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Podcast #2 | Thoughts on Andreas Antonopoulos, Facebook's Libra, and Principles

In our second episode, we discuss the topics covered by Andreas Antonopoulos during his visit to Edinburgh, Scotland in an event titled "Thoughts on the Future of Programmable Money" as hosted by the Scottish Blockchain Meetup on 19th June 2019. Once again, we...


Adam Greenberg, Co-Founder & CEO

Tom Sichel, Co-Founder & COO

Decio Emanuel, CMO


... got together and recorded our thoughts.

Show Notes

Decio:

After podcast number one, that we did a while ago after StartupGrind’s Welcome Night - which was very well received - we are now trying to get into discussion about the Scottish Blockchain Meetup event with Andreas Antonopoulos - who is a figure in the crypto and blockchain industry.


Adam and Tom will probably be able to provide more of an insight than I can and strong opinions were held after this event. Andreas talked mostly about that morning's release of Facebook's white paper on Libra. And a lot of controversial ideas flourished from that itself. So, Adam you probably get us started here. How was the event for you?


Adam:

Yeah it was really good. He's someone I've kind of followed and seen about for years and years before he became a big respected community figure. So it was interesting to see him in the flesh and hear some of his ideas in person. Especially because he can literally choose anything to talk about and depending on what he feels like in the moment - which can be quite refreshing because it means that anything you see on YouTube, you're not gonna see that again. Yeah I really enjoyed it, he had a lot of interesting points and it was one of the biggest events I have been to around here. There was easily 200 people. They filled the whole auditorium and it was really cool to meet new people all based in Edinburgh who were interested in the space.


Decio:

Yeah and he was incredibly kind to stick around afterwards and actually wait on a massive queue of people just coming by to get their book signed or simply to get a photograph with him - which was quite humbling to see. Especially when all his stuff is available online for free and he provides so much value to the rest of the community for free. That's quite honourable. That's very honourable.


Tom, what were your thoughts on the event?


Tom:

A big topic that was brought up during his talk was around this idea that cryptocurrency is somewhat becoming money for the people, this kind of sovereign cash, or currency. And then you've got capital or cash that comes from the government's currencies. Like pound sterling, euros, dollars… And now with Libra and soon to be many other projects that will come from the various corporates, they will become a form of currency that is for the corporates and by the corporates. And so I asked, ‘How can money for the people win out over this entire situation that we're in?’. To be honest, I didn't really buy into the answer he gave. I think one of the good points he did make, though, was around that we got to define as people what triumphing or winning… We all need to agree what is money for the people by the people. We need to agree what a success would look like in that area. And defining that is quite difficult. And he said that one of the things that will define is currencies that give us more opportunity more choice - which I think should be a fundamental pillar to any currency.


But yeah, I don't know. What do you think, Decio, do you reckon money for the people's a good idea?


Decio:

Well, I don't come from a blockchain background - it's rapidly growing in me but it's only been around for a few months - and one thing that has worried me is that the decentralisation aspect of cryptocurrency can bite itself in the ass at some point. Because we're creating so many ways of trading, so many coins are available online that anyone can access. To me, from an ignorant perspective, that's worrying because we need a common way of exchange.


But one thing that really struck me about Andreas’ talk was his worries of the Silicon Valley. And how they've harnessed an insane amount of users and they're now trying to exploit that or take advantage of that in order to come at it for more. One of the quotes that I can give you from Andreas, after the event when we met him personally… One of the things he mentioned was his chief of operations (I believe) essentially said that Facebook's business model has recently in the past ten years or so - maybe less actually - it's been about advertisers on their platform. But right now, it feels like Facebook's business model is going towards money and money only and once they have control of that money there's a lot more that they can do.


[Laughter]


Yeah one thing he talked and has talked about previously in his works is this relationship between the fiat money and people's money. But now he's introduced another point to that, in a three-point standoff. We’re now introducing a corporate digital currency. So now you have the government money versus people's money versus corporation money. And this is problematic because what happens when these collide? Some nations can ban the corporation money or the people's money: cryptocurrency. But others other countries may allow it to thrive more positively and may actually promote the use of cryptocurrency constitutionally. Likewise, it can be constitutionally problematic because in some countries like the UK money is seen as a form of freedom of speech.


And another point that Andreas mentioned that I'd like to highlight is that banks would be tremendously affected by Facebook's move - if it goes forward and proliferates into something that's worldwide and widely adopted. He specifically mentioned retail banks. That these will be the first to be affected. These are the banks that actually serve customers and these are the ones that will be hit hard.


The information that Facebook has and gathers on user’s behaviours and other details can be used to drop the banking cost as well. And this is incredibly manipulative. So it's quite an interesting environment that were living in... Certainly.


Adam, how do you feel about that relationship between government, people and corporations money - how do you feel that relationship existing in the future? Do you feel it can be symbiotic? Do you feel it will be conflicting? Or do you feel like there will be one outright winner? What are your thoughts?


Adam:

Unless something critical happens, there's not gonna be an outright winner. And there shouldn't be an outright winner because the world can coexist with all three and potentially even other areas jumping into the swimming pool.


The main fight that was between the corporates and governments because without us fully realising it or choosing to acknowledge it, corporations in the last 20/30 years have been basically running the show anyway. Especially in places like the US with lobbyists etc. This is them potentially trying to make some kind of move to make it a bit more official or make a point of it. And for me, it makes perfect because the way that the current economies and structures and operations are all being ran is pretty weak, if I'm honest. There's a lot of indecisiveness.


One of the main things as well is that nobody knows for sure… Like the Federal Reserve trying to do things like rate hikes and… They don't necessarily know that's going to work. There's a lot of uncharted territory especially after 2008 on how to recover from these kind of things. It makes perfect sense that organisations and corporations with the tools and resources to potentially solve their own thing and slide away from the rest of the herd is gonna become a thing. And I think Bitcoin and crypto’s role in this is providing a way for anyone who doesn't want to be part of either of those worlds a chance to do things on their own. That's not necessarily about money or being able to pay the bills or have savings. This is where SageCity kind of became a thing where we can be providing new ways to do organisations, processes, living, producing things for ourselves. A bunch of stuff like that.


Tom:

Yeah for sure! And I think a fundamental part to what SageCity is doing right now is putting the infrastructure in place so that people can begin to own their own processes, their own way of processing - whether it's payment, data - all the infrastructure they require to essentially build their vision out will depend on some form of economics, some form of governance, and through our blockchain platform, all of that's going to be made possible.


Another amazing thing that was said at the event was ‘Silicon Valley is coming for the banks - which was a refreshing idea for me. I like the notion of big change, especially when the old dogs get shaken or rattle out of their cages. Good thing.


Yeah, Silicon Valley if you're hearing this right now give it a good whack, please!


Not to be dystopian or anything like that but a bit of anarchy is always a good thing in my view.


Decio:

So something that Andreas mentioned as well was a ‘cold war of currencies’. That there will be then the split from state-based and corporate-based and open crypto environments. It might be problematic because I would argue that everyone in the crypto world believes that financial privacy is a human right. That individuality and privacy are freedom.


And now that the path to cashless societies has been paved and when the governments and corporates have laid the cobbles on this paved road, they can be the ones to turn off your financial future they can turn off your financial decisions. They can they can even turn off your ability to purchase today's breakfast, because they have that power over you.


This comes back to something that Tom has already mentioned, and that is principles Andreas believes that this gives a brilliant opportunity for crypto projects to tighten on their principles and what they're doing and to ask themselves, ‘What are our principles?” Andreas feels this will actually differentiate crypto projects. It will actually draw in better people into our community and tighten it even further. Because if you're going to fight with the principles or with a moral compass can differentiate from those that don't. And those that don't cannot compete with you on this journey. By allowing Facebook to carry on with Libra we’re simply opening the door to a dystopian world.


But Tom, you're huge on principles. So Adam and Tom I'd like to know from you after this talk and also the conversations that we had with Andreas afterwards, what have you realized about principles? What have you solidified? How has your perspective changed, perhaps? What are your thoughts?


Tom:

To answer this question I probably need to give a bit of background on SageCity culture and some of the kind of higher things that we’re striving for as a group.


One of the things that we believe in is rewarding people for their merits. And by merits I mean what you as an individual find valuable and then what we as a group, as a business, as a community find valuable. And so there are the individual’s merits and the common merits.


To answer the question on principles, it's about being accountable and accountable to your own principles, your own merits, what you find to be valuable, and then also keeping yourself accountable to common principles, to shared principles by your community or business.


And so by being accountable to your own merits and the common merits, this will lead to the self-actualisation of the community and for you as an individual.


Adam:

For me I definitely come at it from more of a crypto angle in terms of the principles and a lot of the kind of economy and coin structure stem from these principles without completely realizing it. And the Andrea's talk was interesting because it kind of brought me back at least to those ideas and the ‘whys’.


So yeah when Andreas was talking about those things he really brought me back to some of the core things. I try to - in designing a lot of the coin economy - basically recreate Bitcoin. Being completely impartial, dependable, trustless and also making it so that it's a suitable environment for people to grow and achieve what they want to achieve within the ecosystem.


One of the big things I see with proof-of-work coins is because they're so hyped up these days that you have got this vast inflation to begin with and there was a point where Zcash traded at a rate of 2000 Bitcoin or something crazy like that, and you know that's obviously not sustainable and it's now probably in around less than 0.01 Bitcoin at the time of writing. And that doesn't create an economy for growth or support if everyone thinks what the whole thing is just going down the path.


So what I really worked on is a steady and sustainable growth. When you think about it, Bitcoin didn't have a community of the guys on Bitcointalk, 10 million people who are interesting cryptocurrency. They literally put this thing out there and people just gradually believed in it and ran it and eventually began buying the coins and things like that. And that's kind of what I'm trying to get with the Sage currency an economy. It’s starting small and growing gradually and in a non-artificial way. That’s what the principles elements for me, especially with Sage is integrity and sustainability, primarily.


Decio:

From the stance of Facebook's Libra and of the ones that we've raised today, especially the one about a ‘cold war of currencies’, Adam where do you see the Sage stance on this matter?


Adam:

So yeah obviously I see us on the side of money for the people but also tools for the people. And I actually think in the future if things can go well - and there’s a good chance they won’t - all three of these fields are gonna have to work together and we'll have different pros and cons that can benefit people if they’re used right.


I see our position in this as being almost like Switzerland. Like a beacon for - not of hope, that sounds cheesy - but a beacon of ‘anyone's welcome here’ as long as they - not play by the rules but - are aligned with our values and don't have any intentions to harm anyone else's freedom or lifestyle. So yeah we really just provide them with what we can, helping out where we can and allowing people to facilitate without the need for facilitators - I think that's the big one.


Any thoughts thoughts to add to that, Tom?


Tom:

It’s important that we all have freedom. Freedom to pursue the things we value as individuals and then value commonly - shared values. And our economies and governments are there supposedly to support some of these things. But as time goes on we may realise that the interests of a few who own these structures will eventually take over.


And so, SageCity as a group of people that want to self-actualise, who have shared common values and merits but also are very individual and unique in our own different ways… We're big believers in giving other people's other people freedom and opportunity to strive for their big ideas or big goals.

And I’ll throw a slight side idea but zero-cost living has gotta be a big part of that.


Adam:

Yeah I think we touched upon zero-cost quite a lot in the last podcast but that's definitely gonna be one of the foundations for some kind of new and refreshed economy that may actually work.


Decio:

So it's really funny now, Tom actually evoked a memory that I have from when I was a kid and this was maybe 17 walking through the streets of Glasgow. And I was just about started University and I would look at the homeless people sitting on the streets of Glasgow - if you come to class go they're quite noticeable. (For a liberal society and a socialist society, we still have those problems.) But one of my dreams was to have a business or have some sort of prosperous organisation that would allow me to come to these people and give them another shot at life. Basically paying the rent for them, lodging them given the food the clothing they need to get back on their feet. Essentially press the reboot button. And have them work for my business and doing meaningful work. And that sounds incredibly simple, maybe because it is that simple. And as days go by I'm starting to feel that that dream that memory can become a reality through SageCity and this group of people that we are bringing in together.


I think the requirements to live are very small, the requirements to live well are slightly a bit more challenging but it's all within reach. However, we've still not managed to get to that stage in humanity and that's problematic.


Adam, would you like to say your final thank yous? Would you like to mention someone special?


Adam:

Yes so we've had a few new members join over the course of the last few days. We have a few more developers on board to help with some of the builds and work we've got planned. Also, a little premature, but he's been around since almost day one and has been a big kind of advocate of what we're up to: Austin, who some of you might know him as SerenityTrades on the Discord channel. I’m pleased to have him on board as an ambassador and yeah, spreading the word of Sage and getting involved in things.


Also just in general, a thanks to the community over the last few months since we launched because I know that for a lot of them having an exchange or building a fully circular economy within Sage is something that's quite important to them and yeah glad to say that it's finally been delivered and we can move on to some more exciting challenges and ideas and concepts we've got.


Yeah there's gonna be - I'm not sure when this gonna be up - but there's gonna be some other news that were holding back but it's very good news for Sage keep an eye out for that.


Thank you very much everyone!


Tom:

Be sagacious, guys.


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