Craig Wright Fireside Chat in China: ‘We don’t want machines dictating our lives’

Dr. Craig Wright has thanked China’s BSV community for believing in Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision for Bitcoin at the first BSV China conference in Beijing. In one of the popular “fireside chats” with Bitcoin Association President Jimmy Nguyen, the pair also discussed why meritocracies and openness to new ideas are essential for creating real wealth, and explained some of the key concepts behind Bitcoin’s creation.

It was a chance for Dr. Wright to expand on his views to an audience who may not have had the chance to hear them on a daily basis. China and Asia are vital regions for Bitcoin development not only for the large scale mining operations in the region, but also for their public hunger for technological innovation in finance and willingness to build.

They also spoke on topics by now familiar to most Bitcoin followers, such as the dangers of anonymity, the importance of education and qualifications, and how machine automation can actually free humans to be more human.

Bitcoin and the relationship between humans and machines

The casual fireside chats with Jimmy Nguyen and Craig Wright have become a popular feature of Bitcoin conferences in 2019. Usually held towards the conclusion of the events, they’re a chance for attendees to hear a more personal and philosophical side to why Bitcoin exists and why it was created. In doing so, they also provide the motivation to continue building Bitcoin and maybe provide some inspiration for new ideas.

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The relationship between humans and technology is a common feature of Dr. Wright’s words. Code is not law, criminality should be investigated with HUMINT (human intelligence) rather than surveillance, and automation “will give us more time to be human”.

“Law is flexible. Law is human. We don’t want machines dictating our lives. We don’t want smart contracts that can’t be altered. Imagine a world where it’s only a binary logical zero and one. Where there’s no grey area, where you can’t be sorry, where you can’t apologize. Where there’s no other than zero and one right/wrong. In a real world, a world of justice, it also means forgiveness. It means looking at circumstances and having a human heart. Machines don’t have a human heart.”

Anonymity breeds corruption

Dr. Wright again used Plato’s “Ring of Gyges” analogy to describe how true anonymity eventually corrupts everyone — starting with small indiscretions and leading to ultimate destruction.

“It always comes back to the same thing: when you have a completely anonymous system, it always brings out the worst in people”, Wright said.

“When you’re corrupt, your soul disappears… Anonymity breeds everything that destroys humanity.” While government itself is not inherently bad, its worst aspect is corruption; of police, politicians, and the military.

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Nguyen pointed out that the word “honest” appears 15 times in the 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper. Dr. Wright explained it was a consequence of his time working at auditing firm BDO, designing software to identify fraud.

Almost every public company they examined contained fraud and misappropriation, he said. While most of it was in small amounts, even 5 to 7 percent fraudulent activity could ruin a company that survives on 4 percent profits — or remove funds that could be better spent on R&D or marketing.

That’s why the Bitcoin blockchain, or ledger, needs to become the universal source of truth, he said. “Private blockchains” cannot have value because any system with an opaque ledger is untrustworthy by nature. There could be other ledgers. Circumstances could change, leading previously trustworthy firms to become less so.

“All fraud comes out of opportunity”, he said, pointing out that any non-public ledger provides that opportunity. He singled out companies like R3 and Ripple, trusted by users, that could easily become corrupted simply due to their proprietary technology.

The importance of education and qualifications

Nguyen also asked Dr. Wright why he studies so many different topics, and why he puts so much value on formal qualifications.

Wright said he has studied computer science, law, economics, applied mathematics and statistics — but also music, theology and art history. He’s also a qualified mechanic… and a pastor.

Formal study “is a way of focusing me”, Wright said. It’s a way to stay motivated, and avoid distractions. He compared it to exercising with a personal trainer, versus working out alone.

He noted that Chinese culture in particular values credentials, and praised governments in the region (including Singapore’s and Japan’s) for being more interested in the wellbeing and wealth of their people than many Western ones.

Whitepaper questions and the importance of miners

In keeping with fireside chats at other events, Nguyen asked Dr. Wright about specific sections of the Bitcoin whitepaper.

This time, Wright addressed the issue of nodes versus miners, and why nodes are “blockchain listeners” that only need to check transactions, not validate them.

Miners are important and are paid to secure the network. A user, on the other hand, only cares whether his/her own payment is valid. The proof-of-work validation they use is a “peacock system” that economically secures Bitcoin, rather than cryptographically securing anything. It shows the investment and risk miners have made in the network, he said, which in Game Theory disincentivizes them from doing anything to damage it.

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They also discussed the concept of IP-to-IP transactions in early alpha versions of the Bitcoin code, why Bitcoin addresses are the wrong idea, and the virus-like way information propagates around both biological and technological networks.

Praise for China and its people continued as a feature of the chat right to the end, with Dr. Wright noting he had presented in Beijing a decade ago.

“(Beijing is) big, it’s dynamic, it’s full of people who want to get ahead in the world”, he said. Like other places, Asian cultures had stagnated when they isolated themselves, and prospered when they opened up to new ideas. The latter time is happening once again.

“I want to see China with more people with doctorates than the U.S. Show the damn Americans up”, he said.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.