Giacomo Zucco is a Bitcoin consultant and educator. With a background in theoretical physics, his attention has increasingly changed to Bitcoin since 2012, and his commentary, insight and humor have made him one of the most successive characters on Crypto Twitter.
I asked Giacomo a few questions about Bitcoin, privacy, ETF's, and why he doesn't like Coinbase.
How did you get into crypto?
I don't much like the phrase "crypto" much more, since today it refers mostly to things I don't follow or promote in any way.
I entered Bitcoin at the beginning of late 2012 when I started learning about it from a very different angle: like "dark web money" in agorist and pro-privacy groups I followed as "the new gold standard" in the Austrian and anti-central banking groups I followed as a new interesting technology among colleagues (I worked in old payment systems then). I was impressed with the way Bitcoin linked so many very different aspects of my life and interests. My wife suggested to finish my regular job and go full time to Bitcoin in May 2013. I did.
How would you describe what you would do?
I consult large established companies on Bitcoin (both in terms of economy and technical capabilities), I teach some Bitcoin classes in universities and private academies. I collect and retrieve donations from established companies to Bitcoin non-profit FLOSS development.
What do you see as the main feature of Bitcoin: Value Value? Medium of exchange? Can't you confiscate it? Something else?
All the above descriptions are valid, important and somehow correlated. I think "state-of-the-art ideal money" would probably sum everything up. Of course, some monetary functions will be visible chronologically before others: for example, the value of the value movement is more important and general than the "exchange medium" which is mostly referred to by some very specific niches. But they are connected in a deep way, at the end of the day. Bitcoin is "hard money" (difficult to create, inflate, manipulate) and "dark money" (difficult to track, confiscate, censor), enforced by technological means in a world where hard and dark money has been banned politically.
What would you say to critics who believe that evidence of work is too energy-intensive and harmful to the environment?
Large energy consumption in Bitcoin is a requirement, not an error. It is by design, not by accident. The only way to make something difficult to produce is to make it expensive to produce. There is no other way around. The argument "waste" is often used to spread erroneous arguments that Bitcoin is "environmentally unfriendly".
This is not the case for several reasons.
First, energy in PoW is no more "wasted" than in any other production process for something else (physical or intellectual) good: it is actually used, not wasted. Secondly, energy consumption is likely to remain lower than historical alternatives (we speak orders of the order of magnitude less than the energy consumption for gold mining below the gold standard, for example). Thirdly, entrepreneurs who produce PoW to get bitcoins are not the incentive to consume more energy: if that is, they are incentive to consume less energy for the same calculation (for them, energy is a cost, not a turnover) , increasing optimization and efficiency with new technological breakthroughs or with production choices that can have a waterfall effect on other energy-consuming industries.
Are you enthusiastic about lightning?
Yes of course. I was always concerned about the fungibility issues created by the blockchain design (less for scalability, but also relevant). Lightning Network is a very elegant solution for increasing bitterness and privacy in Bitcoin. It will also make it possible to use many cases that would otherwise have relied on trust-based and censorship-friendly alternatives in a very confident and fairly censurable way. It is also a team where you can experiment more, with less security or consensus-critical design choices and more focus on the UX.
Do you think enhanced privacy will damage Bitcoin's reputation and possibly slow mainstream adoption?
Not at all, in fact, vice versa. There is not a single reason in the world. Bitcoin should be adopted if it seriously lacks privacy. If you want to use monetary systems where you are spied, tracked, censored, robbed, you already have plenty of old options that are already widespread and supported everywhere.
Do you think the ETF will be good for Bitcoin?
There will be advantages and disadvantages, but I tend to lean towards a "yes". Real Bitcoin users still need to use Bitcoin for real, but Bitcoin "speculators" who do not need Bitcoin directly to their own property but who (just enough) will be exposed to "Bitcoin-flavored risk", for obedient reasons for non-correlation of the portfolio will need these kinds of inheritance tools. And finally, I think they will help the real Bitcoin indirectly. Of course, there are some risks associated with centralization, manipulation, fractional reserve … but they should remain mostly limited in the inheritance market, leaving the real Bitcoin network mostly unaffected, at least in the long run.
Do you believe in projects other than bitcoin? If you were to choose 3, what would they be?
Of course I do. There are many projects I love and follow other than Bitcoin, even though they are only back in FLOSS projects. If I were to choose 3, they would be: the Tor protocol, the Bittorrent protocol, the PGP protocol (although I think the latter would need a very strong UX redesign for "normal people" use). The more governments around the world make the internet impossible to use in freedom and independence, the more such projects, along with Bitcoin and others, will help make such efforts ultimately useless.
Why don't you like Coinbase?
For many different reasons. The first and more general is that I don't like "crypto startup" that works the same way as traditional banks. Why I said before that I believe more traditional, regulated tools like ETF's are definitely having their own use. If you need that kind of thing, I think it would be more reasonable to get it from your banks, not from newcomers who pretend to be new when they are actually a bank. Secondly, they spread a lot of confusion by mistakenly promoting their own support service as a "wallet", so much so that I still meet people who think they are using a Bitcoin wallet because they have a bit of credit at the Coinbase bank. But it's just very mild criticism.
Then Coinbase began to support (and in some cases even lead) basically all kinds of attacks against Bitcoin, from the one launched by the R3CEV employee (and state contractor) Mike Hearn, to the latest so-called "New York Agreement ".
Supporting these attacks, the Coinbase spokesmen have promoted blatant lies and lies, scattered misunderstandings and confusion about Segregated Witness, BTC1-broken deployment, etc. Since my business is mainly education, I don't like people whose business is mainly active disinformation.
Then they started supporting all kinds of scammy clones of Bitcoin, which always promoted them as "better bitcoins", often lies about their properties, risks and trade-offs, sometimes even actively manipulating their market with organized pumps (like they did with Bcash ).
Again: they close many payment processors for political reasons: from Gab to Wikileaks. As they went after the users for allegedly "legal" reasons, they often went far ahead of their statutory obligation by actively sharing user information with government agencies even without summons.
Recently, they acquired an Italian start-up focusing on deanonymization and spying on Bitcoin users whose members were also famous for helping dictatorships and authoritarian governments track and kill political dissidents and other goals.
Many began giving Coinbase a hard time on this last scandal, but I think this acquisition fits in well with the company's general ethical standards. Also in the PR crisis management attempts, they revealed several other bad things, such as. Previous leaks and sale of private user information.
You're called Craig Wright The Greatest Showman. Do you think it's a good idea for crypto media to cover him?
Well, at this point I'm seriously contradictory.
In the beginning, my answer to this question would have been a clear "no, it is not." But then, many people with poor understanding of our "space", especially in the media, began to give their honest demands also under pressure from former Bitcoin VIPs, such as Gavin Andresen, who supports Craig's fraud) then it is likely to be reasonable to start covering the topic again, at least to debunk all the false "evidence" like counterfeit PGP signatures, post-posted blog posts, postdate PGP keys, fake handwritten signatures on legal documents, etc. Then it came a phase When I was worried again, we gave him too much coverage.
But recently, especially after his many daily "new patents" on new patents, new academic papers, and new Bitcoin 0day, after the obvious copies and cuts, after the wrong "hi world" programming efforts are exploiting his hysterical tales of South American drug addict stories … Well … I think the one who still gives him some credibility is literally without help. For people with any kind of understanding of reality, it is already quite obvious that he is actually a conman … as for the others, there is nothing we can really do more, probably at this time.
What, in your opinion, is the crypto media being wrong about bitcoin and the industry in general?
Many things, unfortunately. First, Bitcoin is not mostly a technological revolution, but a monetary revolution.
Secondly, the (honestly incredible) fact means that Bitcoin seems to work as expected (at least so far) that not all extraordinary requirements must be accepted (or even just necessarily examined when time and resources are scarce) without extraordinary evidence . In the end, the fact that there is no "crypto" industry: there is the Bitcoin revolution, along with thousands of projects before and around it.