Amir Taaki was one of Bitcoin’s first-ever dedicated developers and perhaps the one most infamously focused on maintaining privacy and freedom from authority.
In 2014, Forbes listed Taaki on its “30 Under 30” list of technology stars for creating Dark Wallet, the first privacy-focused Bitcoin wallet to include a CoinJoin mixer. That same year, Taaki received even more notoriety as Dark Wallet was twice named in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) report on the potential money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks posed by cryptocurrencies.
In 2015, Taaki traveled to Rojava, Syria, to serve with the YPG Military, a component of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). After months of fighting on the front, he spent more than a year working with Rojava’s economics committee.
Taaki also created Libbitcoin and Bitcoin’s BIP proposal system as well as DarkMarket, the prototype for what eventually became OpenBazaar, an open-source protocol for e-commerce. Outside of his development work, Taaki also founded the anarchist group UnSystem, which included Cody Wilson, creator of a 3D-printable gun, and Mihai Alisie, co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine and Ethereum.
Now, Taaki has returned as a contributor to multiple projects, many of which have not yet been revealed to the public. Although he is not ready to completely reveal his hand, the dissident technologist expressed a strong appreciation for the people in the crypto community, as well as a loss of confidence in its leadership and overarching direction.
Technology, Open to All
For Taaki, what became a lifelong dedication to building technology free from authoritarian intervention started with an interest in what draws many people to Bitcoin: the promise of open-source development for breaking from authority.
“I happened to be 16 when I discovered the open-source movement, which, for me, was absolutely incredible that there are people around the world who build this technology … which plays a foundational role in our infrastructure and our internet,” Taaki told Bitcoin Magazine. “I kind of decided, I’m going to devote my life to make this dream happen. And it was something that captured my mind for the next decade.”
From his open-source involvement, Taaki found other technologists who were deeply concerned with politics. Of the many ideologies he was exposed to, he found anarchy especially interesting. It led him to ask questions about the nature of society and hierarchy and how a richer and more sophisticated society could be created. He saw Bitcoin as an unstoppable force to this end.
“[At] my first talk about Bitcoin in Amsterdam, it was the EPCA conference … I said, look guys, this is a radical technology. Now we’re here, you can’t stop us,” Taaki recalled. “This is what we’re going to do for you.”
Sometimes, his strong anti-middleman stance put him in direct conflict with other early Bitcoin developers — another group he saw as a roadblock to free and open development as he defined it.
“Gavin Andressen reached out to me and said, ‘I didn’t really like how you were talking at the conference. I think you should stop talking about Bitcoin publicly,’” Taaki said. “Gavin preceded to put up roadblocks for me to participate in developing Bitcoin — to sideline me from Bitcoin. Every time I tried to commit code to the Bitcoin Core project, it was blocked and I realized it was impossible for me to work with those people. That’s why I started working on Libbitcoin, to rewrite Bitcoin source code to have alternative implementation.”
Taaki’s work on the BIP review system was originally intended to establish some standardization for implementations and public review of changes to the code. But he now sees the system as a hindrance on development in Bitcoin that favors the status quo over technological progress.
“The problem is that the culture we initiated in those early days has completely overtaken the mindspace of Bitcoin,” explained Taaki. “That was not the original intent. Originally, the intent was to have Bitcoin be a conservative against changes. But it wasn’t to stop any kind of progress from happening inside of Bitcoin. It’s very poorly engineered. It’s very inefficient. The developments in cryptography that are happening now are going to lead to a system that’s eventually going to supersede Bitcoin.”
Looking back at the Bitcoin community he had been a part of in the early 2010s, Taaki sees distance between the philosophies that first drew him to the technology and the philosophical camps that have been established today.
“What we’ve seen happen since then is that those simplistic ideologies, which initially converged around Bitcoin, haven’t really been able to guide us,” he said. “And so we’ve seen a diversification from these ideologies … There’s this weird, regressive or reactionary Bitcoin culture … and it’s opposed to any kind of change or progress or development or advancement.”
Taaki also noted concerns about the cryptocurrency space he had been a part of years ago now being “co-opted” by outsiders — business- or authority-focused groups who want to take technology out of the hands of the idealistic cypherpunks who worked with Satoshi to usher in the era.
“We’re in this very strange place inside of crypto culture where we’re facing significant challenges to the technology, of it being co-opted by external actors, by actors who don’t necessarily have a philosophical vision or goal we originally had in mind,” he said. “Maybe I’m talking about people like ConsenSys, or maybe I’m talking about central bank digital currencies or Facebook … Bottom line: The only way that we’re going to overcome these challenges is by having coherent analysis, a system of organization and some kind of narrative so that we can develop something that’s coordinated.”
The Reality of Dissident Tech in Syria
After leading the technological development and ideological conversation around Bitcoin for nearly five years, Taaki traveled to Rojava, an autonomous region in Northern Syria where forces were trying to build and defend a direct democracy based on Libertarian, socialist and anarchist principles that promoted decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability as well as religious, political and cultural tolerance and diversity.
Despite seeking a technology development role, Taaki spent his first year in Rojava serving on the front lines of a war with ISIS.
“It was mad,” Taaki explained. “I was literally shipped to war, handed a kalashnikov as we were driving to the frontlines and told, ‘Don’t worry, if you’re not dead in two weeks, you’ll know everything there is to know about fighting in a war.’ It was a mad time. It was chaos, but I managed to get out of that position after a few months.”
Taaki returned to Syria in 2019, this time in a role reviewing technical projects for the region.
“I was looking at open-source solutions, like how to build a mobile phone network,” he said. “I also looked at how we could deploy cryptocurrencies. The so-called leaders I reached out to were very limited in their thinking and did not offer much support … There’s so much to consider and if your goal is to create the infrastructure for five million people, it’s so different from making individual accounts for an app-based marketplace you can download.”
If this seems like an opportunity for one of Bitcoin’s most prominent developers to implement the technology in a region that could clearly benefit from it, Taaki emphasized that it wasn’t.
“The reality is if any administration in the world were to say that they wanted to deploy Bitcoin in a region of their country, there is no group that has the software infrastructure ready to set up a reliable financial network,” Taaki explained. “For example, if in Hong Kong, there’s a guy who has Bitcoin, he can extend a line of credit to Syria, and he can cash out to a local pool of dollars. Or people in Syria who have assets like oil can issue futures or upper-finance instruments on that asset so that they can get investment to build their infrastructure. There’s a really great application of this technology, but we’re just not thinking on that level.”
Taaki lists oft-lauded use cases in places like Venezuela, Cyprus and Iran as distractions that keep the Bitcoin community from truly preparing the technology to help distressed places around the world before they are too far gone.
“Those were lost opportunities,” he said. “It’s sad, that’s our failure as a community. And those future opportunities should be what we choose to face and engage in our market so we can develop better technology. But we’re not doing that right now. Instead, it’s a bunch of technologists playing around with blockchain technology. I see no practical basis in reality to what we’re doing right now.”
Building the Dissident Future
In addition to his work promoting a freer society in Syria, Taaki is establishing an academy in Barcelona that incubates new technology projects and offers training in cryptocurrency development. He’s also working on Nym, which he described as an alternative to Tor. Of course, his mission to strengthen the privacy and freedom from authority inherent in technologies like Bitcoin is an ongoing focus as well.
“I’m also working on anonymization of cryptocurrencies and products,” Taaki said. “The same same technology I am building out will be a platform or a library that we can use to build other products like decentralized exchanges, marketplaces and also a generalized platform for issuing anonymous smart contracts and other financial instruments … A lot of people are asking for a new release of Dark Wallet, but I’m not going to release a bad product. CoinJoin is broken but I will develop something that’s better.”
Ultimately, Taaki’s is a working life dedicated to strengthening tools in the hands of dissidents — those who seek to communicate and transact without interference from political authorities, who hope to establish a better and freer society.
“The legacy of the civilization that we live in is a state-based civilization based off of a hierarchical system of control and specialization of labor, which leads to all of the modern problems we have,” Taaki said. “We want to create a different kind of society, which is free, where people have liberty and the natural wealth of people’s creative energies is developed and nurtured. The emerging field of cryptography offers us a power that we can use to create new financial instruments and networks that can be used as a tool to stop state power and control, and create space where marginalized communities can operate outside of state control.”
An expanded version of this conversation will be released on the Bitcoin Magazine Podcast.
The post Amir Taaki on Bitcoin and Building Dissident Technology in 2020 appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
Organic growth? Bitcoin SV activity up 761% ahead of BSV conference
Active addresses and transaction counts on the Bitcoin SV network saw unbelievable growth in the two days leading up to the CoinGeek Live conference in New York this week.
Active BSV addresses grew from 110,000 on September 28, to 947,400 addresses today.
That’s an astonishing growth rate of 761%, in just two days leading up to CoinGeek Live, which kicked off on September 30 at 9am New York time, and will run until October 2.
The spike in active addresses raised eyebrows on Crypto-Twitter. Bitcoin SV and Craig Wright antagonist Arthur van Pelt reposted SirToshi’s chart that calls attention to the fact BSV has managed to overtake the Ethereum network in the middle of a DeFi boom. He said sarcastically:
“Seems legit. Organic Growth I think. Has nothing to do with #CGLive I bet’.”
Bitcoin influencer ‘Holdlonaut’ responded with a facepalm emoji.
Transactions on the Bitcoin SV network more than doubled in the same period, from 715.6K to 1,751K today. That’s growth of 145% in the 48 hours leading up to the conference. Average transaction values meanwhile, fell by two-thirds over the same period.
However, it’s possible the spike could simply be a coincidence, as the network does see some unusual bursts of activity on occasion. Active addresses spiked to over 1 million briefly on June 24, and transactions spiked to 5.5 million on July 10.
The CoinGeek Live conference is mostly an online affair and features speakers including nChain’s controversial chief scientist Wright, Bitcoin Association President Jimmy Nguyen and Fundstrat Global managing partner Thomas Lee.
In his opening address, Nguyen said that Bitcoin SV has incentives to discourage bad behavior and noted that the original Bitcoin whitepaper mentions the word “honest” 15 times.
According to CoinGeek’s report on Nguyen’s address, Bitcoin SV currently processes more 2,800 transactions per second on its mainnet, and is aiming for 50,000 in the near future. The forthcoming Teranode enterprise-tier protocol aims to have 1TB transaction blocks.
Nguyen said that Bitcoin SV is “the foundational rule set for an entire network,” and is “re-inventing the internet.”
In somewhat related news, the Supreme Court of Norway has rejected Craig Wright’s jurisdictional appeal. The Satoshi claimant had been trying to sue Hodlonaut for libel in the UK but will now have to go through Norwegian courts.
Hodlonaut said the court has awarded him another $6000 in costs on top of the $60,000 in costs already awarded:.
Supreme Court in Norway today rejected CSW’s jurisdiction appeal, awarding me costs of $6,000 on top of the $60,000 already owed.
His perfect loss record is intact. (4 out of 4)
The real case will now go forward in Norway where another loss surely awaits him.
Welcome to law! https://t.co/Ue4TL4P5gp
— hodlonaut ⚡ (@hodlonaut) September 30, 2020
President Maduro: Venezuela Seeks Opportunities To Use Cryptocurrency For Global Trade
- Venezuela’s cryptocurrency story continues as the country’s President Nicolas Maduro has presented new use cases.
- A recent report informed that the South American nation is studying the possibility of using digital assets in trades alongside the national Petro.
- President Maduro has presented new anti-sanctions law in the Constituent National Assembly. In a recent speech, he asserted:
“The anti-sanctions law is the first response to give new strength to the use of petro and other cryptocurrencies, national and global, in domestic and foreign trade, so that all cryptocurrencies of the world, state and private, could be used. This is an important project that is under development.”
- The news comes after Maduro suggested last year that his country could adopt cryptocurrency payments.
- Additionally, Venezuela signed a new tax agreement this summer that enabled the nation to start collecting taxes and fees in the Petro.
- A study reported by CryptoPotato revealed that digital assets already play an essential role in the country’s struggling economy. Venezuela’s intensifying financial crisis has catalyzed significant interest in cryptocurrencies as people seek opportunities to escape the devaluating national currency.
- The Bitcoin peer-to-peer volume exemplifies the growing interest in the primary cryptocurrency within the country. As per data from coin.dance, the BTC P2P volume on LocalBitcoins has been continuously surging in the past several months.
Leader That Allowed Scams: TRON’s Justin Sun Responds to Claims by Ex-Employees
Yesterday The Verge published an elaborate article portraying a picture of Justin Sun’s leadership at BitTorrent post the peer-to-peer file-sharing site’s acquisition by the TRON foundation.
Sun later responded to the ‘false-claims’ made by TRON/BitTorrent’s ex-employees in the article with ‘An Open Letter to Anyone Who Cares to Read’ on Medium.
Claim: Megalomaniac Leader; Response: True Libertarian
In the supposedly expose piece, author
Refuting the above portrayal of his leadership, Sun, in his response, stated that he has devoted his entire life ‘to being a responsible, global citizen’. Adding to this, Justin said that is a true champion of libertarian principles for a significant portion of his life.
I have devoted myself to being a responsible, global citizen throughout my entire life, spending significant portions of my personal and professional life to activities promoting universal values of respect, liberty, equality, and kindness.
The TRON and BitTorrent chief impressed further on his ‘global’ approach to things. He explained that the TRON Foundation harbors a ‘global team of talented contributors and developers’. And that he takes ‘pride in working’ with this global community to make TRON ‘one of the greatest decentralized blockchain protocols’.
Claim: Freedom Suppressor; Response: Upholder Of Human Rights, Individual Values
Dunaway reportedly engaged in conversations with folks who are/were associated with the TRON brand and the work culture. From what he gathered, Justin enforced a draconian company culture, with employees officially following the ‘9-9-6’ norm.
According to the article, TRON’s HR had Slack replaced with its Chinese counterpart DingTalk. The communication platform had an in-built surveillance mechanism that would use ‘Apple Health to count people’s steps’. Also, DingTalk used to ping employees literally all the time.
To this, Sun responded by saying that he has left no stone turned in, establishing a work culture that respects.
diversity and individuality through a culture that cherishes fundamental human values freedom of speech, user privacy, intellectual property protection, kindness, a diversified working environment, and compliance with legal standards.
Justin went on to comment that TRON and BitTorrent operate with a ‘globally collaborative team’. One that upholds and respects the ethos of cross-culture teams. Sun claimed that the folks at TRON folks have ‘worked hard’ to create a collaborative work culture. One that values freedom of speech and individual privacy.
Claim: Suppressed Criticism, Allowed Scams; Response: No Control Over Protocol Functioning
The Verge piece mentioned that ‘decentralization’ was just a facade for what was happening behind the curtains. Justin Sun and his core officials exercised strict control over content moving about and within the TRON network.
This involved allegedly paying a Redditor to ‘erase negative posts’. Which later drew the ire of the community.
Free speech is part of the ideology of decentralization, where ideas flow without gatekeepers. Tron started deleting any post it wanted.
The article also claimed that TRON’s administration team was silent and allowed the perpetration of scams on the network. While this happened, scammers and the scammed continue to grow in numbers while the management did nothing to interfere.
Justin, in his Medium post, said that he and the entire TRON administration team function sans control. Even though the team at TRON works to upgrade the platform, they do not exercise any censorship/regulation.
…we have no control or discretion over what applications use the protocol, what data is transmitted, or how its community members use it.
Sun went to add that he and his team are proud of TRON and BitTorrent’s achievement over the years. He went to quote that both have collectively ‘served 2 billion users around the world. These include ‘numerous enterprises, universities, and governments’.
Lastly, the TRON and BitTorrent boss struck down all claims made by ex-employees Lucasz Juraszek, Richard Hall, and Cong Li. Justin declared that the TRON foundation’s legal counsel has submitted all the requisite proofs and evidence pieces to the court. “We believe the decision will speak for itself”, he said.
BTT and TRX’s price didn’t seem to undergo any correction following the release of the bitterly scathing Verge piece. On the contrary, BTT is actually up 2.3% in the last 24 hours.
Featured image courtesy of QZ.com
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