Dec 13, 2022

Nym Security Engineer of Hardware Optimization Chelsea Manning joins “First Mover” to discuss the state of online privacy in the blockchain space and the trust issues in crypto, citing the recent collapse of crypto exchange FTX and arrest of its former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

Video transcript

A whistle blower who was imprisoned for leaking military operation documents in Iraq and Afghanistan, which included the US targeting of civilians. Well, now Chelsea Manning has entered the Blockchain space championing privacy as a security council at privacy startup NM. She's also the author of Read me dot txt, a memoir. Please welcome Chelsea Manning to the show. Chelsea. Great to have you. Good morning. Now you've, you've previously talked to Coindesk before and, uh you told us there's something seriously wrong culturally where we are used to giving away our privacy and data for digital convenience. And I wonder if crypto makes that even worse. People are now willing to give away their life savings amid the digitization of finance, right. Uh You know, and I, and I've come into the crypto space uh as a skeptic of digital assets. Um you know, not, I'm not necessarily saying that digital assets are bad uh per se, but, you know, I've been skeptical of the culture around them, uh and around sort of the, the, the uh the, the get rich quick, sort of, uh you know, neo yuppie out to that. A lot of that, that has sort of come up in, in recent years. I mean, obviously the, we, we, in this crypto winter we're seeing the consequences of the, of the sort of get rich quick and the ex expecting the line to go up, sort of, uh, sort of, um, culture that's, that, that's brought it up out of here. But I really do think that there are some fundamental aspects of, of, of the technology that are interesting, uh, And as somebody who played around with this stuff, you know, long before anybody had ever heard of, you know, Bitcoin or anything like that. Uh As a, just in terms of like the technical uh aspects of cry of cryptography and be able to verify information in order to be able to provide for your privacy uh in the future. Um I, and we're working on that uh uh with uh with, with, with some of the newer technologies that are, that are going to become a, that are, that, you know, being developed right now in this space. Um that, and that's one of the reasons why, uh you know, I've, I've sort of jumped in on uh on NM as a technology. I wonder, we're, we're closely tracking this Sam Bain freed uh case. And I wonder what your thoughts are on all of that? And is it strange that people champion crypto because this technology is trust, you can remain pseudonymous. And yet time and again, people trust these crypto personalities and get burned. Uh, I actually think that, you know, it was some, there were some assumptions that were made with the technology, uh, that, you know, it, it, that, you know, just because it's crypto, it's safe and it's secure. Um, but the, the truth is, is that, you know, people have been jumping, you know, to the gun on, I think some of the, uh, on some of the expectations of, especially those who don't understand the underlying technology. Um and, and sort of the, the it is new, I mean, this cry, you know, crypto uh Cryptocurrency as a concept, you know, uh was very new, like in the late nineties, you know, you sort of had the, the Neil Stevenson uh book, you know, sort of project, you know, sort of speculating on this stuff. And then uh it wasn't until 2008, 2009 that you, that, that you saw the, the innovations of Bitcoin and in the cryptography space, that's relatively new, right? You know, it took, you know, it, it took 20 years for uh for the, for the enigma, you know, machine to be generated before the second World War. Uh And, you know, the in, in terms of the, the longevity of, of this technology, we're, we're, we're only starting to really understand um you know, the what the problems that are going to rise with cryptography in terms of providing privacy in terms of providing uh verification of you know, you know, the, of whether or not you are the yield or not because in this case, it turns out that a lot of people were the yield, right? Um, you know, and they didn't know that because, uh, you know, the, the technology, you know, in terms of verify, verifying you who, where, where your assets are at any given moment, um, you know, isn't, isn't quite there yet. It isn't, isn't ripe, right? But I do think that there is a chance now for this discuss, you know, given this discussion to innovate in a, in, in the way, in a way to ensure that, you know, that, you know, where your assets are, who, like, you don't necessarily need to know who you're talking to but, or, or what, or what you're doing. But you, you can verify that, you know, the, that you do, in fact that this is, in fact, coming from, uh, a, a person who is, who is authenticated, who is valid, who has, uh, who has a reputation. Do you think that it's too late culturally for that to happen though? I mean, you know, that in the previous segment, we were talking to somebody about whether or not the SEC or the CFTC should regulate crypto spot markets. And here we are, we're talking about government oversight over, over cryptocurrencies. Do you think that culturally, at least at these, get quick, uh, aspects to it have taken over the entire uh progress in development uh in this space and has moved it in a direction that it's inevitably going to be centralized and it's inevitably going to be overseen by governments and inevitably going to be uh part of mainstream finance rather than an alternative to mainstream finance. I think that that is a path that is going to be taken, uh at least in, in terms of like there, there's going to be a main line of this space that is going to be, that is going to be subject to regulation, regulation is coming, you know, uh whether it's the sec or Congress or uh or, or, you know, the, the European Union uh regulation is coming, you know, this is a reality, uh the crypto space is going to have regulation coming. Um So, uh you know, and I, you know, my interest is my, my, my interest in the technology is actually in, in not just Blockchain and not just the crypto assets but in terms of like verification of information. And I think that uh having verification of information outside of the regulatory space is a way of, of, of ensuring that uh that you, that you aren't, that you aren't just replicating what the FED is or that you aren't just replicating what FTX was, right? So I think that uh I think that there is a chance for innovation in the space, maybe not necessarily now, but I think in the next 5 to 6 years. I think that there is an opportunity for uh you know, for, for technologies that especially with utilities, right? Because like one of the one you know, them is a utility token, right? You know, it is a, it is a utility tool. It is, it is, it, it is about privacy, right? It is, it is about creating what is called the mix net, which is uh you know, a a way of uh anonymize your actual traffic and your communications like a VPN over, over a decentralized, uh not even a decentralized, but a distributed network. Um So I think that uh I think that util I think that utilities are going to be a part of the future of uh of, of Blockchain technology um which is not necessarily a asset based. Uh But I think that uh it is, it becomes a way of validating the reputation, it becomes a way of ensuring that uh that, that computation across the network is rewarded. Uh And I think that these kinds of innovations um the post uh the, the sort of post Blockchain uh cry crypto space as I, as I think uh is, is I think where the future is going to be given the fact that uh whenever it comes to token tokenized assets regulation is almost certainly coming. So what kind of, what kind of uh beside obviously, you're gonna say, N but are there any other projects out there that you think, you know, the Z caches of the world? Right? And do you think that any of those things have a chance? First of all? And second of all, uh do you think that there's also uh a problem, as you mentioned before, you being, you know, you are the yield, uh everyone being the yield. Um Do you think that that's the same case in D I? Do you have any hope in DP I? Uh Yeah. So uh to, to your first question, um there are, there are plenty of technologies that are, that are similar. Uh uh I can think of a couple off the top of my head poly chain is investing in uh is, is investing in biter for instance, which is a distributed machine learning network um That awards people for computation across the network. May, you know, maybe, maybe we, we'll get on the lines of, of rewarding computation uh you know, and, and uh you know, for uh you know, and have essentially the another utility uh across, you know, to, to, to, to actually have a function beyond making uh you know, beyond line go up, right? Um I think that um you know, I uh you know, uh I think that zero knowledge proofs um are going to cause an enormous, they're, they're going to create an enormous amount of innovation. Um I'm, I'm very excited about zero knowledge proofs. Uh I think that uh you know, I I know that it, it, it, there, there needs to be hardware innovation because it, it isn't something that is easily, you know, zero knowledge proofs are quite computationally intensive and that there isn't necessarily the, the, uh the, the hardware uh built for it yet. Uh at least uh for, for large, for large scale applications. But I think it's coming and I think that the, that there's a lot of opportunity and there's a lot of investment in the space. It just isn't gonna, it, it isn't gonna pop up, you know, in, in the next six months, right? It's gonna take 23 years for some of these tools to, to, to ripen and, and, and, and to, to be felt and to go to your, and, and to go, go to your second question. Um II I do think that, you know, III I think D I does have a chance. I don't think it's dead. I don't think D I is dead, but I think that it's going to take a little bit of time for uh the culture to change a bit or at least to become a bit more. Um and it like conservative but a bit more hesitant uh I, I, you know, to, than, than to just, you know, allow for uh actors in, in the space to just be like this is the, this is the messiah of, you know, crypto, this is, this is how this is going to work. Um you know, for the future, for the, for the foreseeable future. I think that I think that over promising and under delivering is not uh is, is, is not something that uh the crypto community is, is going to accept for much longer. So, uh you, you, you've spoken out about the dangers of, of uh the apps that are being put on phones, uh specifically it's tiktok, you, you, you, you're concerned about that. Um How does that, first of all, when it, with regards to tiktok, how does that something? So culturally, um you know, permeating as tiktok, you know, how do you even warn people that, hey, that this data might not, you know, this data might be used against you or might be used against uh democracy for instance. And second of all, uh overnight, you know, in the past few hours, we saw that uh Twitter has disbanded the Trust and Safety Council uh that, that was there overseeing some of uh the, the, some of the issues going on there. Uh What, what are your, your thoughts on that? And, and how does it play into this whole issue of, of privacy and free speech versus um you know, potentially harmful uh dialogue and potentially harmful things that, that are used uh to, to cause more violence and, and things against people? Right? Uh I think it's a great question. Uh I think that social media and consumer surveillance, you know, because we just, we we have this gigantic trail of information, right? Um Obviously, I'm an advocate for nim because of this tech, this this kind of technology because of how easy it is to track this this kind of data. I do think that we need to start thinking in infrastructural about how the internet runs as we move into the 20 thirties and 20 forties because I don't think that I think that actually, you know, this is a hot take. So you'll get a hot take from me. But I think that social media has peaked, I think that we've reached a point of saturation, you know, uh we went from 9% of people uh pre pandemic uh being a quote unquote extremely online in broadband and wide broadband access countries to almost 30% by 20 by, by late 2021. I think that we've reached social media saturation. I don't think that daily active users is going to go up from any of these sites that are, you know, that are, that are projected to just grow and grow and grow and grow and, and, and get engagement. I think it's going to, I think it's exhausting people. I think that uh that, that the amount of surveillance and the amount of um algorithmic uh you know, bubble creating uh is, is, is, is, is finally starting to, to reach a point where it it could be a health crisis uh for people's mental health for people's physical health. Um And, and people's isolation. Uh And I think that, uh and I, and I think that, that there's, that, that a, a sort of resistance to this is going to develop and I think that new technologies are going to come up uh that are going to, you know, allow people to continue to communicate. Uh I, and you know, not, not even thinking of uh of, of something like a, like, like them being a, a VPN uh style way of protecting your data across a mixed net. But uh something as simple as a signal, right? Uh Having more uh having larger group, group chat access, uh you know, something similar to, to telegram uh signal stories. I just come up. So I think that there's, I think that, that we're in a space where we don't necessarily need to have these gigantic social media sites where you post one thing and it gets a million. Uh and, and uh a data, a little database entry uh in incrementally goes up and up and up and you, you get rewarded with your, your, with your smiley face and, and, and your heart. I think that's going to exhaust people uh to a certain, it already has to a certain extent. And I think that uh and I think that, you know, people want to maintain their connections with the people that they have closer. So I think the smaller social media networks I think that smaller communities uh in the online space and I think that, that uh that newer technologies uh that, that don't, I mean, I just think it be real, which is a new, that's a new social media tool that I, that I use, that collects a little bit of data about me. But I, I it's not spreading, you know, huge amounts of information out, out everywhere across the world and I'm not getting bombarded with ads every, every three seconds yet. But what do you, what do you make of the Twitter aspect then? So Twitter, so I, you know, Twitter is obviously uh Twitter was going to change, you know, it didn't matter who was going to buy it, it was a significant amount of changes that was going to have to happen. It wasn't, it wasn't generating revenue. Um I, I think that, uh I think that Twitter's uh sudden decisions uh regarding uh the employment were, you know, cuts that any CEO would have had, would have, would have had to make. Obviously, El M is making uh is drawing a lot of, is making it a bit more of a circus uh than, than uh than I think uh some, you know, a Honda style uh CEO would make it. Um But I think that these cuts were, were, were, were going to come. Um And I think that, uh I think that it goes towards the, you know, the confidence that people have in, in, in the site. I, you know, it's going to, I think that people are going to start to question, you know, how much, um they want to engage with, uh, with the social media site. We've already seen celebrities, uh say that they don't want to, we've already seen brands, you know, sort of have a hesitancy to do so. And I think that uh having a trust and safety board, uh you know, would, you know, it, it would provide more confidence for people that, you know, that, that the site, you know, is going to operate in, in a way, in a way like this. But, you know, you also have to do the balance of, you know, it is a company and it has to generate revenue and it has to generate, you know, it, it has, it has, you can't, you know, it doesn't come from nothing. And I think that uh Twitter grew too fast and I think that, uh you know, that a significant amount of change um was going to happen on Twitter regardless of, you know, of, of, of whoever bought it. Um And I think that, uh I think, yeah, I think that confidence uh in the site is, uh if, if, if, if they don't, if Twitter and, you know, obviously a new owner, uh don't, don't, don't start to, to, to get more con, you know, start to generate more confidence in uh Twitter as a business very quickly in the next six months. Uh, because I, I don't think that it's going to fall apart in 22 weeks. It's just not, that's not possible. Um, but I do think that, uh, you know, if, if there isn't a turnaround in the next six months to, to a year, um, we could start to see a significant slowdown and, uh, Twitter, um, in Twitter's operations.

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