Ethereum Q&A: Governance scalability and asymmetric power

Ethereum Q&A: Governance scalability and asymmetric power

[AUDIENCE] Now that we are at that point in
the [question-and-answer session], I wonder…
Is there anybody who you might support for
the presidency of the United States in 2020?
If not, I wonder if there is anybody in the electoral
space that is interesting and worthy of our support?
If not, I wonder if you could muse
about the state of electoral politics…
and what we can do to make peace with the
institutions that are likely to be deprecated.
[ANDREAS] I will not endorse any political candidates.
I think the institutions of democracy across all
countries based on a classical liberal perspective…
the essence of Greek democracy, a bit of Roman
republic, the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideals…
Countries from that cultural background are currently
struggling with a fundamental collapse of institutions…
due to scalability problems in decision-making.
They are failing to address an interconnected
globe with trade across continents,
and problems like climate
change which affect everybody.
We have these nineteenth-century institutions which
serve a purpose, but they also have an expiry date.
For example, you may have heard me say some things
about banks a few times. I am not a big fan of banks.
But banks in the 17th century were the greatest
liberalizing institution humanity had ever seen.
They were persecuted for the idea that someone
other than the pope or the king could write a check,
have a deposit, trade across borders with ease,
invest in a mutual corporation or association…
It was absolutely unthinkable [at the time].
They did their job and liberated billions of people.
At that time, the only person with a checkbook
were the kings of France or Spain. Imagine that.
Now, if you see a checkbook, it is at the supermarket
checkout [in the hands of] that person in front of you.
Bless their heart… They pull out a checkbook,
and the people [behind them] say, “Ugh!” [Laughter]
Representative democracy has had its great arc
of freedom. But now when you watch democracy…
break out, people who watch it say, “Ugh!”
Like seeing a checkbook in the supermarket line.
When elections are coming, the response is not the
one I had [and saw] as a kid, where the whole family…
gathers around the television to watch the
election results until 2 o’clock in the morning.
It was exciting, participatory,
and we were all part of it.
[At the last election], I didn’t watch television
from November until… Oh, wait, I never went back.
I can’t even, I just can’t.
Every time it comes on, I say, “Ugh!”
We need to fix these institutions. I don’t know how.
I do know that we will need to change the scale.
[We have tried] to make a single institution
or set of institutions scale up from the local…
all the way to the transnational.
It simply doesn’t scale. At the end of the day,
almost certainly the locals are being screwed.
At the same time, the whole planet is being screwed.
The only scale that works, is in the middle.
One constituency, the billionaires and multi-national
corporations, are very well represented.
I saw fantastic research out of [Princeton].
They looked at public policy and tried to see…
if there was a correlation with national surveys
of popular sentiment on key political ideas.
They couldn’t find any correlation.
Then they [compared public policy] with the opinions
of billionaires, and they were an exact match.
They get the legislation they want.
The “constituency” is being served.
The only problem is, you are not the constituency.
I am not the constituency.
In many countries, oil, diamonds,
cobalt, and lithium are the constituency.
In this country, debt is the constituency. We extract debt
from the ground like oil and drown ourselves in it.
Creating a class of parasitic elites who don’t give
a shit about any of us. They are the constituency.
Can we fix that? I don’t know. I am an optimist.
But on this topic, even I have doubts at this point.
I’m praying for aliens. [Laughter] As an atheist,
the only way prayer would work is with aliens.
“Please come down here, so we can
momentarily forget our differences.”
It is the same fundamental desire
that I have with cryptocurrencies…
“Can the giant government and bank backlash
start now, so we can all be friends again?”
According to them, we are all weirdos in the
same camp. They can not tell the difference.
When the prosecutor is sitting in front of you and asking,
“Sir, are you one of those cryptocurrency fiends?”
The answer is not, “Oh, no.
You see, I support Ethereum Classic.”
“[Due to support for] the concept of immutability,
we split from Ethereum because TheDAO blew up…
because of a reentrancy bug, and then proceeded
with proof-of-work without the difficulty bomb…
after a contentious fork in-“
“Arrest that motherfucker!” [Laughter]
“He is one of those crypto freaks!”
They can’t tell the difference anymore than the lizard
people can tell the difference between us meat sacks.
The only way we achieve unity is by
unifying against an external threat.
I want to see the Independence Day of crypto,
where we go implant a BIOS virus in an alien ship…
and blow them all up, or something like that,
only with Wells Fargo. [Laughter] [Applause]
[AUDIENCE] Earlier, you were talking about governance.
I know you are a pretty left-wing guy, but a lot of these-
[ANDREAS] Am I? Okay, maybe.
[AUDIENCE] These social media platforms
that spring up have a lot less governance…
and become really weird, far-right shit holes.
I was wondering, how do we stop that? How do
we encourage people to use those platforms…
and stop them from being weird reactionary places?
[ANDREAS] You don’t. That is a really good question.
First of all, political labels like “left” or “right” wing,
which go back to the British Parliament,
refer to a paradigm that is obsolete.
In a global interconnected world,
I don’t think that they mean much.
You can use them if you want to, but they are not
very descriptive or useful in defining political opinion.
I wouldn’t say that I am left-wing. I am certainly anti-
fascist, but that should be only a left-wing position.
That should be a sane position, the human position.
I don’t know why suddenly that became left-wing.
The forum where that discussion happens isn’t the
cause, it is the symptom. If you take away the forum,
the discussion doesn’t go away.
The modern world of social media has made it
easier for fascists to find other fascists.
But it has also made it easier for me to find
other “weirdos,” if that is the label I want to use.
Or other atheists. LGBTQ kids finding other kids
and not feeling alone for the first time in their lives.
Finding other people who are very
interested in crochet. [Laughter]
That is the beauty of the internet.
I don’t want to stop that.
You don’t stop fascist by removing their platform.
If anything, you drive them more underground.
We should flood these platforms with opposing ideas.
The best antidote to bad speech is more speech.
Go out there. Speak your principles
with strength and conviction. Persuade.
Here’s the other thing: free speech doesn’t mean
you can say anything you want without consequences.
Free speech means the government
isn’t allowed to stop you from speaking.
But if a million people decide that what you just said
was stupid, and makes you look like a douchebag,
they should tell you that with a million voices so
you can absorb the consequences of your speech.
When you go out and share your incel tears,
your white supremacy, your abhorrent ideas about…
evolution or biology, you should
hear a million voices shouting back.
That is how we fix bad speech.
The problem is, we have become shy.
As if these voices, because they are loud,
are winning or prevalent in the majority. They are not.
They are scared, tiny people, and all you
need to do is speak up with conviction.
You must say, “No, that is not how the world works.
I will not stand for that shit. Not here, not now.”
“Not at my event, not in my forum.”
That is how you should respond.
We will have these platforms of unstoppable code.
They always will. We must be brave and realize…
the response is making our voices unstoppable,
and standing up for what we believe in.
[AUDIENCE] I don’t know if it was the
pufferfish or the story about Coventry,
but it made me [think about the relationship
between] money and violence or war.
What happens when unstoppable code is applied
against us by an adversary using violence means?
[ANDREAS] You mean like a drone running
on an unstoppable DApp and blowing you up?
Before I became interested in cryptocurrencies, I don’t
know if you know this, but I used to program drones.
That was my hobby. I was a bad pilot,
so I kept crashing my drones.
I focused on writing geo-fence code, which is a virtual
perimeter to stop your drone from flying into a tree.
Apparently every drone I built had an affinity
for trees, almost like a magnetic attraction.
I would start as far as possible from the
tree, launch it in the [opposite] direction,
but it would still turn around
and hit the tree. Very frustrating.
People imagine that these machines
are much more capable than they are.
Cool, you can watch Terminator and figure out
how we will beat the machines, but trust me:
these machines are nowhere near that sophisticated.
There are many ways we can deal with their unstoppable
code with our own unstoppable code, you see.
The most powerful thing about
cryptography is asymmetric force.
Meaning that, if one person wants privacy, but they are
the head of state, they will have 380 million people…
trying to “invade” their privacy,
also known as accountability.
But if 380 million people want privacy, you can only
invade everyone’s privacy if you centralize the data…
in a single database.
Now think about your asymmetric warfare.
One of my hobbies when building drones
was to enter competitions with some friends,
and see who could build the cheapest drone possible.
I won. My drone was built from a plastic electric junction
box, four PVC pipes, two wire stands as the legs,
four motors, and a Raspberry Pi.
The total cost was maybe $40.
In a scenario where someone builds unstoppable
code behind a billion-dollar, super stealth drone …
to try to use to control us, we will launch
a hundred thousand of our own drones.
If you think that power comes with size,
spend the night in a room with the mosquito.
[Essentially], our response to attack is launching an
asymmetric [counter-attack of] a million mosquitoes.
Though [they can be] peaceful mosquitoes who don’t
attack anything. They will fly in the way of the drone…
“Hi, drone! Over here, over here!”
Try picking a target through that cloud.
My vision of drones, for real purposes,
is asymmetric warfare or sousveillance.
It came true during a moment in Gezi Park,
Turkey, during the uprising against Erdoğan.
It was crushed, but there was a fantastic moment when
a drone flew over protesters, to record police brutality.
One of the cops pulled out a shotgun and shoots
the drone down, which had never happened before.
The best part: there were two other drones
filming the cop shooting at the one drone,
which was quickly replaced by two more drones.
Another great scene from that demonstration
was when they decided to send a helicopter…
above the park.
A hundred thousand people pulled out green laser
pointers, like what you use for presentations,
and pointed them at this one helicopter;
I can tell you, that helicopter left in a hurry.
Asymmetric power. We have the power.
Because we are many and we are free.
We will keep working with each other. Don’t worry
about the governments using unstoppable code.
They can only use it in small numbers,
with small goals, driven by small minds.
We are many.


  1. Andreas, could the facebook coin(when released) threaten bitcoin somehow? (I believe that the facebook coin would not be decentralised, and not have the same properties as bitcoin. However why a facebook user would choose bitcoin rather than the crap facebook coin?

  2. freedom has no political agenda iT is "free" from all that influence, that is why they call it free…. keep thinking outside the box

  3. Tech companies are predominantly and inarguably leftist and left leaning libertarian. The reason that right wing voices are winning online is because the left have become the new fascists that in lockstep with neoliberal media monopolies are trying to shout down, deplatform, and otherwise dictate what public dialogue will be. Most people see these facts and reject this techno fascist autocracy. The right is leading that rejection.
    Get on the right side of history.

  4. ps… You really need to become a politician and preach for a Green Liberal World with good socialists healthcare ✌️
    (Backed by Science) 👽

  5. Ugh the ignorance of this audience. You don’t think we don’t have left wing fascism? Berkeley? Shadowbans? Deplatforming? Surveillance capitalism?


  7. 8 minutes in: "you're a left wing guy" what was that guy smoking? Andreas is Anarchist/Voluntaryist/Libertarian if anything … put the dunce cap on that guy.

  8. Labeling oneself as left and right takes away individual's free to think and move freely. Just be urself!

  9. Damn. You disappoint me, AA.
    You say the answer is a million voices shouting.
    No. It’s not.
    Then you say the problem is fascists, etc. shouting.
    I think you’re upside down on who the real fascists are.

  10. Wtf is Andreas referring to when he mentions "fascists" and "white supremacists"? It's not an actual thing – it's just leftist propaganda. Disappointing. And did he really just (indirectly) say that the heckler's veto / deplatforming (ie. having a million voices talk over a "fascist" speaker) was the solution? Jesus Christ.

    And does he really think that the main political issue is "scalability", instead of oh, say, oppposing fucking values eg. from the forced integration of opposing cultures? Fucking nerds – with their conflict avoidance – pretending everything is as simple as a minor tech tweak. Saying "fuck the banks" is not so brave. Saying "fuck islam – which opposes our values" might be. "Fuck socialism/statism" would be brave too.

  11. @aantonop, genius in his presentations as usual. Congratulations on this one, specially in the "improvisation" and associations when asked questions that are polemical. Fan of this guy.

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