Interviews

Charles Miller

Steve Shadders: ‘Ultimately, my goal is to make myself replaceable and redundant’

An Australian Bitcoin developer living in London, Steve Shadders is, at first glance, the typical geek, complete with goatee beard, glasses and ponytail. But it only takes a few minutes chat to get way beyond the stereotype. He thinks widely about the politics and economics of Bitcoin, and he’s a former DJ, with a love of techno — a calling which he says delayed his entry into the world of software by several years.

“Shadders” as he’s known at nChain, the Bitcoin SV development company of which he’s Chief Technology Officer, operates in many dimensions. There’s an ideological side to him, the legacy of youthful, anarchistic attitudes: “As Bitcoin becomes more widespread,” he says, “it puts the power of economic sovereignty into the hands of people who currently don’t have it …There is nothing more powerful that you can give someone than opportunity.”

The mission of nChain, according to its website is “to ignite global adoption and enterprise level of usage of Bitcoin.” To that end, Steve leads the nChain developer team behind a series of “upgrades” to the Bitcoin SV protocol (he prefers “upgrade” to “hard fork”). This year, we’ve had the Quasar upgrade, and next year will be Genesis. The idea is to bring the Bitcoin SV protocol back to how it was when Bitcoin started — hence the “SV,” Satoshi vision.

Part of that process is to allow Bitcoin miners rather than developers to call the shots. As a developer, himself, Steve realises this has implications for him: “Ultimately, my goal is to make myself replaceable and redundant — and I hope to achieve that within a couple of years.” By then, the governance role in Bitcoin will be handed to a group of people rather than a few individuals, leaving miners with the ultimate responsibility for the ecosystem.

Steve works closely with Craig Wright, nChain’s Chief Scientist. He admits that “it can be challenging to understand what Craig’s talking about sometimes.” About six months after Craig has raised a new idea, Steve says modestly, he finally understands “what he really means.” But it’s a privilege “to be able to pick his brains on a daily basis …he’s thinking about things years before anyone else.”

As for his own ideas about where Bitcoin is heading, Steve is an unashamed ‘Bitcoin maximalist.’ He does accept that “probably the notion of private blockchains will be around for a while before the business world gets comfortable with the fact that public blockchains actually offer far more benefits than than the perceived benefits of keeping it private.” But in the end, he predicts, it’ll be “one coin to rule them all.” And he doesn’t expect Bitcoin SV’s rivals to be around “in five or ten years.”

If BSV develops the way Steve predicts, he’ll go so far as to agree that the work of nChain today might be of interest to future historians. And he points out that “a lot of that work is going to be recorded there immutably, in the blockchain, so it will be easier for blockchain archaeologists to work out what happened.” It’s just another advantage of blockchain technology!

Hear the full interview with Steve Shadders on this week’s CoinGeek Conversations podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

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