Ben Askren, a recently retired pro Mixed Martial Artist and former Olympic Wrestler joins me to talk about how he got into Bitcoin and is now spreading the word about Bitcoin to his following! We talk:
- How he got into Bitcoin
- Common misconceptions
- Why we run full nodes in Bitcoin
- What’s next for him with Bitcoin
Ben Askren Links:
Stephan Livera links:
Stephan Livera: Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Askren: What’s going on? Excited to be here. Excited to talk about Bitcoin. Let’s do this.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, for sure. So Ben, I’ve seen you’ve recently been talking a lot about Bitcoin. You tweeted just recently about The Little Bitcoin Book, which is a great book. Can you tell us, I’d love to hear a little bit about how you, what did you first think of Bitcoin when you first heard about it?
Ben Askren: Oh, let’s see when I first heard. So, you know what, unfortunately, I didn’t hear about early enough cause I really wish I had heard about it in like 2011 2012 2013. So I first heard about it in 2017 luckily it was before the run up, I want to say I was with my buddy. I’ve fought in Shanghai, my buddy came up, he lives in Australia and he had, he had bought, by that point, he had bought a whole bunch of stuff and I want to say Bitcoin crossed 3,500 for the first time.
Ben Askren: I could be wrong on that. That’s what I feel like I remember. And so, you know, he started telling me about it. We were there in Shanghai for a week. So by the end of the week in Shanghai, I’m like, okay. And I started buying stuff luckily, you know, and then so it was a blast cause I got to watch the run up. So, you know, I went about 3X and then I got to watch the run down and I went, down by a whole bunch. And so I got all the myriad of emotions that went along with investing and you know, but I see it as kind of a longterm solution to some of the problems that we have in our world. And so I’m all in for the long haul.
Stephan Livera: So I think most people come to it. They’re very skeptical, right? They normally think of it like, Oh, that’s a scam. Whatever. What was it that turned you around from that view?
Ben Askren: Oh, well, I feel, okay. So I feel as though I’m open minded just right off the bat. And so I don’t, and maybe it is also because the guy who I was speaking with was a close friend and very trusted and I also find him to be very intelligent. So when he says something, I generally listen, not like I’m like whatever he says is truth, but I’m going to listen with open ears. But man, I just saw some of the obvious use cases. Obviously I’m an end the fed type of guy. I voted for Ron Paul in 2012. I see how our financial services system takes advantage of us immensely. I see the flaws in having a federal reserve.
Ben Askren: I love the freedom that Bitcoin gives us. And so I guess that that kinda, I was naturally attracted. I feel like it’s this, you know, in the early days of Bitcoin there was a lot of like of the anarcho-capitalist type of people and I wouldn’t go that far to say that that’s kind of what I am. But I do have some of those libertarian leanings. And so I think right away I was turned on by some of the aspects that Bitcoin provided.
Stephan Livera: Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. So I think you were very well primed for it as well. But then I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it earlier. Like, a lot of those –
Ben Askren: I am also, you know when I think about how woke that I think I am. You’re right. I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it earlier. You know, I dunno. I dunno why.
Stephan Livera: That’s awesome. So then tell us a little bit about your experience learning about Bitcoin. What were some of the resources that you used? Like your friend? Did he recommend stuff to you?
Ben Askren: Yeah, so I started reading a handful of books right away. Let’s see. Those are on my shelf. Can I see them? I know the Internet of Money was an easy one that came up right away. Man, not seeing any of those around. Anyways. I, I read about three to five books right away. Started following the proper people. On Twitter and whatnot. I mean, you can gather so much information from Twitter, right. Listening and reading. And so yeah, just started doing my own research and like I said, a lot of what Bitcoin provides jived with what I thought about the world already, my world view and so it was easy.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s great. And well, one thing I find with Twitter is you can often be misled. You can find a lot of misinformation on Twitter as well. So how did you filter out the good from the bad?
Ben Askren: Oh, the good, the bad? Well, the good, the bad and the ugly. I would say on Twitter you take an aggregate of everything, right? Obviously, you know, there’s some people, if you follow them, you start realizing who knows, kinda knows what they’re talking about and who’s totally full of crap. And I think Twitter really, and you know, really the internet allows you to follow things all the way to the end. Right? So you see someone say something, you click on a link, you may be searched for that. I don’t know about this. This seems like this guy’s full, totally full of crap.
Ben Askren: Okay. I’m not going to trust this guy anymore. Once you catch a guy lying or being full of shit a couple times. It’s easy to not really trust him anymore. So you know, you try to, like you say you get a lot of resources and you try to go with the ones that you liked the best.
Stephan Livera: Great. And did you have a lot of time to devote to learning about Bitcoin? I mean you’re obviously very busy with your normal career. Did you find the time to learn about Bitcoin or do you just make time?
Ben Askren: Busy? People are busy. People always find time for stuff that they find valuable. And so yeah, I found the time. You know, again, the guy who introduced me, his name’s Ry, he lives in Australia. You know, he would send me a whole bunch of links all the time, you know, and we would say stay up to date.
Ben Askren: And then obviously then once you start talking about it, you find other people who are interested in the topic and then you can bounce stuff off them also. And yeah, I keep a healthy optimism about everything with also bounce with of healthy skepticism. And you know, I think I would like to think I have quite a few good resources.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. So on the topic of having a healthy skepticism, I think that is an important mindset to take when people present different ideas to you in this Bitcoin space. Because sometimes there’ll be a lot of questionable projects and so on. There are a lot of charlatans in this space. I actually, I have a friend his name is Martin Floriana. He started he started a company, a media company. It has it has a blockchain solution to payments of creators.
Ben Askren: And at first he kind of pushed that and then after a while he’s like, there are so many effing charlatans in this industry. I don’t even want to have blockchain attached to my company at all. I don’t even really tell people that it’s got a blockchain component to it anymore. They don’t really need to know that. I mean, if they’d start doing it, they’ll figure it out. Right. But yeah, I mean, especially with the ICO bubble and in 2017, man, there’s a lot of criminals in this space and it really allowed for them. But I guess that’s kinda like any industry, Right? You find good and bad people everywhere.
Stephan Livera: So when it comes to some Bitcoin tools and things that you use, do you have any favorite wallets, desktop wallets, lightning, hardware wallets. What are some of your favorites?
Ben Askren: Well my, my buddy recommended Trezor right off the bat, and so that was, you know, something I got right away. And I will say he’s obviously, I’m sponsored by eToro. I gotta, put that out there. And so that, that’s why I buy through now. But the buying stuff has gotten so much simpler since August, September, 2017. I mean the amount of ease you can get to purchase pretty much anything now is 10 times as easy as it was back then. So now it’s pretty simple, you got your Trezor. I have a couple of wallets on my phone for a small months. Money. I have an eternal wallet. I have a lope wallet. I have a handful of things on my phone for, like I said, small amounts of money. I have a Trezor for large amounts of money. Yeah, it’s, man, it’s simple now compared to what it used to be. And then I, I can’t even imagine like in 2012, I can’t even imagine what that was like.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Have you explored running like a Bitcoin node as well?
Ben Askren: Nah, I’ve never explored that. I mean, I just, I got enough going on in my life. That seems like a lot of work.
Stephan Livera: Well, I think we could do it. We could make it easy for you. We’re going to get you there. I think we’ll get you there.
Ben Askren: I have never, I’ve never even never even stepped foot in that direction. I’d never even Googled, how do I do a Bitcoin node? Maybe I’m misled by, I feel like it takes a lot of computing power and a handful of upfront investment and I’m just, I’m already invested enough in Bitcoin and everything else. So yeah, no, I did not explore that at all.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. No, that’s, well, I think it’s, that’s part of the journey as well. I think people go on a progression, right? So they buy Bitcoin, then they put it on a hardware wallet, and then usually the next step from then is learning how to run their full node as well.
Ben Askren: Really, you think that’s natural and.
Stephan Livera: not natural, but I think that’s the, that’s the progression that we like as like a more experienced Bitcoiners try to put Bitcoiners on that sort of journey. There’s a reason for that though.
Ben Askren: That’s fair. Yeah. Sure. That’s fair. Yeah. I mean, I think like, so I just started this podcast with John Kim. Funky John Kim. Do you know him?
Stephan Livera: Heard of him, heard of him? I might’ve met him.
Ben Askren: He’s a Litecoin evangelist, travels the world. So we said, but I think a lot of people, so obviously you do a Bitcoin podcast, a lot of people in the community, they don’t understand how much other people don’t know. Like, do you know how many times I’ve been asked, well Ben, I can’t buy a full Bitcoin. It costs too much. And I’m like, no, you don’t have to buy it. You don’t have to buy a whole Bitcoin. You can buy anything you, have $10, $100, whatever you want. Really. You know? And just like, just like simple questions like that. So our first two episodes is what is a Bitcoin. Second episode, which we just released was how do I buy Bitcoin, what is an exchange and what is a wallet? So, you know, we’re trying to explain some of these really simple things because I think lots of times people who are in this space, they take for granted, like how easy stuff is once they already know and they forget, like, what people don’t know. I mean, even even me sometimes when you had your Trezor do say a firmware update or something and you’re like, Oh shit, am I going to lose all my money? Right. Do you know what I mean? Like it’s just kinda scary. So yeah, trying to simplify stuff for people.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s a totally a great point and I think that’s absolutely a great focus that most of us need to have a, I think one good point.
Ben Askren: I just looked at your Twitter handle and it says Bitcoin plus Austrian Economics. So you voted for Ron Paul also didn’t you?
Stephan Livera: If I could, I would. I’m in Australia, but.
Ben Askren: That’s where my buddy lives in Australia. He lives in a Newcastle. The guy who introduced me to Bitcoin,
Stephan Livera: That’s like two hours drive North of me. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Cool. but yeah, I liked that you mentioned around a lot of the difficulty around like even when you’re doing a firmware update on your Trezor, for example, one thing that people don’t understand when they’re first getting into this is that you write down those 24 words and that is your backup. So even for your future transactions, right? They don’t realize, Oh, I need to do another, I don’t need to do another backup. That is it. So, yeah. What are some other things that you think are difficult for an outsider to understand around Bitcoin? That you know, maybe it’s volatile. What would you normally say if you get someone who says that?
Ben Askren: I guess what I would say no, I wouldn’t say that it’s volatile. What I would say is a lot of Americans, because they haven’t had some of the difficulties that other countries or other parts of the world have had, they don’t really see the need for Bitcoin. Right? The US dollar has been fairly stable. Right? There’s been obviously a slow depreciation in value, but for what it’s worth, it has been fairly stable. They’re not having hyperinflation. They’re not having runs in the banks like this happened in Iceland or Cyprus or Venezuela. Right. So they don’t see that. They have access to banks very easily. It’s not like you’re in Indonesia, which has a huge portion of unbanked people. So they’re not seeing those problems that other parts of the world have that like I said that when you, when you know those things, when you’re educated on those topics, it’s like, Oh duh, Bitcoin makes so much sense.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Then I think there are a couple of examples even in The Little Bitcoin Book as well where they point out like remittance or even being able to leave the country.
Ben Askren: Remittance is a the huge one. I mean I spent lot of time in Asia. I fought for four years exclusively and I spent time in both Singapore and a lot of times sometime in Hong Kong, but you see like on Sundays there’s the huge migrant communities which have migrant labor. And usually on Sundays they go gather and they send remittances and you realize, Holy shit, these remittances, they take a week to get there. The Western union or whatever similar thing charges them ungodly fees of 10, 12, 15%. And so you see, Oh wait, they can send Bitcoin with a, you know, like a 0.0001% fee and it gets there in five minutes or 10 minutes. Oh my gosh. Like, yeah. So yeah, I see like that was, I saw those things right away and it made so much sense.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. I think most people haven’t experienced what it’s like to be totally free and being able to send that money around anywhere. Right. As you say, very few people really understand Bitcoin and so they’re used to this world of normal bank transfers and then you send money and then you wait for weeks or for days maybe, and then they might block you. Right. Or then there might be some screw up at the transfer.
Ben Askren: I mean, even a bank wire takes like three days. Like, Holy shit, it’s 2018. How does this, how does this Epic process take three days? It’s absurd. It’s totally absurd.
Stephan Livera: So speaking of a very quick settlement Ben, have you heard or listened to much around the lightning network?
Ben Askren: I mean, I kind of know what it is, but no, I couldn’t give you an in depth explanation of the lightning network at all.
Stephan Livera: No, that’s fine. That’s totally fine. Yeah, I’m not expecting you to have like a super detailed knowledge on these things, but I’m just curious to know, where you’re at and what you’re thinking about that because, the lightning network also I think is a very powerful ability to very quickly send money and still settle it back down to the Bitcoin blockchain as well.
Stephan Livera: And so that, I view that as like a real game changer in terms of being able to very quickly increase our ability to send money anywhere around the world and just like settle it really quickly.
Ben Askren: Yeah. So if I’m, remember if I know this topic, right? Lightning network was first tried out by litecoin. I believe, did Charlie Lee have some hand in, in getting it going or no?
Stephan Livera: I think that’s one of those points where people, people have disagreement in the community around that. So some people would say yes, I was the activation of SegWit on Litecoin that helped enable, again, getting a bit technical, but that helped activation of the technology that helped enable lightning on Bitcoin. There is a Litecoin lightning network, however, it’s much, much smaller than the Bitcoin lightning network. Yeah, but that’s a cool one as well in terms of being able to very quickly and cheaply send money around and it just has dramatically lower fees and it allows Bitcoin to sort of take it to the next level. So I think I’m really excited about that.
Ben Askren: So obviously I use Litecoin also. You know, I have a loaf wallet, there’s a couple people I pay that I use for stuff and I pay them in, in Litecoin and yeah, every time. So I also use Venmo cause all the, you know, so I’ve got 11 acres here. I have a Wrestling Academy. Some of the high school kids want summer work. They come over and you know, cut my grass or move mulch or whatever it is. And so I paid them on Venmo cause they don’t have, I’m thinking about forcing them to get a loaf wallet or something of the like next summer we’ll see how far I go down that alley. But you know, obviously I’m not going to give Venmo access to my bank account. I put my, put my credit card on there and every single time I send 50 bucks, it gives me a $1.50 transaction fee and I’m like, Oh freaking Venmo.
Ben Askren: And then you know, I pay my one guy on my loaf wallet and it’s like, okay, the fee is 0.007 of a light coin. You, you’re like, okay, what’s the math that, Oh I just paid, you know, point 0.03 cents for that transaction.
Ben Askren: Right. Yeah. I say, yeah. Well, I think similarly run now with lightning, you basically can do a similar level a transaction on lightning and pay pretty much similar level fees with that as well, so you could even look into getting them onto lightning. I think that’s also another important comment around building real world use as well. So, I’m obviously a big fan of HODL, right? I think HODL is the important thing, but I think eventually there definitely is a need to build around that idea of doing real commerce in Bitcoin as well. So I think it’s really cool that you have a real world examples that you’re using it for already.
Ben Askren: Yeah, I mean, and that’s by my podcast co host John Kim, actually the clip we put up today from episode number two was I called him a dumb ass cause he’s out spending his money spending his Bitcoin and Litecoin. He’s out there spending it. And we, we brought the example of the guy I’m blanking on,Laslzo, I believe his name is the first guy at Laszlo bought two pieces with 30,000 Bitcoins and how man, he’s a dumb ass.
Ben Askren: I mean he paid, he paid $30 million or whatever for a couple of pizzas and you don’t have to, John was saying, yeah well you know people call Laszlo dumb ass and, but I’m out here spending because, someone has to do it. Someone has to spend to give it real world value. So you know like this is John saying, John’s saying I consider Laszlo to be hero cause he’s the first one that went out and did that and someday hopefully people will feel the same way about me cause I’m out here spending all of my Bitcoin and Litecoin instead of HODLing.
Stephan Livera: Well I think that’s a point where the, again, there’s differences in the community. I think my view would be more like actually the value comes from holding and –
Ben Askren: You know what, I had this, I had this argument with my brother last week. You want it, you want to hear how it goes?
Stephan Livera: Yeah, let’s hear it.
Ben Askren: So this is again, I’m, I’m, I will never ever claim to be the most knowledgeable person about Bitcoin, but Max, my brother was saying that he does hold some cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. He was arguing that, you know, the Bitcoin has to be tied to the dollar and that’s what gives it value. And I said, I don’t really feel as though it has to be, and I don’t feel like Bitcoin specifically. I think other things may be used for day to day transactions. Bitcoin might be, but I think there’s also a chance other things will be, so I said, but a lot of people view Bitcoin as just a store of value. They’re just going to go put their wealth in there. And the reason is it has a lot of the same properties that gold does, right?
Ben Askren: And that’s why gold has been the standard of wealth for thousands of years. But the only problem is Bitcoin does pretty much every single thing gold can do. If you list the categories where gold gives value, pretty much everything that gold can do. Bitcoin does it better or is easier, right? A verification of if this is real gold or what percentage gold, like I don’t know how to do that. That’s going to cost a whole bunch of money to go verify real gold. How about sending gold? What if I want to send you $1,000 of gold? How am I going to go send you? I can send you $1,000 of Bitcoin in about, you know, 44 seconds, maybe less. How am I send you $1,000 of gold, like real literally mean to you right now. It’s going to be tough. I mean, I’m going to go have to figure how divided.
Ben Askren: I’m going to like have a gold cutting machine, a gold, you know, I’m going to weigh it. I’m going to figure out what the rate is. I’d have to go to the post office on five. I’m going to ship it to you to get there in a week. You know what I’m saying? People don’t think about that –
Stephan Livera: A hundred percent.
Ben Askren: Every single thing that gold did. Bitcoin has the same aspects, just better. I mean you talk about how there’s not a high quantity, right? There’s only 21 million Bitcoin ever. Probably less cause a whole bunch were lost. Gold has a limited source of it, but you know, it is ever expanding. So it’s probably not as limited as as they once thought it to be. So I think everything gold does, Bitcoin does better. Gold was valuable because gold was gold. People deemed to be value. Bitcoin be the same way. It’s going to have value on a standalone value on its own because it has those immutable properties.
Stephan Livera: Gotcha. Yeah you couldn’t have said it better now I would say –
Ben Askren: Really? Come on, give me some criticism there, make me better.
Stephan Livera: Well, no, I think that one point I would add to what you were saying is the other way you could have done it is go through a custodian, right? Your trust. But now what are we doing, we’re trusting somebody else? Right. And then that.
Ben Askren: Sure, yeah.
Stephan Livera: You know, anti the ethos right? The ethos here is you want to verify yourself. You don’t want to just trust somebody else who’s going to hold the gold for you and that they are going to measure it correctly, that they are going to verify it for you, you’ve got to do it yourself. And that’s why this whole idea of, you know, you hold your own keys and you run your own node. And that’s very much I think the ethos of Bitcoin and what we try to really teach newcomers,
Ben Askren: Give me the elevator pitch on why I need to do my own node because I’ve never considered it and that, and they use this like the third time you’ve pushed on this episode. So you give me the sales pitch on why I need to do my own node because I feel pretty secure. I got it somewhere here in my presence in my house. I have my Trezor wallet. It’s got money on it. If I had a lot more money, I would probably use a Casa HODL or something even more secure. But as is, I don’t really see anyone else have access to my money. So why do I need to run a node?
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Great question. Happy to answer it. So let me put it this way right now. You can either use your own node or you can trust somebody else to run the node for you. So put it, let me put it simply.
Ben Askren: What do you, how do you mean by that? So define that.
Stephan Livera: So what the full node does is it basically checks that you really do hold that Bitcoin, so for example, Trezor now they’re probably not lying to you, but Trezor or Ledger or one of these other companies who are running that they could lie to you, they could tell you, Hey Ben,
Ben Askren: Really?
Stephan Livera: well, how would you know?
Ben Askren: You’re right. I don’t know.
Stephan Livera: So the ethos with Bitcoin is when you run the full node, what that’s doing is it’s checking all the rules of Bitcoin. It’s checking that no one has inflated the supply beyond 21 million, et cetera. That there’s certain rules around blocks and transactions. And most importantly, you’re checking that, you know, without trusting anybody else that yes, Ben, you hold this number of – X , Y, Z number of Bitcoins. And what it does is it helps reduce the costs. So think of it like a fake if you had a fake gold detector, you know, like those things to check if they’ve got tungsten on whatever, think of this full node. It’s like a fake Bitcoin detector. And so when you run your own Bitcoin full node and you connect, now it’s great that you hold your own key because you’ve got a Trezor. So that’s step one. But then step two is learning to run your own node and then connect that with your own keys in a way. And so one way to do that is to like, I’m actually happy to help talk you through that process if you like.
Ben Askren: You haven’t convinced me quite yet. We’re getting there –
Stephan Livera: So, okay. Okay. All right, well let’s here’s the other one,
Ben Askren: Okay, wait, hold on. So yes. So I realize one of the things that makes the blockchain so powerful is everyone, you know, there are all these nodes all over the world, right? Which are also, which are all checking these transactions and whatnot. And so essentially, like a bank holds a central ledger and no one has access to that central ledger. So if they wanted to fudge or move stuff around, they could probably do that, right? Bitcoin, not necessarily because there’s all these open nodes and everyone could see what everyone else is doing.
Ben Askren: Doing. So I guess I’m just help explain to me why I need to do one.
Stephan Livera: Well, that comes down to how, how willing are you to trust that this company will run it for you, right? Because remember, right now it’s, it’s early days, right? But imagine in the future where, let’s say that company might, that company might become bigger and bigger and more of a target for hacking or it might become bigger and bigger and more of a target for the government.
Ben Askren: Trezor.
Stephan Livera: I mean, yeah.
Ben Askren: Huh. I guess the way I understand it, this is again, you know, I’m not the smartest guy in Bitcoin. Everybody’s understanding when I have my Trezor, I plug it in, I send my stuff to my private keys, right. Then my Trezor is unplugged, is then put in my house.
Ben Askren: No one has access like, no one can have access to that. Right? I mean, that’s, nobody can hack that?
Stephan Livera: Yes and no.
Stephan Livera: So what it is is –
Ben Askren: Oh oh,
Stephan Livera: No, don’t, don’t. Like, okay, so there’s a few –
Ben Askren: Oh oh, who’s hacking me?
Stephan Livera: But it’s more like there are ways in which you can still have your security compromised. For example, if you use a web browser, then somebody might use a malicious web extension and then they might present you a fake address so that you might think, Oh, I’m depositing into this address. But then they present you actually it’s their address. Right? Or things like that.
Ben Askren: Sure.
Stephan Livera: There are occasionally hacks against hardware wallets as well. So that’s why.
Ben Askren: Really?
Stephan Livera: Depending on the model of Trezor, it’s a good thing to have what’s called a passphrase. You can think of that like the 25th word on your seed.
Stephan Livera: So that’s another good practice as well.
New Speaker: Well, what do you, so what do you say about the Casa HODL system? Have you seen that?
Stephan Livera: That’s a good system. I like Casa. They have,
Ben Askren: Is that unhackable? Without doing your own node?
Stephan Livera: Nothing is unhackable, but it’s more like, I think it’s a good security system in that they have, you know, multisignature and you distribute the keys. So there are a few providers out there. So Casa, one of my podcast sponsors is Unchained Capital. They’re doing a two of three set up. And it’s also possible to create your own multisignature as well if you’re using other software like Electrum or Caravan, now as well.
Ben Askren: I’m not that, I’m not that educated.
Stephan Livera: I think it’s over time it’ll get there. It’s going to get easier and easier. And companies like Casa are helping make it easy for people to hold their own keys and to run their own node as well. And ideally connect it all up so that they are, because part of it is you want to make sure when you receive a transaction, so for example, let’s say, Ben, I’m making a payment to you and you don’t necessarily trust me. How do you know for sure that I really did send you 0.1 Bitcoin?
Ben Askren: Aren’t I going to see it in my wallet like five, 10 minutes later.
Stephan Livera: Right? But even then, you’ll still trusting that whoever that provider is, is not lying to you. And there’s also a privacy aspect to it as well.
New Speaker: What do you mean? I mean, I don’t understand. I thought, once I see it in my wallet that its there, right? I’m not, no one’s lying to me.
Stephan Livera: Well that’s again, that’s the thing because you’re trusting that the Trezor web interface is not lying to you right. At that some point.
New Speaker: Oh man, you are so far down the rabbit hole now you’re gonna, you wanna make me like stay up all night worried about shit, don’t you?
Stephan Livera: We’re all just paranoid –
New Speaker: Here I thought I had this really secure system for my money and now I feel like, Oh shit, I’m —
Stephan Livera: hold on. Hold on. Trezor themselves are working on something on this, it’s called, as I understand, I think it’s called Tresor suite. And the idea is you can actually run your own full node and then connect your own Trezor to that. So they’re coming, so they’re working on something similar to this, but there are other ways to achieve it as well. That will, because part of it is protecting the decentralization of Bitcoin, right?
Stephan Livera: Because imagine if there were say, two or three big providers that everyone just trusts will, then the government can just go shut them down or just go and co opt them, you know what I mean? Sure. So, and that’s, and we would say even like with gold you, that was what we saw, right? That the way gold got stored got very centralized and then it got co-opted right?
New Speaker: Yeah.
Stephan Livera: And so in some ways Bitcoin represents a whole new thing because now we can verify it all on our own and literally every household down the street can be running their own full node. And so that way —
New Speaker: How many active nodes are there on planet earth currently?
Stephan Livera: Oh, it’s, there’s not really any hard numbers that I could say there are like online sites which show statistics of listening nodes, but there’s a lot that aren’t listening or easily discoverable. Look, I would say on the low end it’s like 10,000 listening nodes or whatever, but realistically, at least, you know, 100,000 like full nodes around the world. But part of the system actually relies on more people running their own full node as well. So part of it is like keeping this thing decentralized. Right. And I think you can appreciate that, right?
Ben Askren: All right. Yeah. Well we went deep there. Now listen, I’d never, I’d never even ventured into the node territory. And now you have me at least slightly curious. So you did your job. Now I’m going to go after we get off this, I, at some point I will do my research on a node.
Stephan Livera: I’m happy to point. After this, I’ll give you some resources and I’m happy. I’m happy to help you. So sounds good. But look, I’d love to talk a little bit about whether you’ve explored. Now another thing that I commonly get when when I’m talking to a Bitcoin beginner, they’re often coming in asking, Oh, Hey, should I do Bitcoin mining? Right. Did you ever explore that as well or do you get that?
New Speaker: I feel the same way about running a node. I just need to buy some Bitcoin and I felt like that was good enough.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Have you ever had like, people come to you though and ask about it as well?
New Speaker: Yeah. I mean when people, I guess that’s fair. That would be a fairly commonly asked question. I mean, you know, when you talk about like, people obviously see me talking about Bitcoin or whatever on social media and they’re, listen. There’s a lot of people who have interest who are, who have not bought any or done anything with it yet. And you know, I said one of the common questions is well I can’t buy a whole one, you know, is there anything else I can buy? I definitely want to, one of the other common questions is, do you do any mining? And yeah, I just know I have not any had I have not went down that path whatsoever.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Yeah. Have you heard of any specific examples in terms of Bitcoin versus censorship? Like, I think that’s a good angle as well.
New Speaker: I’ve gotten little bit into that. I’ve led a little bit into that, but I would not say I’m super deep in there. Obviously. I know there’s stuff like Monero, which is even even more secretive than what Bitcoin is. And I could very, very surface level tell you the debate that people are having on the privacy of Bitcoin because people can shut down or view some transactions. Like I just saw that one guy, I think he was in South Korea, had a bunch of pornography and they were using Bitcoin for the payment and they were tracked down by their use of Bitcoin. And so, you know, it’s not totally private, which is I guess probably a good thing, right? That people like that can be tracked. And, and you know, the other one that everyone says to me, which is, I’m gonna tie this right back into what I said that pisses me off because it’s like, “That’s just for people who want to money launder” you effing brainwashed idiots.
Ben Askren: Like, do you understand more money is laundered and more money is used illegally with a us dollar bill, then probably it would probably greatly exceeds what the market cap of Bitcoin even is. Like, if you don’t understand that you’re so brainwashed by mainstream media, you’re a moron. Get out of my.
Stephan Livera: 100% agree with that.
New Speaker: I don’t mean to get angry or anything.
Stephan Livera: No, no, I think you’re totally right because it’s one of those things where people in the normal media, they just, they don’t want Bitcoin to when in some ways. So they just like, will say whatever and they’ll say, they’ll just say random things and hope something sticks. Right. But if you really looked in the perspective,
New Speaker: that one drives me crazy. That one. I mean Obama f’in said, I ran $4 million of cash. Like, you know, that stuff doesn’t happen in the Bitcoin world. Give me a break. Right?
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Yeah. And it just, yeah, it’s the other big one is energy usage. Have you heard of that one as well?
New Speaker: Yeah, I don’t buy, I don’t want, listen. I put one post up jokingly that we got snowed on here on October 31st and I jokingly made a post as the glad to see global warming is alive and well. And I put the picture of the snow on October 31st people got livid at me. And you know what, I’m actually a geography major. So I am probably significantly more educated than most people on the topic of global warming and all the perspectives and anyone who, people treat this kind of like a religion. But anyone who is certain that they know exactly what’s happening with global warming, I consider them being an idiot because I think the world’s systems are so complex.
Ben Askren: And just bottom line if you just look back historically at most scientist’s predictions on what was going to happen if by this year, by this year, they’ve almost all became false. I’ll just, just across the board. And so I think, the better perspective is that we don’t really have a great understanding of what’s happening and there’s a bunch of people trying to treat it like religion that we know exactly what’s happening and anything that produces CO2 is, is evil and we must stop it. And so obviously Bitcoin produces a lot of CO2. Because we have a lot of energy usage.
Stephan Livera: Right? Yeah. But I think it just comes back to what do you think Bitcoin is replacing? You know, and if Bitcoin is replacing a system that is very corrupt or very unjust, then is it worth it? And that’s, that’s the question we would say we believe, yes it is worth it.
Ben Askren: Yes. I would say yes, absolutely. And listen, again, I think that the final verdict on the global warming discussion is not yet been been said. I mean I think there’s definite possibility there is some truth. I think there’s a possibility that people are way off. I think there’s a possibility that there is global warming that is not manmade. Right? There’s all kinds of these different cycles, whether it’s sun cycles, distance from the sun angle of the earth that play into it, right? There’s a whole bunch of things that maybe we don’t fully understand yet. And again, if you look back at anyone’s historical predictions, man, it’s just littered with this ones that are just blatantly wrong.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, yeah. No, I totally appreciate that. And I think there’s a lot of things that we don’t, we have to have humility and understand that we don’t actually understand as much as we think we do. And so, you know, for me I think you probably will have a similar perspective. Coming from a more libertarian mindset. We believe in more of a market solution to these things, whether they’re happening or not, right. We want a market solution to them. We don’t want a government top-down planner deciding what everyone else does.
Ben Askren: Yes, I agree. I couldn’t agree more. Yeah, I’m 100% in.
Stephan Livera: What about other athletes getting into Bitcoin? Do you have any other friends who are getting into it?
Ben Askren: There’s not many. There’s not many that actually talk about it. I guess. You know, I was just on a panel at the Litecoin convention with with four or five other athletes and then the one guy who wasn’t there, it was Russell Okung. And I guess those are the only athletes that are really into it.
Ben Askren: I, you know, listen, I’ll tell you pretty much every guy that I trained with has at least they, they have a curiosity about Bitcoin and what it is. Some of them own it. Some of them have more knowledge than others, but I think it’s kind of just general public. They’re going to figure it out. Over time it’s going to become more and more mainstream. We’ve already seen it become more and more mainstream and whenever this next bull run hits, that’s I think when it’s really gonna catch fire with mainstream.
Stephan Livera: Right. And for you,
Ben Askren: even even at 2017 when the bull run was happening, it wasn’t totally easy to buy. It wasn’t, I mean, you know, and the exchanges weren’t as good as they are today. And so say the bull run hits next, next spring or next summer hopping on some type of platform to buy a Bitcoin is gonna be so much easier than it was three years ago.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. That’s the trend we’ve seen in this space, that it’s sort of like there’d be a huge bull run. Exchanges would get overloaded. No one could buy Bitcoin or sell Bitcoin sometimes, and then there’d be a big crash and then the exchanges would have to let all these people go. And a lot of Bitcoin companies would have to do that too. And then we would just rinse and repeat. But it seems like the infrastructure is building a lot more. So that’s definitely what I see. There’s a lot more financial products built around Bitcoin. There’s a lot more technological innovation going on in Bitcoin. So I think I’m positive as well. Do you think it’s mostly a factor of knowing people? That’s what gets people into Bitcoin, right? Like you got in from your friend do you think that’s the real angle?
Ben Askren: Oh, what do they say you got? You got to see something seven times before it really sticks. I think there’s something like that. It’s like an advertising thing. So I think, everything helps when when a bull run hits and, it’s all over the news, that obviously helps. And then, obviously now I would venture to guess the amount of total wallets in the world now is significantly greater than 2017 when that bull run hit. So yeah, I mean now people know when this bull run hits, everyone’s like, Ben, how do I buy Ben? How do I buy it? Then how do I buy it? I’m like, Hey you dumbasses I told you to buy it when it was at 4,000 it January, 2019 you probably, you probably should’ve listened to me then. Now you’re going to buy it, you know, 10 12 14 16 who knows where they’re going to buy it at? Yeah, so I think people will know, have a better idea of where to buy it out. I mean, I’m sure again, when it hits, I’m going to have a hundred people asking me what about, where do I get Bitcoin and be like little crack heads coming around the corner.
Stephan Livera: Now, it’s one thing to get people to buy. But I think it’s another one is around having conviction to actually hold. What are your thoughts there?
Ben Askren: It’s funny, I had this discussion with my, so the guy that got me into in Australia is a very, very close friend of mine. So we talk frequently but we had this discussion cause I put out the podcast number one with John Kim called Funky Crypto. You can find that out on the Rokfin network if you guys want to listen to that. And there’s a link on all my social medias. But we were having this discussion cause you know I was trying to break down what Bitcoin is. In as simple terms as possible. And then our eye, our episode choose really what is blockchain. And I was talking to my friend about that and he said, Ben, everybody uses email. Not one person could tell you how it works or you know, not one person that I know.
Ben Askren: Someone could tell him how an email works. I have no idea how an email works. I could not tell you you, I don’t know. You’re pretty smart. So maybe you could tell me, you know, you know?
Stephan Livera: No I don’t, I’m not that. I’m not an expert in that.
Ben Askren: And you’re just in Australia. You click said, you send me an email, you don’t know how it works. It just works. Right? He said, Ben, people don’t need to know how it works. They just need to know that it does work and they could trust it. And so I kind of feel that way with Bitcoins. Like are some people going to have a deep understanding? Sure. Right. Does everyone need to have a deep understanding? Absolutely not. It’s just like a, I said damn book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, right? The people who are in, in the beginning, the early movers they are what did he call it? I believe he calls them mavens, right? They’re the mavens. They’re the ones that everyone knows. Again, listen, when Bitcoin hits this next bull run, I guarantee you’re going to be flooded with questions on how do I buy it? Same thing’s going to happen to me. And so there are going to be people in that are in the know that, that have ideas of how to do stuff. Not everyone is going to feel similarly. Some people will, some people will get the bug and they’ll get a deep understanding. Most people won’t.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. That’s a challenge then because I think part of it though is each cycle, there’s some people who go down that rabbit hole and then they’re the ones who build more of a conviction to actually hold. Because what happens is, as the crash happens, then a lot of people get buyer’s remorse because they’ve over invested or they don’t know what they’re getting into or they didn’t get in with a long enough time frame.
Ben Askren: It’s Anti-fragile. You read that book yet?
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s a great one.
Ben Askren: You read it? Yeah. Oh, fantastic. I love it. It’s such a great book. So it’s just like antifragile you know, for, if we could use the Bitcoin here, w he uses the, the restaurant industry, right? He said, you know, there’s a a hundred restaurants. The next time a depression hits, everyone’s not going to stop eating. Right. People, people have to eat. Will some of those restaurants go away though? And of course is yes. People will probably be eating less and probably spending less. So yeah, sure. If a third of them go away and they’re 66 restaurants left, the next time there’s an upturn, those are the 66 best. The other one 33 shutdown cause they suck, right? Or cause they’re the worst of the hundred. And so then when there’s the next build up, there’ll be 33 new ones to come and fill that spot.
Ben Askren: Next time there’s a depression. Now again, the 33 worst ones go right or whatever is they go away. And so I think, now, I mean, how many boom and bust cycles is Bitcoin. See now, I mean, I always said you got me. I’ve only been around for one, maybe, maybe two a little bit. Right? There’s a little bit of this small bubble the spring. So maybe you got me for one and a half, but how many has there been? Five, six, seven. And so, you know, you’re right, every run up there’ll be people getting interested and then you’ll wash some people out. Does it? Probably the ones you didn’t want it in the first place, the next one up, they’d be more people interested and the same thing will happen over and over and over again.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, no, I totally agree with that pattern. That’s definitely the pattern I’ve seen.
Ben Askren: Hey is Anti fragile, one of your favorite books, cause I freaking loved that book.
Stephan Livera: Actually. I would say my favorite by Taleb is Fooled By Randomness. But I do love Antifragile as well. I really loved his series. It was really good. I really liked reading Taleb. He can be a little bit prickly online though. I’m sure if you’ve seen
Ben Askren: Love it. I love it. I love when he gets a little, little hostile.
Stephan Livera: It’s funny. Yeah.
Ben Askren: I like people with a little bit of edge to them. You know, I don’t like people who are too nice all the time. I like people who, you know, they’re nice most times, but then every once in a while they might chew your head off.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, Nassim Taleb definitely likes to go after people. I think right now he’s going out to, you know, various different topics. But he, he has been speaking about Bitcoin as well actually. So he’s been speaking about how Bitcoin may potentially present a real alternative, to central banking.
Stephan Livera: And he actually wrote the foreword to The Bitcoin Standard by my friend Saifedean Ammous. Have you heard of that book?
Ben Askren: I think I may have read that one. I’m trying to, I can’t see my Bitcoin books on my shelf, but I do believe that there’s a possibly that I’ve read that one. What was I just going to say? Oh, you made me think of something else. Oh, by I guess my favorite feeling, and I don’t get this very often because I feel like I’m fairly well read and fairly well educated, but when I read a book and not something like the you learn something new about a technical innovation, but literally like the thought of antifragile right? When something’s fragile, it breaks when something, what does the opposite of that and most people will say sturdy or or whatever, right?
Ben Askren: That it’s strong, but you know Taleb’s point was that when it’s shaken, it’s not just strong. It actually gets stronger. The shaking helps it get right. The all the ups and downs helping get stronger and it’s like, wow, I’ve never really thought about it that way. But obviously he’s right. And so when you read a book, I’m like, wow, that’s a really good thought or thought process or philosophy. Why have I never had that thought before? That’s okay. That’s now that’s boom, that’s logged in here. It’s going to be there forever. I love that. Yeah. And internally I think, and there’s definitely a good argument there around why Bitcoin is antifragile as well. Like one of the well known educators, Jimmy song has made the argument that it’s Bitcoins developers who make it anti-fragile, right? So when something hits or some problem here today often are trying to code up a way to improve that and they’re constantly focused on that.
Ben Askren: Yeah. And I think by nature Bitcoin tends to be anti-fragile, right?
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Because I think it just, it sort of pulls in people and then people want to help educate other people around it. And that kind of is that, that process helps make it stronger as well. So for you, what was, what was your motivation around wanting to try and get into the game of, you know, helping educate new people about Bitcoin?
Ben Askren: Cause I love freedom and it’s the future and I like helping my friends. It’s that simple now.
Stephan Livera: That’s great. I think it’s, there are people you try and reach, but I think it, there are certain people who it’s easier to reach.
Ben Askren: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I know exactly. I mean those guys who they, they turn on CNN, Fox news and, and drinking diet Coke on the couch. I tried to talk to them. They got no hope yet. They gotta they gotta figure it out that Epstein didn’t kill himself before I can talk to them.
Stephan Livera: That’s great. So who are some of the people you found it easier to reach?
Ben Askren: You want me to name like specific friends of mine?
Stephan Livera: Oh no. I mean like what sort of person, you know, what sort of interests, what sort of people are they?
Ben Askren: Oh, as obviously open-minded people who aren’t scared of disruption or to be rebels against the system a little bit. People who see flaws in the banking system, people who are woke and realize that our world is run by more than a two party system.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, no, that’s totally it. I’ve definitely seen that as well. People who have more of a willingness to question, I think are the people who I’ve noticed were more able to kind of get around that idea with Bitcoin. So Ben, what’s the plan for you going forward? Like are you just gonna keep producing podcast episodes? Have you got any other ideas around what you want to do?
Ben Askren: No, you know, just my biggest thing, again, I’m not an expert in the subject matter, but I think I can present the subject in a really common sense, easy to understand way. So I have a large following on social media, so just to spread the word that way. And then again, I believe when the next bull run happens, there’s going to be a whole bunch of, people asking some questions and I’ll be there to answer those questions.
Ben Askren: Fantastic. So look, Ben before we finish up, I want to make sure we finish on time. Just make sure you let the listeners know where can they follow you online and where can they find your podcast?
Ben Askren: Yeah, I’m just Ben Askren on both Twitter and Instagram. I post a decent amount of stuff, both social media and then my, I have a channel on a network called Rocfin. There is, it is a pay you subscribe, but I put, I put all of my crypto podcasts in front of the paywall. So if you go over there and check it out, you do not need to go behind the paywall and see the crypto podcast.
Stephan Livera: Fantastic. Well, we’ll include the links in the show notes and thank you again for joining me, Ben.
Ben Askren: All right, have a great day.