Bram Cohen: 'Getting Rich Is a Terrible Metric of Success'

CoinDesk reporter Leigh Cuen sits down with Bram Cohen, author of the BitTorrent protocol and CEO of Chia.

Apr 19, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. UTC

CoinDesk reporter Leigh Cuen is joined by Bram Cohen, author of the BitTorrent protocol and CEO of Chia. In this wide-ranging interview, they talk about Cohen’s early interest in “hard problems,” his unexpected ascent from sketchy to celebrity and much more.

For daily insights and unique perspectives listen or subscribe to the CoinDesk Podcast Network with Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocketcasts, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Stitcher, RadioPublica, IHeartRadio or RSS.

Leigh and Bram discuss:

  • The real promise and strengths of cryptocurrency
  • Really interesting problems in cryptocurrency
  • Getting started in crypto 20 years ago with MojoNation and glorious failure
  • The origin of BitTorrent
  • Speculative investment, the dot-com boom and where real wealth comes from
  • The Bitcoin Wizards IRC channel and Bram's arrival in crypto
  • How the Bitcoin Wizards stance on ASIC resistance led to Bram’s creation of "Proofs of Time" and "Proofs of Space"
  • Getting rich as a side effect of making the world a better place
  • Scaling, sharding and unsophisticated engineering
  • Why "Proof-of-Stake" is a step backwards from "Proof-of-Work"
  • A system that doesn't suck: How engineers try and fail to improve the finance industry
  • The unregulated banking crisis, shadow banking and hiring the smartest minds to obfuscate leverage
  • Why trusted third parties are the problem
  • Satoshi's wonderful, horrible idea and the obviousness of Proof-of-Work
  • What Satoshi did surprisingly well
  • Why improving proof of work wouldn't really improve bitcoin
  • Coherent goals: more decentralized and less wasteful
  • Both Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake have a scary degree of centralization 
  • Ethereum’s terrifying improvements to the on-chain programming environment
  • New functionality within Chia that helps cryptocurrency feel less like "carrying around hundred dollar bills"
  • Limiting opportunities for theft with user-controlled rate and recipient limiting
  • Thinking about ecosystems and adoption
  • What is your favorite use case for cars? Is it tires? 
  • Open source software, politics and adoption
  • What is the role of advocacy in making something useful?
  • Why bitcoin gets a bad reputation for things it doesn't have strong associations with
  • Why "governance" is such a touchy topic
  • Why Chia is funded by venture capital rather than token offerings
  • How Bitcoin is different from what's come after it
  • "Our technological capacity exceeds our political will to negotiate the terms of that capacity"
  • Why Bram hates the "Fake it till you make it" ethos
  • Engineering sticker shock
  • The "everyone uses cryptocurrency for everything" narrative vs. the "how do we get anyone using cryptocurrency for anything good?" reality
  • Better metrics for success than "getting rich"
  • Great leaders and bullshit artists
  • Bitcoin's trajectory and the meritocratic history of technology
  • Colored coins, distributed identity, timestamps and censorship-resistant value
  • Minimal functionality, subtle cleanups and simplified transaction formats in the Chia programming environment
  • Chia's testnet
  • And more...

For daily insights and unique perspectives listen or subscribe to the CoinDesk Podcast Network with Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocketcasts, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Stitcher, RadioPublica, IHeartRadio or RSS.

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