Adi Shankara (founder of Summer of Bitcoin) joins me on the show to chat about:
- How he got into Bitcoin from a tech background
- The Bitcoin scene in India
- How the RBI actually gets Bitcoin (and doesn’t like it)
- Why Bitcoin Needs Technologists
- Summer of Bitcoin
- How the program works
- How you can support the program
- Swan Bitcoin
- Unchained Capital (code LIVERA)
- CoinKite.com(code LIVERA)
Stephan Livera links:
Stephan Livera – 00:00:08:
Hi, and welcome to Stephan Livera podcast, the show about bitcoin and Austrian Economics. Now, online social media discussion of bitcoin can paint it like it’s this inevitable thing that’s going to change the the world. Now, I do believe it’s going to change the world, but the literal fact of the matter is bitcoin needs technologists. So joining me today is Adi Shankara. He’s the founder of Summer of Bitcoin, and we talk a little bit about how he got into bitcoin and what he’s aiming to do with Summer of Bitcoin, which is an internship and education project that’s there to help guide new students in and learn how to work and develop and contribute to bitcoin code as well as bitcoin design projects. Now, this show is brought to you by swan bitcoin, the easy way to learn about bitcoin and also buy bitcoin. So over at swan.com you can sign up with an ongoing dollar cost averaging or bitcoin savings plan automated. And so this is a really easy way to get started, perhaps for you or for your friends or if you’re looking to buy a larger amount of bitcoin, there’s swan private so you can find that over at swanprivate.com where you will have a swan private concierge to help guide you through this process. And finally, Swan is organizing a conference. It’s called pacific bitcoin. It’s coming up in November. I will be one of the hosts. There’ll be a range of awesome bitcoiners there. There’ll be so many fun events. And this is another opportunity to bring your friends and family along. If they are new to bitcoin, this is a chance to learn about it. So that website is pacificbitcoin.com and use the code LIVERA to get a discount on your tickets. Mempool.space is the bitcoin explorer. Built by bitcoiners for bitcoiners. It is just real time transaction tracking and Mempool visualization, so you can quickly get the information you need about your bitcoin transactions. Mempool.space is available over tour and it’s also completely open source, so you can even run your own Mempool explorer or at home on a Raspberry Pi with just one click. Over 1 million people use Mempool. space every month, and the project is operated freely for the benefit of the bitcoin community without ads or third party trackers of any kind. Go try it out today. The website is Mempool.space. Now, when it comes to bitcoin hardware, you know, my favorite is the cold card. You can get this over at coinkite.com. The cold card is an extremely versatile device. It has gone through many iterations. Now, the latest version is the cold card MK4, which has NFC support. It has two secure elements. It has a range of features that are quite popular in the bitcoin world. So, for example, you can use the micro SD card to move information back and forth between your cold card and the computer. You can use it in single signature or as part of a multi signature setup. And the cold card just has all kinds of features that will actually end up teaching you more about bitcoin as part of the process. So, to get yours, go to coinkite.com, use the code LIVERA to get a discount on your cold cards onto the show with Adi. Adi, welcome to the show.
Adi Shankara – 00:02:58:
Hey, Stephan. I’m a long time listener and a big fan of your show. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Stephan Livera – 00:03:03:
Yeah, of course. And I know you’re doing some really interesting stuff with Summer of Bitcoin. And obviously I’m sure you’ll have some interesting insights to share as well in terms of bitcoin in India as well, and would love to start by hearing a little bit of your background and how you got into bitcoin, because I know your story is perhaps coming from a tech background as well. So I’d love to hear a bit about that.
Adi Shankara – 00:03:26:
Sure. So I’m the founder and leader of Summer of Bitcoin. It’s a global summer internship program where university students learn about bitcoin and contribute to open source bitcoin projects under the mentorship of an incredible group of bitcoin developers and designers. Your question about how I got into bitcoin? It’s always hard to answer why and how someone gets into bitcoin. One of my friends likes to say the bitcoin rabbit hole extends both ways. Even before you have heard of bitcoin or have come across it in any setting whatsoever, you’re sowing seeds of your initiation, likely since your childhood, and there are numerous little circumstances that enter your life and mold you in a certain way that you fall upon just the right set of framework that is needed to truly understand bitcoin and understand the promise that it represents. And that’s also something which is strikingly unique for each of us. So for me, I grew up in a fairly humble, middle class family of generational farmers who originally came from the foothills of Himalayas in northern India. And my parents migrated to Mumbai in search of better opportunities. And I vividly recall that for us, living in a City like Mumbai, growing up in a working class, low income neighborhood, money was almost always, never enough. My father was working two, three jobs at a time, and don’t get me wrong, we had good food on our table and they sent us to good schools. But even then it almost always felt like we were racing against the tide. Money was this all elusive thing that surely would solve all our problems. And you can imagine, as a child it became a fascinating object for me. Interestingly, I never gave much thought to how I could accumulate more of it. Instead, I started thinking about where it actually comes from. And I was eleven years old at the time. And I remember one day I asked my father, how did money come into being? At the time? My father told me he, like many others around the world, thought was true, that the governments print as much money as the amount of gold that they have. And thinking about gold, it seemed like a rare thing in the world. So I distinctly remember feeling skeptical if that was true, somewhat disappointed that we couldn’t just make more of it, and yet somewhat satisfied knowing that it wasn’t coming from thin air after all, that the rules of the game were reasonably fair for all of us. And so fast forward to when I was an undergraduate studying computer science in India. I got an opportunity to pursue a research internship in Singapore. This was in 2013. I was assisting a professor who was working on system security and distributed computing. And it was there when I was first introduced to bitcoin. I remember trying to mine bitcoin in our lab servers, and of course, not being able to, for some reason, run the damn software. Probably ran into some errors, got frustrated, and got back to work, sadly. But that was my first introduction to bitcoin, and it was in an academic setting. I was a computer science student, and I was able to grasp that it was a fine piece of technology, but I hadn’t quite given any thought on its potential for humanity. And two years later, I’m back in India, still in university. I read about how bitcoin is really catching up as money on the dark web. And I remember thinking to myself, like, surely this isn’t how money works, right? Bitcoin was an interesting technology, but can it really become money? What would happen to gold and the paper that was printed out of it? Except that I realized that wasn’t the case anymore, that all of my childhood, all that I thought about money, all of what my father and countless others like him had been told was not the truth, that there was no gold, that the rules of the game were not fair, at least not for the majority of us. And so that left a big hole for me. Big question, what was money? Eventually, I graduated. I joined a big tech company as a software engineer. And now, with all of the “money” I was making, I had to do something about it. And so I started looking at all the investment options, real estate, mutual funds, good old fixed deposits. And this was also late 2017, when bitcoin started to make its run all the way up to 20,000 and above, or rather, up to 20,000. So then it wasn’t just money alone. It was also a speculative store of value. And then there was, like, so many of these hundreds of other tokens that were promising a lot more. And so, like everybody else who enters the space, I started sort of printing all the white papers in my printer, analyzing their valuation. And I got extremely lucky very early on to have come across John Piper’s seminal paper, the institutional investors take on crypto assets, which I recommend to everyone even today. I followed that up with bitcoin standard, and I finally had found the answer to the question I had since I was eleven. So that was how I got into bitcoin.
Stephan Livera – 00:08:41:
Yeah, sure. And so John’s paper was definitely an interesting one, because part of what I recall from that is he was talking in some sense a critique of utility tokens. And so this is something in the bitcoin space that’s been around for a while. If I recall. Even the problem of altcoins, I believe that came out in 2013 or 2014 from the Nakamoto Institute guys. And so it’s interesting that we see people coming from different angles, but with a similar critique in certain ways, in certain aspects, where part of the critique is that, oh well, if you just have this utility coin, someone can just create that new system, fork out the code and just create a new system without that utility token. And so I think that was one of the critiques. And that’s where potentially in some of the old coin world, there was discussion about how do you keep demand for these coins? And so that’s where we saw in some of the lending platforms, they do things like, oh, if you hold our shit coin, we’ll give you a better interest rate, or things like this. And so they try to invent ways to sort of slow down the velocity, if you will, to try to create a bit of a pumping dynamic. And that’s where we see this in various alt coins. But of course, enough about alt coins. The economic and sociological ramifications of Bitcoin, I think are very important. And that’s potentially where when people come in from a technology perspective, they have to oftentimes go and read and learn about these economic and sociological consequences of Bitcoin and the problems of fiat currency. So I’m curious, you later went down that pathway as well.
Adi Shankara – 00:10:10:
Oh, yes, absolutely. That’s right. At the time, I think Justin Moon had just started a Bitcoin reading club. And after having read the bitcoin standard, I joined the club and I remember we were reading Murray Rothbard’s works and it was enlightening in the way that it analyzed money and all that. It ought to be from a very pragmatic perspective, whereas we had been sort of thought about money is just a blind spot, we use it every day, we know it’s a make believe paper, and yet we go back to it. And so this question of what is money? Hasn’t been asked enough. And in some ways the shit coin phenomenon, it’s also worth reflecting on. Why has this happened? This whole quote unquote crypto industry, a lot of value and productivity has been destroyed. There’s certainly hard questions that needed to be asked. In technology, there are two kinds of ways things can go wrong for ideas. One is for ideas never be questioned, and one where questions are shut down too quickly in crypto or web tree or whatever they’re calling it these days. We’ve had both where a lot of questions were unasked, a lot of ideas. Whenever questioned. In bitcoin, on the other hand, ideas are always questioned, and no question is shut down too quickly. That’s why we bitcoin, right?
Stephan Livera – 00:11:35:
Absolutely. It seemed like an adversarial environment in the way that people should be presenting arguments based on facts, logic, data, trying to present some kind of argument as to why this is a certain way or it should be a certain way, or the development pathway should go this way. And we’ve seen that in the years with bitcoin over the time. Also, I’m just curious, obviously, as you’re growing up in India, do you have any reflections on the bitcoin scene in India as compared to the quote unquote crypto scene? Could you share some insight there for listeners who are in other parts of the world?
Adi Shankara – 00:12:10:
Absolutely. Well, India has had a very chaotic affair with bitcoin. What you hear from the mainstream media and the Government’s spokesperson is that they want to regulate it. The Bureaucrats, or the Barbers, as we call them, on whom the ultimate, on whom the regulation ultimately depends on, don’t quite have the capacity, time, or even the ability to understand bitcoin and therefore do anything with it. And it seems to me, and this is my personal opinion is that the RBI, which is the reserve bank of India, the federal reserve equivalent, has or may have quite nailed what bitcoin truly represents in terms of its end game and therefore wants nothing, like absolutely nothing to do with it. And so they’ve been calling it out since forever. The government and the bureaucrats, on the other hand, have been busy. They have a ton of things on their plate already. And so bitcoin has been just in a state of eternal suspension in the air as far as the current regulatory environment goes. That said, keeping the regulations and the Government’s aside, India is a lot more than what appears on the surface. It’s one of the oldest civilizations on the planet. Its culture itself has simply been just an open source project since time memorial. Hinduism, which is the predominant faith here, has literally no leader or authority. It has had endless folks itself. It’s spread throughout the south Asian continent, and even in India, every few hundred kilometers, you find that it’s a different country, it’s a different society. And so the mainstream narrative, or what the world thinks of India, is sort of less than 30% of what the country is. Mahatma Gandhi once famously said that India does not live in its towns, but in its villages. And in that village, comprising about 70% of India, is actually a little republic, self sufficient in its wants, governed by autonomous self reliant local communities called panchayat, where the local individual is at the center of local administration, and people are expected to take personal interest and turn up in large numbers at community meetings to deliberate problems of common interest. And this system was envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi. He called it Swaraj, which loosely translates to self rule or self governance. And by the way, like Mahatma Gandhi, would have been a bitcoiner through and through. He rooted for a stateless society. His definition of democracy was something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong. For him, the village was the self sovereign republic, and he was against any centralization because he knew that centralization of any sort could only be sustained with force, which, as you know, was against the core tenet of his nonviolent philosophy. Unfortunately, even though the village or the panchayat system is the foundation of India’s political system. It has slowly and gradually been abused by decentralized forces since India’s independence from the British, and well one of the largest centralizing forces, of course, fiat money, the Indian rupee. Because otherwise there’s really nothing in common between the hundreds and thousands of uniquely distinct villages that make up India except the Indian rupee. In that light, I think that in the coming decades, bitcoin can have an increasingly important role to play in returning power back to India’s villages and local communities. It remains to be seen how everything plays out as far as the regulation is concerned. As I said, the RBI understands very well the borderless permissionless nature of bitcoin transactions. I think they’re advising the government to cooperate with other nation states for reining in on the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem. It’s obviously a difficult approach to take from a game theoretical point of view, and I think they’re very well aware of that. For those of us on the other side of the fence, we’re obviously interested in lighter regulation. The question is, how much can you really convince them? It’s a long, arduous journey. I think the greatest challenge is that all the benefits of adopting bitcoin are counterfactual and far into the future. It’s like, imagine how much of innovation, how much progress are in culture we’ve lost because everyone’s been on high time preference. And that’s sort of a hard argument to make. I think the more important thing, perhaps, and the most important thing, is technological progress as far as the bitcoin protocol goes, in that there’s always an aspect of technology that’s been the case, where you don’t seek permissions or regulations, but ask for forgiveness. The real breakthrough for bitcoin, the end state, if you will, or the T minus zero movement for hyperbitcoinization, would be where the privacy technology is so strong that no one in the world can break it. No government, corporation or individual can know how much Bitcoin you have and how it’s moving. 21 million is a necessary condition, but it’s not sufficient for Cyclopung money. And I think we should get there in due time with enough developers and enough of their ingenuity. Which is where Summer of Bitcoin and a lot of other developer education efforts have an important role to play.
Stephan Livera – 00:17:43:
Sure, yeah. Also, just curious, before we get into some of bitcoin, one other question just about in terms of the bitcoin scene in India, do you see very vast or Liquid PeerToPeer markets and trading in terms of bitcoin or not really?
Adi Shankara – 00:17:59:
That is true. I would argue that the volume today on centralized exchanges is a lot less than what we have in local peer to peer circles. And that’s been true, I think for the last few years.
Stephan Livera – 00:18:12:
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Adi Shankara – 00:21:10:
Oh, yes, that’s true. I think we have a lot more local groups that are trading with each other or buying bitcoin or selling than what may appear on the decentralized exchanges.
Stephan Livera – 00:21:20:
Got you. Yeah. Okay, so let’s get into Summer of Bitcoin. So could you just give us a bit of an overview? Like, first of all, what is it and how did this get started? Actually, you know what, it might be interesting as well to talk about the why as well. I think let’s start with the why. Why Summer of Bitcoin.
Adi Shankara – 00:21:36:
Yeah, I think it’s worth spending time on why we started Summer of Bitcoin and why developer education in general is the most important thing to think about and work towards at this point. You know, two of the primary narratives with regards to the bitcoin experiment have been or let me put it this way, when you look at the stories people say about bitcoin and have said over the last decade, there have been primarily two stories that stand out. One is the story around its rapid price appreciation, both in the past and potentially a lot more in the future against fiat currencies. There’s something about the price, the BTC USD ticker that is strikingly charismatic, that captivates people and makes them either love bitcoin or hate it, depending on which side of the bed you’re on. The other story is of its role as a breakthrough technology that solved the double spending problem for a first of its kind and the only digital money to actually work as it does. And the question of what doors does this seemingly genius technological solution open for the societies of the future? The thing that is striking is the contrast between these two stories, right? The first story that is, if your long BTC USD price, then in some weird way, you’re predicting that the USD is still going to be around. And so if you’re long BTC USD that’s how I put it. Like, if you’re long BTC USD, then you short the bitcoin standard. In contrast, the second story of its technology, right, like how it works, how proof of work, the peer to peer protocol, the difficulty adjustments and cryptography come together, how they solve the double spend problem, how the 21 million is enforced, and how such a technology for money can catapult mankind further on the path of progress thanks to the low time preference it brings about. That’s not often discussed, the fact that this technology is a category creator, just like technologies that came before, whether it was fire, the printing press, electricity, microprocessor, internet, and now bitcoin, right? It’s extremely hard to find people who are obsessed about the story over the first one. There’s not enough people talking about the technology and too many people talking about the price, which is another way of saying that there’s not enough technologists or developers working on bitcoin and there’s too many traders trading it. If you look at all of the great technologies of the past, they all had these great technologists that had a very definite, determined vision for the future they were building. They didn’t describe it in some abstract, conditional sort of way. Take scientists at Xerox Park in the 70s. They built these seminal computing tools and interfaces over a span of literally just a decade that continue to be used till today and probably forever. Take the mission to the moon in the 60s, take the Manhattan Project in the 40s, take the Wright brothers. All of these different technologists actually believed in what they were working on and had very powerful animated, indefinite visions for the future. But when you have more traders than technologists, you end up in a mimicked behavior where the masses discuss predictions on price, but there’s very little discourse on the state of bitcoin technology and how it should go forward from here. It’s as if we’re all involved in some lottery ticket type dynamic. And this dynamic has very strong negative network effects in that it not only attracts scammers and parasitic leeches, it actually repels the other technologists who have expertise in related or peripheral domains and who may have found bitcoin fascinating and with their ingenuity, could have and can contribute to making bitcoin a lot more resilient, a lot more useful, a lot more prevalent than it is today. We touched on the shit coin phenomenon, and I believe that the shit coin phenomenon is directly the result of the long price and short technology culture. All of the shit coins should have been killed and would have been killed on paper if there were enough technologists and less VCs, enough developers and less traders thinking clearly about their architecture, their Economics, and their use cases. The shit coin peddlers define decentralization to be so many different things at once and ambiguous in every possible way, and then they sell this indeterminism for profit. They leech on unsuspecting masses under the garb of price appreciation. And so no one talks about technology anymore, and there are no technologists left. A few months ago, I think there was this person, I think his name is moxie, the founder of Signal.
Stephan Livera – 00:26:26:
He wrote an article, yeah.
Adi Shankara – 00:26:30:
And if you recall, he wrote an article deconstructing NFTs how Web3 works underneath at an architectural level, and he absolutely crushed them. Like seeing how broken, fragile, and useless Web3 is. It’s sent waves across the Twitter. It frightened the guts out of every web3 enthusiast. Now, Moxie is a well known computer scientist and cryptographer. We needed a lot more Moxies all these years. Where are they? Where are they even today? And I think all of this is worth reflecting a little bit. Bitcoin has unfortunately remained an illegitimate technolgy among the technologists, we need a lot more of them, not only to bring back focus on bitcoin as a technology, but also to shoot down all the bad ideas before they start to infest the masses. And we need to do that while the window is open. We have the window open for a very short while. If you look at some of the other disciplines of technology today, especially nuclear technology, no one in college thinks of becoming a nuclear engineer anymore. It’s perhaps one of the most unpopular careers of all time. What happened to nuclear technology is that the technologists let the politicians take over the narrative, and at some point, there were no more technologists, no more nuclear engineers. And so there’s a negative network effect to these things where an unpopular thing becomes a lot more unpopular to the point where it becomes cursed. So we need a lot more bitcoin engineers, developers, and technologists before everybody else reams in and takes over the narrative and also to weed out the crypto Web3 bitcoin phenomenon, because that isn’t helping either. And so that’s why some of bitcoin was born. We are focused on universities. We want to foster and nurture future bitcoin technologists. One of the challenges today is, of course, like even though bitcoin is one of the most important innovations in computer science, it has remained illegitimate in all the computer science universities around the world. In fact in fact, some time ago, I met a prominent bitcoin researcher at MIT who told me that even the MIT bitcoin club is considered as a friend technology group on campus, and that both students and funding are hard to combine relative to other groups. And, you know, MIT bitcoin club is, of course, an exception. The norm is that there is a swarm of computer science students in every university today who swear that their life’s passion is in AI or ML or big data. And on the other hand, when it comes to bitcoin, it’s possible that there are just one or two quote unquote weirdos on campus who trade crypto and mostly for quick money, and sometimes because Elon Musk says so. Right. Well, there’s nothing. Wrong with working on AI or big data, except, of course, like, there’s only so much data you have on your local computer that you can run your models on. And so joining the big tech is your only option. And therefore we have a situation today in universities where you’re beholden to the big tech industrial complex for your career. And over the last year, of course, we’ve just had a new scheme, a new thirstrap if you will, and they’re calling it Web3. And of course it’s just a rehashed version of the 2017 ICO mania. And if bitcoin was previously illegitimate, then this new narrative of web 3 may have just legitimized it. But as this old, boring, slow and obsolete technology that is soon going to be overthrown by the shiny new token that look has so many people in this car, it has to work somewhere of bitcoin is trying to fix that situation. We are a group of open source bitcoin developers and designers that are helping university students learn about bitcoin, contribute to bitcoin, and be inspired for a career in the bitcoin industry.
Stephan Livera – 00:30:38:
And I think one thing that’s really crucial about this program is that there’s actually a pathway for a career, right? So it’s one thing for a person to be studying bitcoin, and let’s say they are a university level computer science or designer student, they need to see a credible pathway in terms of a job that they could get. And so, as you rightly said, and part of this does come down to issues with the money. There are some economic and sociological problems that drive the shit coins and the big tech of the world today. But obviously bitcoin is we view bitcoin as part of the answer, but in order to help fix that, there needs to be a credible pathway for these students who are learning about bitcoin to then have a pathway of, okay, I could go and intern for this bitcoin company, and if I’m good, there’s a chance that they hire me on afterwards. Right? And so I presume and I understand that’s what you have been helping facilitate and that’s what you have seen with some of bitcoin.
Adi Shankara – 00:31:36:
Stephan Livera – 00:31:37:
So could you just spell out for people who aren’t familiar with the program? What does it look like for students who want to apply and go through the program?
Adi Shankara – 00:31:49:
So, sometime in January every year, we invite university students to apply to our summer internship program that takes place over twelve weeks in the summer. They go through a rigorous application process where we assist them primarily on their programming ability and open source experience. And then we provide resources and seminars to help them grow bitcoin at a technical level, at an economic level, at philosophical level. We work with several open source developers and designers in the bitcoin space to generate project ideas. Students then apply to project ideas of their choice based on their interests and skill set, and the best applications then are selected to work on those project ideas. Over the summer, under the mentorship of our open source developers and designers, students receive a stipend for their work and those who demonstrate exceptional performance are referred for internships or jobs or grants in the industry.
Stephan Livera – 00:32:48:
Fantastic. Could you just give some examples then of perhaps some of the students and some of the companies that they’ve been working with?
Adi Shankara – 00:32:56:
So graduates from our program have gone on to continue working on their open source projects even after the summer. Quite a few joined chain code labs as interns to continue working on bitcoin core. A few others joined Galoy block stream as interns. In fact, just last month, two of the alumni from last year’s program who graduated from university this year received a full time annual grant to work on bitcoin core. One of them, Shashuit, is contributing to a new sleek GUI for the bitcoin core app. It will improve its usability and therefore user adoption. The other one, stratosphere is helping to do with testing and reviewing BIP324. As you know, BIP324 is one of the most important developments to happen to bitcoin. It encrypts all of the peer to peer communication between nodes, which today, being completely in plain text, is susceptible to tampering or censorship from ISPs or governments. And with BIP324, it will all be indistinguishable from any random text. I think that’s a big deal. A lot, many students from this year’s cohort have been doing phenomenal work and we can’t wait to see how their bitcoin development journey unfolds.
Stephan Livera – 00:34:18:
Yeah, and so just people wondering, when did Summer of Bitcoin first start and when was the first cohort and where are we today?
Adi Shankara – 00:34:24:
Yeah, well, this was last year when we started the program. I had been looking for ways to contribute to bitcoin open source with my background. I had some open source experience in the past, and in my last job I was building products for developers and had had a lot of interaction with student developers around the world. And because of the rational and discussion we had around why it was important to have more and more developers and technologists, I wanted to help student developers around the world grow bitcoin and consider bitcoin as not just a legitimate technology, but also breakthrough technology that they can be a part of. So last year, sometime in summer, we sent out an email to 5 university mailing lists in India soliciting interest in bitcoin and open-source development. In just over a few days, we received close to 5000 responses. With enormous support from chain code labs, spiral, and the incredible group of open source developers, we were able to quickly develop a curriculum and fund an internship program for a selected set of students. I think it was around 50 last year to contribute to bitcoin. This year, of course, we expanded the program globally. We received about 20,000 applicants. We ended up selecting 80 students from 15 countries who are now contributing to about 30 open source projects in Bitcoin.
Stephan Livera – 00:35:52:
Yeah, that’s fantastic to see. And hopefully then over year over year, you’ll see more and more growth as more and more people hear about the program and then get excited to either contribute in some way, whether that’s donating sats or whether that is being a mentor to volunteer or even just listeners. If you have either children at that age or even you have a nephew or whoever who is interested, you could sort of refer them to this. So what are some of the things that you would like to, I guess, ask for from the audience so that they know if they want to support this? What are some of the ways they can do that?
Adi Shankara – 00:36:24:
Well, we are at summerofbitcoin.org. Everything is open source and public for you to learn about. All of the projects that our students are working on are listed on our website. We organize talks and seminars and universities apart from the internship program. And so if you would like us to connect with students in your university or alma mater, hit me up. Or if you just like to support our work in mission, you can do so at summerofbitcoin.org/support.
Stephan Livera – 00:36:52:
Excellent. So let’s talk a little bit about, I guess kind of in the broader space around development priorities and things like this. These things that you would basically ask students what they want to work on or are there ideas that you might go and say, oh, hey, this might be good for noncustodial adoption? How does that aspect of it work?
Adi Shankara – 00:37:10:
You mean in terms of figuring out the projects for the students?
Stephan Livera – 00:37:13:
Like what projects? Yes.
Adi Shankara – 00:37:15:
Well, it’s usually the open source developers and designers we work with who proposed project ideas. They’re the ones who are leading their respective projects and they help us generate project ideas that they think could be well scoped and well suitable for a student studying computer science in a university and maybe a good starting point to maybe learn about the project and become a full time contributor.
Stephan Livera – 00:37:42:
Excellent. So then, as I understand it, these could be engineers working at some of the Bitcoin companies or they could be somebody who’s working on a Bitcoin open source project and then they could say, oh, okay, based on what I’m seeing, there might be an opportunity for a student to take on this project and I can mentor them. And that’s when they would come and I guess they could come and pitch you and say hey, Adi and some of Bitcoin team. Here’s an idea that maybe if you have a student they could come and work on this project idea.
Adi Shankara – 00:38:09:
That’s exactly right. During the application period, we publish all of these different project ideas. And so we expect the students who we are working with who have made through the screening process to go and figure out what their skill sets skill set is, what their interests are, and which of these ideas they would like to write a proposal for. And so they write a proposal, they get their hands wet with the open source project, and then we’ve got these open source developers and designers who act as mentors, who then select these proposals and get started over the summer.
Stephan Livera – 00:38:50:
Yeah. And so all of this helps to grow the ecosystem of bitcoin developers. And I think to the point we were discussing earlier, that a technology, it can be hindered by, let’s say, bad regulations or bad attitudes and bad cultural attitudes towards it. And so people could even I believe you were saying this as well, is that if nuclear energy is this amazing technology, but if society hates nuclear energy, then it’s very difficult to actually take the benefit and gain from the benefit of using nuclear energy. And so I wonder, are there parallels then with bitcoin and trying to enable society to get the best benefit out of bitcoin?
Adi Shankara – 00:39:32:
That’s exactly right. We let the politicians take over the nuclear narrative. We can’t let that happen to bitcoin. We need to make sure that those in universities today are on the right side of the future, because they are the future. The youth ultimately will be an important constituency. And when enough of them understand bitcoin, I don’t think no politician worth assault can ignore them. And perhaps when enough of them are working on bitcoin, bitcoin wouldn’t need politicians. It’s like the printing press has been invented. Do you learn how to make it or use it, or do you want to wait for politicians to regulate it? The technology and technologists can and will be able to take care of themselves. There’s also the question of equity in bitcoin development. Right. If you look at the world’s population today, we have about 60% in Asia. Africa is another 15%. South America is at 5%. North America and Europe combined to make another 15%. Now contrast that with developers in the bitcoin ecosystem. We have over 90% of developers from regions that represent 10% of the world’s population. Bitcoins promise is, of course, to be the world’s reserve currency. And there is a necessary part dependence to that outcome. Which is to say that in the coming decade, I believe we are about to witness geopolitical equity in bitcoin development. It’s almost a synchrony on bitcoin spot to world domination. And there are parallels to the other aspects of bitcoin. For example, if you look at the last 13 years of bitcoin’s existence, the first few years were marked with decentralizing consensus. By way of full nodes, the last few years have been distinctly marked with decentralizing mining, most recently with the chinese mining exodus and the emergence of home mining enthusiasts and protocols for decentralized mining like saddam b 2. The coming decade should be about decentralizing the pool of developers contributing to bitcoin for their local communities and also building on layers above it. And this is sort of the phenomenon which is what I’m most excited about. And it’s where I think the bulk of opportunity is for all of us in the bitcoin education space. And a hat tip to Spiral, who really pioneered open source funding. We have chain code labs and drink who are really pioneering bitcoin developer education. And just recently, so many of the bitcoin companies and organizations who are being great stewards of bitcoin. So I’m bullish on tech.
Stephan Livera – 00:42:20:
Yeah, of course. And I think it’s really an interesting perspective you have there, that really when we Zoom out, we’re seeing the ecosystem goes out there and tackles various challenges, whether that’s making it easy to run a bitcoin node, whether that is mining, trying to enhance and propagate that around the world. Because historically that was a line. It was all, look, all the bitcoin mining is in China, therefore you guys can’t really claim to be decentralized. And now we really are seeing a lot of other countries take on bitcoin mining. And as you said, this idea of building out the developer ecosystem around the world will be very handy in a way. Because if there are billions of people in Asia and not a lot of the developers are focused there, then they won’t understand the problems as much. If it’s like all American developers or if it’s all European developers trying to make a product for Asian bitcoin users, well, then maybe it won’t be as targeted to understand the needs of the local people. So I think that’s an interesting point. I’m curious if you see any other priorities in the space, like, what sort of things would you like to see a focus on?
Adi Shankara – 00:43:32:
Well, I think the recurring theme in our conversation today has been to bring back focus on technology to be long the bitcoin standard and short bitcoin price. Of course, I mean, Australians would say that the price is the ultimate truth, and with that, 100% agree. But price is a lagging indicator. One could argue that the present price hasn’t quite lived up to what people expected. And so my message is not of a pessimist. On the other hand, I’m an optimist. I’m arguing that things can be a lot better if you’re a technologist, learn bitcoin. If you are a bitcoin shit poster, learn to code. And code is ultimately free speech. Work with Semicolons, not Emojis or memes. Build. What you post on Twitter will get lost. Worse, you’ll get banned. What you build into bitcoin, though, will stay forever. I am also excited about innovation in industries and frontiers that are adjunct to bitcoin. It goes back to the theme of technological innovation and optimism. Like how do we use bitcoin to harness more energy, cheaper energy? How do we create marketplaces and economies on a bitcoin standard? Extremely bullish enlightening. How do we think about new forms of governments and law. How do we discover and build new territories of freedom? Aka bitcoin. Citadels. It may be on international waters, it may be habitats in space, or it may all just be virtual. I don’t want to ask who knows, right? I want to know who is working on it.
Stephan Livera – 00:45:08:
Fantastic. Well, I think that’s probably a good spot to finish up there, Adi. So, listeners, make sure you go and check out the project. It’s summerofbitcoin.org and you can follow Adi on Twitter. His handle is @adibitcoin. Adi, thank you so much for joining me today.
Adi Shankara – 00:45:24:
Thank you, Stephan. This was fun.
Stephan Livera – 00:45:26:
Get the show notes at stephanlivera.com/406. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you in the Citadels.