AMA with

Arthur Breitman

Co-founder of Tezos, ex-Googler (Google X) and a programmer

29th October 2018, 6:00 pm

This AMA is over!

Thank the host

How do you see the current and future status of UX design in the Tezos community and ecosystem? Do you see much interest and activity around design in the community? Thanks.

I think there's been a systematic under appreciation of UX in this industry, despite everyone paying lip service to its importance. I suppose UX is hard, and is often not in the realm of competency of the engineers behind those systems.

I think Ledger is a good example of a firm that's done very well by providing a much better UX around security than was available before.

Salut Arthur, j'ai trois questions pour toi :

-How Tezos is going to manage nodes in the futur, so as to keep the protocol as much decentralized as possible ?

-Did Tezos plan to create a structure like Consensys did for Ethereum, to promote the protocol and helps its integration in old companies (banks, insurers...) ?

-How many dapps are currently being developed ? Merci :)

1) It's an uphill battle as economic forces systematically push towards efficiency which generally means centralization. The main tools in the utility belt are : trying to give lower marginal operating costs to smaller entities (i.e. dis-economies of scale) and increasing risk for large operations.

2) Tezos is a blockchain, it cannot create structures.

3) I don't know. I've heard of maybe 5-10 but there are probably more. I'm not super into the "dapp" model.

On January there will be first voting on tezos for protocol upgrades. Is specs defined yet ? On which proposal we will vote ? At least do know them a bit would be nice. And there wasnt any testing for voting and still there is no documentation do you this is a vulnerability for January voting. Thanks. Keep up the good work. I believe tezos will be the biggest smart contract platform in this ecosystem in a couple years.

A blog post is coming to explain in details the voting schedule. When there are no proposals, the protocol keeps looping in a 8-cycle long "proposal" period (about 3 weeks).

There are on proposals at the moment, though I expect that one will emerge out of https://gitlab.com/tezos/tezos

Hey Arthur, Thanks for doing the AMA. I love Tezos. Here's my question:

What role do you think AI will play in Blockchain in the near future? Have you seen any project using this combination?

I have a strong interest in AI and my background is in machine learning and statistics in the first place. That said, I think the intersection between AI and blockchains is very narrow.

In general, blockchains, contracts require hard, predictable, rules. Most modern AI isn't a great fit for that. Some people have also envisioned data markets for AI on the blockchain... I'm skeptical, why does this need to be decentralized or censorship resistant?

I think the intersection lies in tooling and analysis : AI learning to synthetize adversarial inputs to test the security of smart-contracts, AI learning profitable deviation from the honest strategy in a consensus algorithm, etc.

Another question:

We have seen many blockchain influencers talking about Blockchain and Fintech, Blockchain and Health, etc. But no one talks about the type of companies that are not fit for blockchain.

Do you think every Internet company can be ported into blockchain? Which domains are you sure blockchain is not made for.

In most cases you can use a blockchain, it's just that it doesn't buy you a lot. I would also differentiate between public and private ledgers.

  • The benefits of a private ledger over a simple database is better data integrity and replication, it's not world-changing, but I do think it has some value.

  • The benefits of a public ledger is censorship resistance and Internet scale.

I would say domains which don't benefit from this type of scale or which don't require a high level of trust don't really gain from the use of blockchains. In general, anything that's not centered around tracking assets is not very likely to be a good fit.

It's known that Kathleen is working to integrate Tezos into the gaming economy, but I'm interested as to what your focus will be for the upcoming years? Are you planning on making your own official proposals along side the community's?

I like inventing things, so most likely coming up with cool stuff for the protocol and helping talented folks develop their own ideas.

I'm excited to see what's in store, thank you.

As far as I know, the governance process in its current shape only allows one protocol amendment to be passed by cycle. This seem like an unnecessary bottleneck: you should be able to integrate any non-overlapping set of upgrades! Or at least a reasonable number of these!

Is there a reason this is not the case that I am not seeing?

It's hard to prove that upgrades are non overlapping! It's feasible using the OCaml module system, but it requires careful thinking before being rolled out.

I guess my concern is that this would make it harder to get multiple teams working on protocol-level development since the expectation will be that the original founding team will always win and losing a vote means 6mo of "downtime" in effect increasing the barrier to entry.

Maybe shorter amendment cycles (I think it is 6mo right now?) could do it? Or have N slots for upgrades (via independent voting sessions) and use them for upgrades that are clearly non-overlapping (else "vote no"). Baby steps

It's possible for teams to collaborate and present a unified proposal to the network. I agree it's better to have completely siloed upgrades but, in the near term, I don't see this as a huge impediment to making progress.

If the Bitcoin inflation bug would have happened, what would the most likely scenarios that would have taken place? A fork and the teams fix the inflation bug? Or any other scenarios?

Great question! I think the most likely scenario is developers reaching out to miners with a patch, orphaning the branch where the inflation happened, replaying all transactions from the orphaned branch and blocking all double spends.

How can we make Tezos the Schelling point?

IMO, the strongest force shaping this for Bitcoin is the sense of inevitability. It's hard to replicate, but I think the self-amending aspects are a strong argument in that direction.

It is then critical that our first on-chain vote is executed flawlessly, it provides features that are longed by non and Tezos asset holders and that the success of the amendment is broadcast far and wide. Exciting times are coming!

I agree that the first vote is key to demonstrating the potential of the platform.

When do you think banks will stop blocking crypto-related transactions?

I don't know.

You said at your recent (very good) Web3 speech that you are sceptical about interoperability. Can you explain why?

You need interoperability in a world where you have a lot of heterogeneous chains that need to talk to each other. But why do you have so many chains to begin with? Why isn't one absorbing the user base of the other ones?

The cyclical viewpoint is that pushing for interoperability is a bid for dominance disguised as a blue ocean strategy.

I like the Polkadot project and the Cosmos project a great deal, but I'll note that Polkadot isn't developing its project as a Cosmos zone, and that the Cosmos project isn't putting it's atoms on a para-chain.

If Bitcoin were to fail, what do you think would be the most likely scenario as to why. And by fail, I mean didn't become the primary store of value/money.

Lack of interest in censorship resistance in combination with new, particularly burdensome, regulations or outright bans.

Do you still think that baking useful applications into the core protocol itself is the way to go?

Depends on the application. Over the past few years I've grown to appreciate the value of building applications at the smart-contract level. I used to think a smart-contract providing a base level service would have a hard time growing or gaining canonicity, and I no longer think that's the case.

When I think about protocol upgrades, I'm mostly thinking of improvement to governance, consensus, and useful primitives to give smart-contracts to lower the overhead of gas monitoring. For instance, primitives to verify cryptographic proofs benefit from an implementation at the protocol level.

There is a funny tweet from Heidi Howard about distributed systems development (in fact software engineering in general imo): layer lots of abstractions and then inevitably bypass them

What project are you personally most excited about on Tezos (existing or not)?

Tezos itself! There are so many cool ideas floating around to improve the protocol, I am very excited to see the network level up.

What do you think is the most underappreciated subtlety of Tezos governance?

Many people assume that governance exists to make changes easier. I think it can be used as a way to protect the consensus rules and the ledger against changes. Formal rules with a high burden of compliance to enact changes can be more effective than informal cultural taboos against changes.

If you have read the recent paper Zexe: Enabling Decentralized Private Computation, do you believe this brand new primitive can or will be implemented anytime in tezos?

I did, I think it's awesome research. It's something to keep an eye on, but too early to start work on right away.

How does the Voting Process at Tezos work in detail. User side and Developer side.

There's a coming blog post that goes into it in details but, briefly speaking, there are few 8-cycle long (about 3 weeks) periods. First, a proposal period where protocols can be proposed and an approval voting procedure ranks them. Then, a voting period where the top rated proposal can be adopted. Then a testing period where the protocol is run as a testnet. Finally, there's a confirmation vote to promote the testnet to the mainnet.

Is there any hardware tezos related projects the community shall pay attention to or think about?

Not to my knowledge, but Tezos benefits from the cool hardware being built by companies such as Ledger or Trezor.

4 Weeks ago you said this: "'Im starting to get a better mental model of Tezos' proof of stake algorithm by the way, and am getting a new found appreciation for it. I'd like to start benchmarking it at 100x its current throughout, and I tend to think it would handle it gracefully. At this point, the limiting factor is more likely to be the current inefficiency of database reads and writes than in the logic of the distributed consensus itself." Did you do the benchmark ?

No, I know the database would clunk under the load the way it's being used. It's not worth it until it's replaced.

I also think if such throughputs are being pushed, you should add some sort of safety under partial synchrony. Polkadot's hybrid model is very interesting in that respect.

How big is Tezos' developers network today? Why do you think developers will be attracted towards adopting Tezos in the future.

I don't know how big it is, it's certainly smaller than Ethereum's at this point. I think Tezos' appeal will be in offering tooling that lets developers write smart contracts with confidence but also in the perennity of the platform. Tezos is designed to be here to stay.

Hey Arthur, thanks for the AMA!

When do you think we'll be able to use cryptocurrencies the same way we use FIAT today?

I don't know.

Hi Arthur, do you see any future for consortium, permissioned blockchains or do you think that public, permissionless blockchains are the only ones that will succeed?

I do, I don't think they are world changing, but they do bring real value. Oftentimes, "who will run it" is a political problem and a consortium chain can cut through that Gordian knot. There are also benefits to having a cryptographic audit trail of your state changes.

What do you think is better for tezoa between a token open standard model versus a model where xtz is being used as the only currencywithin the applications?

In most cases, at best tokens don't make sense, at worst they compete with the base layer coin. I don't think the idea of "money but for X" is sustainable, money is driven by network effect and strong winner-take-all dynamics.

Coda protocol is open sourcing their code today. Can Tezos copy this now and become a succinct blockchain with smart contracts?

In order to build this, Coda has to keep the state transition function as lightweight as possible. The overhead would be prohibitive with today's techniques if your state transition were to include executing smart contracts.

However, this is useful tech for making sidechains. In fact, the property of being able to carry the proof for the weight of the chain in a single SNARK is primarily useful for sidechains, less so for a primary chain.

So I can absolutely see a Coda-like sidechain to Tezos.

Hi Arthur. There is a group of at least 80 of us in a telegram channel who trust and believe in Tezos vision. Unfortunately majority of us have lost the password necessary to unlock the ICO funds. Is there any plans for all of us to work together for a satisfactory solution? Thank you and best of luck!

I don't know of any plans of the sort, nor is it clear how they would work. I do know some people have been successful in recovering their passwords using tools like "John the Ripper".

Why should a person who did not participate in the ICO care about Tezos?

Thanks for the AMA! Can you explain to someone who is new to Tezos what "self-amending" means?

It means the Tezos protocol contains rules for changing itself. The expression comes from Peter Suber's "The Paradox of Self-Amendment" https://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/psaessay.htm

Sorry if it sounds lame. Let's say if there is a proposal and community has voted their choice for a protocol upgrade.now my question is does tezos dev team needs to code the change or the protocol some how magically self upgrades?

Proposals are not just ideas, they must be pieces of code that patch the existing protocol. Once if they are adopted, the protocol gets recompiled on the fly and the chain carries on with the new code base.

If Tezos would implement privacy in the same way as Zcash does. What would be the differentiator/advantage for Zcash compared to Tezos?

The size of the anonymity set is an important differentiator and Zcash is well positioned to build the largest one with the Sapling release.

That said, at the end of the day, I do tend to be a maximalist. By that I mean that, over the next decades, I believe the industry will coalesce around one or just a couple coins.

What is the No. of End-Users (Minimum and Maximum as Lower & Upper Limits) required for any Blockchain to Implement for any given Use-Case(s)? Please let us Know to Decide whether to use BlockChain or Not to build a Feature. THX. 🙏👍

That's highly dependent on the use case. It's not so much about the number of users but whether they trust each other, have access to trusted third parties, etc.

Hi Arthur - Thanks for this AMA. During your 5 reasons why Tezos rocks! talk, you mention that apart from currency, a decentralized ledger like Tezos is good for two things: Internet scale coordination (decentralized polities, cultural movements and DAOs) and pre-commitment to ecosystem openess.

Could you explain further what you mean by the former? What examples of internet scale coordination are being built on Tezos or would you like to see?

One example I would like to see is a large open source project rewarding its contributors worldwide and organizing its decision making around development.

Why would such a project develop on Tezos versus the other 50+ blockchains live or in development?

Taste and perennity, but the latter only becomes evident over time.

Hi Arthur,

If the lawsuit in the US would turn out to be negative for you, your wife or DLS (I hope not), how would that determine the potential success of Tezos? Can Tezos be stopped? Either by blocking funds, blocking ICO coin holders, directly impacting the blockchain or any other way?

Sorry, as a policy I don't comment on litigation.

First of lots of love from India and thanks for the AMA

You have invested in starkware. Do you have any plans to collaborate with them to implement their tech on tezos protocol?

I love the Starkware team and I think STARKs are going to be a key building block for scalability and privacy. There are many entities involved around Tezos but, to my knowledge, there aren't any concrete plans yet for collaboration.

One of the beautiful part of Tezos is that there needs not be an explicit plan since anyone can submit improvements to the protocol.

What ideas do you have for lowing the barriers of entry into blockchain/Tezos? Wallet addresses? Use cases? Marketing?

In what ways do you think tezos will be able to get a larger market adoption compared to its competitors?

I think one of the largest barrier to entry for anyone in this space is the complexity of securing private keys. Getting the right UX around that seems fundamental.

Do you know if a portal is in the works for discussion or voting? Where will we vote? Will it be a signed transaction to specific addresses? Who sets the addresses? Last question; what do you think about defining the test time of a protocol improvement via the proposal? Some improvements do not need a long-term test (changing constants i.E.), others maybe need longer-term tests (Avalanche/Igloo/ZKP). A fixed test time, will slow down evolution imho.

Please ask only one question per question.

I don't know about a platform like this, I know some people in the community were discussing using Kialo which seems cool.

The governance model is designed to be a simple bootstrap procedure, there are many ways it can be refined.

I understand that you are not a pro dapp guy. As per tezos philosophy there is no need for a token for every application. In a scenario there are apps built on protocol and use tezos for transactions what do you think is ideal tps in that case?

There are few trade-offs in the design of blockchains but a big one exists around consensus. Essentially, aspects such as cost, security, decentralization, capital efficiency, and throughput of the chain are all tied in different ways. I think we're still far from the efficient frontier, but at some point it becomes a matter of preference and not mere engineering.

I think the strength of these networks is in being censorship resistant, decentralized platforms. There's no point in trying to compete on AWS's turf for decentralized computing for instance. So overall, I'd favor prioritizing security and decentralization over throughput, if and when the dilemma arises.

Layer 2 solutions are a fine way of dealing with throughput hungry applications.

In prior interviews with Kathleen, you paraphrase the Paul Graham quote, saying Tezos isn't competing with other blockchains, it's "competing against no one giving a shit".

Why would anyone give a shit about Tezos? (apart from the 20,000+ activated contributors)

Tezos will get traction and adoption only if dApps aimed at the general market can attract the crowds. What is Tezos doing to attract and support large scale dApp projects?

I'm skeptical of the dApp model. A few make sense, most don't.

As for The, it is a blockchain, it doesn't do anything to attract anyone or anything.

Assuming dApps are, in this context, end-user apps or services built on top of a blockchain, the market and common business dynamics will decide which ones make sense or die.

I get it that Tezos is a pure blockchain, but are you aware of organisations that are trying to promote the adoption of Tezos? Taking the parallel of an OS, if there is no effort to attract developers to build their apps on it, playing with the built-in calculator and notepad can only get you so far, and the OS dies. Or maybe "build it and they'll come" will work for a blockchain?

Arthur Breitman

Arthur Breitman is one of the co-founders of Tezos, a blockchain platform which provides smart contracts, has built-in governance system, and facilitates formal verification. Unlike the majority of blockchain platforms, it uses the delegated proof of stake consensus.

Prior to Tezos, Arthur worked at X (previously known as Google X), the self-driving car division. He comes with great knowledge of technology, blockchain, and programming. Don't miss out the opportunity and ask the questions.

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The cover photo used in this AMA has been taken from this source.