcoin, hundreds of Ponzi coins, people not reading past headlines. Unfortunately, I’m getting used to it, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

Craig, is there anything you do like?

Oh! We’ve been doing a lot of work. There are organizations to allow crypto to expand. Not so many that people focus on or notice; all the boring stuff. People starting to develop EDI solutions. Make Bitcoin Boring Again.

Are we suffering from crypto not making headlines this year?

No. That’s exchanges. That’s the news. Sports cars.

Bitcoin has to have value to function. What is Bitcoin ideal value?

Use. People actually storing data on chain. Transacting. Saving files. All of that. The exchange price is the casino price.

Is there any way off of that rollercoaster?

This is where use comes in. As people use it to store data and information that will have people wanting to use it as a business. Because they want to do things more valuable. Make their business more valuable.

We now have a number of democratic socialists in congress. People are getting into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan for a 70 percent marginal tax over $10 million.

Ocasio Cortez’s plan is lunacy. Basically what you’re doing is punishing anyone for having something very successful. Imagine Bezos or Gates had that. Why would they keep going if they had that after a certain point? All you’re doing is driving people out of the country or stopping people from working. They had that in France and Gerard Depardieu and others moved to Belgium and said, “Fuck you, France.” It’s not a zero sum game. If I develop more income, I’m not taking from someone else. It’s not like I’m getting that money because I’m a bloody politician.

I’ll leave Bezos out of it. He’s been through enough this week. But Bill Gates would have had a 70 percent marginal rate when he started. He still started.

Well.

Tell me what a libertarian would do about the environment

That’s a 200 year old hole that socialist found to fill. If you want to take $100 away from people to fix a $1 problem, what you have is a $10,000 problem. These socialists always fuck things up worse. Then they feather their own nest and there’s crony capitalism on top.

What’s the libertarian answer to climate change.

Climate changes, the end.

Really?

What is the problem you’re trying to save us from? That’s like saying “unicorn fairy attacks.”

Let’s say rising sea levels.

No. 1: What rising sea levels? It was actually two degrees warmer back at the time of Rome. Why was it so different then? As to what you’re asking is we want to subsidize people who then have to limit their economic growth. How do we reduce carbon? Get the government out and allow nuclear power plants. If people actually see this as a problem, we could build a 50 foot dam around every city and still have change.

Or maybe we could put some effort into saving the planet. What’s wrong with that? That it costs money?

You’re not just stealing people’s money, you’re stealing their ability to grow that money. The wonder of interest rates means even a 2 percent differential after 100 years. Two percent reduction after 100 years is 7.5 percent. In a century, that ends up being $2,500,000,000,000,000. Einstein said compound interest was the most powerful force in the universe. Then they don’t want growth.

What’s your principle in that equation? You know what? Nevermind. Sure. Taking money out keeps it from growing in your account.

One of the big ones was the Sierra Club limiting the population to 100 million. I said we should start by eliminating the people of the Sierra Club. No one ever talks about how to do that. How about they stand up and do it first.

What about Trump’s wall?

Oh, that’s stupid idea. People have a right to set who is a citizen or not. But I also don’t agree with what’s happening now. Part of the problem is Mexican people come up and there’s an amnesty. Stop doing that shit. Stop people coming over. Say that you can come to America because you have skills we need. It may just be that you’re a plumber. I’m sorry, your mother isn’t a plumber. You can visit her. She can visit you. If she wants to work here, this is what she needs to do. Those sort of things.

Is there a technology solution to the wall?

I think building a giant wall in the desert is rather stupid. I don’t think you need a technology. But it’s popular enough to get him elected.

Is there anything you do like?

Not that I want to talk about quite yet. Some of this will be out soon. Some of the things we’re patenting are pretty cool.

Outside of blockchain?

Nah. I don’t really care about most of that. I’m one of those horrible hyper focussed people.

You’re kind of a cult figure who doesn’t want a cult following. Like, half the people reading this could probably tell us where Steve Jobs got his tank tops. But we don’t really know much about you.

Well, I like clothes from Saville Row and I can’t stand turtlenecks. Steve Jobs got away with that because he’s vegan. Anyone who enjoys life and eats anything tasty can’t wear a turtleneck.

Next time you’re in New York I’ll take you to my tailor, Martin Greenfield. He was liberated by Gen. Eisenhower during the holocaust and then made suits for every president from Eisenhower through Obama.

Maybe someday. For now, I’ve got a few issues here with any Americans who know I’ve got a gaming background.

Oh wait. Are you not able to get a visa to the U.S.?

I’ve been involved with casinos in the past, so the Americans have the idea that if you’ve been involved with a casino that you must be evil.

Because of AML (anti-money laundering) laws?

Yes, and the silly thing is some of the casinos like Lasseters were licensed before the American shut down any banking. Reality that is punishment against people doing a legitimate business. I helped set up and build Lasseters online casino in Australia. Some of them ran out of Costa Rica.

Were you involved in Costa Rica’s Liberty Reserve?

I had money in there. And Australian banks did. Two of the big four banks had accounts with Liberty Reserve. Americans have this idea that if they touch an American dollar they own it, rule it and get to say what happens. The American dollar is a great way of having control. You can have your law say that if it touches U.S. dollars, it’s under our jurisdiction.

Wow. I had no idea. So when was your last trip the the U.S.?

Not since 2015. I used to get there a bit. Then this other stuff happened and people started publishing my life then I stopped.

What is it like being you? It sounds like a lot of work?

Everything valuable is a lot of work.

What kind of crazed people do you get?

There’s a lot of crazy in my life.

I mean, someone tried to hack our editor because he runs a site that talks about crypto, so they assumed he had a lot of it somewhere. Most of my friends in crypto spend a lot of time having people hit them up for money. But none of them have people who think they are Satoshi Nakamoto.

Well, if I avoid all of that, then I must have done something right.

So how will we know if crypto is a success in 2019?

Scaling on chain. What what happens over the next year. That’s all I’ll say for the moment.

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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