Dr. Gavin Wood needs no introduction. Cofounder and CTO of Ethereum, inventor of the Solidity programming language and now Founder of The Web 3 Foundation, Parity Labs, and the Polkadot network.
We talk about his mission to re-decentralise The Web as a ‘free trust technologist’, giving the Internet native law, and how Polkadot is a bet against blockchain maximalism with a focus on ‘full agency’ for the network and its network of blockchains (parachains) to adapt and evolve with baked in governance. We also address how Polkadot could co-exist or compete with ETH 2, depending upon the pathway the Ethereum community chooses.
Jamie Burke 0:13
You’re an early stage web three founder apply to our award winning accelerator programme base camp at Outlier ventures.io slash base camp, we write your first $50,000 check and give you access to 200 mentors, including many of the leading web three founders, and a network of 1000 of the world’s leading investors and exchanges. We’ve helped over 30 startups from 15 countries from all around the world, raise 100 and $30 million in growth funding. It can help you fast track product market fit, and where relevant the launch of your token economy. So today, I’m really happy to welcome Dr. Gavin wood president and founder of the web three Foundation, founder and CTO of parity technologies and of course, polka dot Welcome to the show, Kevin.
Gavin Wood 0:59
Thanks to me. Yeah, I’m happy to be here.
Jamie Burke 1:02
So I’ve been trying to make this happen for some time, we kind of finally finally did it. So I’m going to give it a shot polka.is, a scalable, heterogeneous, multi chain, and we’re going to obviously unpack that a little bit later. It allows for new designs of blockchains to communicate and pull security, or more simply polka.is, a network that connects block chains, gross simplification, but again, we can expand that. And you describe yourself as a free trust technologist. And again, that’s something I definitely want to try to unpack a little bit later. So there are obviously many reasons why I wanted to get you on the show. But I guess Firstly, given the title of the show, you were the first person I heard to put blockchain and crypto in the context of web three, as a distinct phase in evolution of the web. And obviously, different Tim berners Lee’s original vision of of web three. And I think this is a really good example of you being one of those people who is deeply technical, but also able to explain and contextualise things in a accessible way. And as I was doing a lot of my desk research, it was really easy. I just went on to a YouTube channel. And there were some bits of content there full of soundbite. So I’m gonna kind of reference later those back to you. So obviously, prior to web three Foundation, you were CTO and co founder of Ethereum, and inventor of the solidity language. When I put out the tweet to say you were coming on the show, I had the most inbound questions ever. And they’re all quite sensible, actually. No trolling, which was surprising, but a lot of excitement and anticipation around polka dot and para chains. And as an accelerator, I’ve certainly noticed that we just had a call earlier today with our venture partners that can like scouts that that go into ecosystems and find startups. They’re also often analysts at VC firms and stuff. And they were all asking around, you know, are we investing in polka dot based projects? Have we found any? What kind of niches and subsets are they operating in? And so just for the, for future listeners, this is kind of q3 q4 of 2020. There are already 250 projects, working on with polka dot listed on pocket project and how up to date that is. And as much as I would love to do a retrospective on you as a founder in web three, at Ethereum and, and everything else, I think it’s probably a best use of the next 45 minutes to focus on the present and future of polka dots. So normally, I would go into quite a bit of background into the person just to contextualise them and give them origins, but you’re obviously fairly well known. So I’m going to kind of cut straight into the more meaty stuff. But what I did think was interesting as I kind of look at your background was this theme around music and audio technology, which is something I didn’t know about you. So you did that state of the art real time musical audio analysis engineering environment, using advanced MRI algorithms, machine learning, you also researched, designed and led the development of an audio portion of frontier developments in next generation, cross platform gaming. So what was what was that background? What were you doing that?
Unknown Speaker 4:23
Gavin Wood 4:24
well, yeah, I mean, I my PhD was in, in music visualisation, which was an algorithmic music visualisation. So coding up stuff to analyse music and turn it into something that can help people understand what it is without listening to it, just just sort of seeing it. I came at this from a I love music and I want to kind of understand how it works, how I and how I experienced it, and I want to I want to turn that into something that’s maybe more accessible or very immediately accessible, you know, through vision And that was more from just the love of music and my the fact that I tend to explain the world by vibrating programmes. Then, you know, after that I did go to, yeah, this game studio to try and work on one of the sort of games that I sort of, I was assuming that they were working on turnout, they weren’t actually working on this game. So that was that was sort of unfortunate. And they were like, oh, what do we see? You’ve done a lot of audio engineering for your PhD. So why don’t you write our next generation audio system? And it was like, Well, yeah, sure, I guess. So as I was, I was working on that for a year or so. And, but it was really good. It was it was it was really a feat of engineering, it was particularly interesting for me, because, you know, back in that time, which is like, early 2008 2006, it was, you know, when the next generation consoles are coming out air quotes, they’re in that they’re not really next generation and all that they’re like two generations past now. So the Xbox 360, the PlayStation three, and the sort of general PC gaming. And the idea was to write something that was cross platform amongst all three, which was itself like quite quite a difficult thing to do. But also, that allowed you to write really quite interesting audio effects stuff. And have it like utilise the very particular hardware that was in the PlayStation three this like, what is it called a cell processor, and it had like these synergistic processing units that were a bit like a sort of GPU shader unit, but a little bit more useful, but not as useful as a CPU. It was quite an exotic architecture, and therefore something that to make something cross platforms was quite a lot of thought and engineering behind. But yeah, it lasted me a year, I had a great time. And, and then I decided to sort of move on to other things.
Jamie Burke 6:59
Well, I guess we might talk about creative industries and NF T’s in the context of power change a little bit later. be interesting to get some of your thinking around. And I guess worth highlighting the reason why it’s gaffe of you’re on Twitter, as you did. I don’t know if you’re from York, but you studied at University of York and a Master of Engineering, Computer Science and software you from New York.
Gavin Wood 7:18
I’m actually from Lancaster from the other rows. So a bit a bit of a traitor to my birth. Yes, really?
Jamie Burke 7:25
Yeah. Okay. All right. Well, that segues quite nicely into a theorem, I guess. So you’re best known for being co founder and CTO aetherium 2013 2015. You coded the first function implementation of the platform authored yellow paper, the first formal specification of any blockchain protocol, which is no mean feat. And then in 2015, you founded and will lead developer Ollie developer parity technologies. And the stated mission anyway for parity is to enable businesses and organisations to capitalise on blockchain technology Now, obviously, polka dots come out of that, that frames it’s quite an enterprise pitch. Is that, is that still relevant? Is it evolved? Or it’s evolved?
Gavin Wood 8:15
Yeah, I mean, it’s, we’re always about using, you know, sort of
this low trust
cryptography, cryptographic crypto, economic, game theoretic, and new systems in order to facilitate things. And certainly in the early days, it was, in some sense about trying to use the Ethereum sort of technology set that I’d been working on for the two years or so before, to try to bring that
maybe kind of to enterprise that was our kind
of vague thinking at the time. But it definitely morphed over time. And we have had some sort of enterprise wins the World Food Programme being sort of one of the one of the notable ones, but, you know, at the end of the day, it’s really about bringing this technology to market. And bringing it to, you know, it’s it’s equally, in my mind equally applicable to both sort of individuals, you know, and kind of NGO kind of style organisations, and enterprise and corporates.
Jamie Burke 9:22
Yeah, I mean, and having also spent far too much time trying to convince enterprise that they should be thinking about web three, I think it’s naturally you go as the point of least friction, and clearly there’s this, you know, growing new digital economy, where there’s a load of demand. So you also co founder of grid singularity, also founded in 2015. Is that linked to parity? Was that one of the enterprise plays because that’s obviously linked to the energy sector?
Gavin Wood 9:48
Yeah, I mean, it was, you know, at the time it was the idea of being partners is a bit of a loaded term, but you know, kind of Being Well It’ll be moving in line with each other being well aligned sort of entities with reducing IRC obviously being in the energy, particularly green energy sort of industry, trying to use the software trying to use the tooling that we did. And yeah, there was some success there. I mean, ew, f coin sort of came out of that the energy web foundation.
But I mean,
yes, I think to a large degree, we kind of went our way with polka dot. And, and, you know, I think there’s still going to be some level of collaboration going on. I mean, either Blue Earth is off. chain is using our old party Ethereum at the moment now open Ethereum. But I think there’s a lot more work that can be done in that direction. And I, you know, look forward to, you know, parity and sort of, you know, helping steward that.
Jamie Burke 10:52
Well, I mean, you said with me move into family of web three foundation and this with Bob pocket, there’s just so much going on there. There’s so much to do, clearly, that is going to be a huge part of your life. So the the kind of descriptor for the web three Foundation was to safeguard decentralisation. What do you mean by that? Well, I think, you know,
Gavin Wood 11:15
in the, in this in this sort of odd world we live in, there’s an increasing,
you know, the internet sort of came about,
and it’s great. And it
had this sort of, tagline of you know, it’s going to decentralise everything. But actually what we ended up finding was that although the internet, in some sense, is sort of a decentralised, technically speaking decentralised system, it very quickly became sort of subverted and co opted for these, you know, heavily centralised entities, even perhaps more. So you could argue, then then business entities, corporates, enterprises, and so forth, that exists in the sort of meatspace world. And that is, that is why I think, you know, that’s why I would argue that the internet, as you know, in and of itself, doesn’t really have an opinion on decentralisation or not, it’s just a layer, it’s just a sort of a medium on which we can build, you know, sort of communication, digital based organisations, and what we actually need, if we want to utilise some of the advantages of decentralised systems, then we actually need, you know, specifically decentralised systems to sit on top of it, that deliver those advantages. Otherwise, we’ll be at, you know, we’ll be bound by the same kinds of social systems that we’ve had up until now, which are very much trust bound systems that deal in terms of intermediaries, and global reputations, and, you know, established actors, and not anything that’s really sort of riffing off the the the advantages of being decentralised.
Jamie Burke 13:04
Yeah, and I’ve heard you use this term. I don’t know if it’s yours. But if it isn’t, you should just claim it, that commoditizing Trust. So the idea that blockchains is trust systems can commoditize Trust fan? Is that linked to this free trust technology? Kind of tack that used to describe yourself?
Gavin Wood 13:20
Yeah, because trust is a is a weird term, when people think of it as a good thing. It’s like, Oh, I trust I trust my government as a good thing. But the thing is, you shouldn’t have to trust your government, right? There should be enough checks and balances in place, there should be enough transparency in place. That, that you yourself, don’t actually need to trust them. Because you can check. Or you can find someone that that cares, that you that you have a good relationship with, and have them check. Unfortunately, you know, what, you know, for most people trust still does remain the sort of the good thing, the ideal thing. And so when you talk about things like free trust, it doesn’t trust free. trustless It is like, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do I want to have a trustless relationship? I mean, I like I like being able to trust. But yeah, commoditizing it is the other sort of way. I think this is sort of maybe a little bit more what enterprise how they think about our trust, because they understand what commodities are, you know, nice commodity marketplace, you know, you can, you can really sort of bid each other down, you get good prices. And it’s it’s sort of the same thing. The idea is that you it’s not trust itself, that you’re that you’re commoditizing per se, but it’s it’s the replacement to trust, it’s the thing that means that you don’t have the trust. And by introducing this, you can kind of commodity you know, it’s almost like you can say you’ve commoditized trust, you’ve turned it into something that isn’t special anymore. You don’t need to go through the handful of banks to do your financial services. You don’t need to trust your government in order to know that your vote is being counted or whatever, you know, everything else.
Jamie Burke 15:05
And so with the web three Foundation, I mean, a big part of that is advocacy just generally for web three. But of course, the big thing that’s come out of his pocket on of course, it’s a collaboration between parity web three Foundation, and the wider polka dot ecosystem. But, you know, the, the, I guess, the mission, understanding the mission behind polka dot, why polka.is kind of linked to this, this mission around extending web three, and its reach, I think you’ve taken a really novel approach to bring it to market with Kasama. And again, I want to kind of unpack that a little bit, the decisioning rationale behind it. But main net went live relatively recently, may 2020. I’m sure it probably feels like a lifetime ago to you. But if we firstname.lastname@example.org the context of your journey at Ethereum, and and then looking to move forward, I heard you kind of describe it as those initial thought exercise that, you know, what would a Greenfield is to look like? And that was kind of the the genesis of the thinking, even currently at at Ethereum. But why did you feel it important? For polka.to exist as an extension or separate? area?
Gavin Wood 16:31
Um, well, I mean, you know, part of it was through patience. Like, we have a, we had a great team, we wanted to do some want to build interesting stuff. That’s what people wanted. That’s what developers want to do. You know, the good ones are the ones that are sort of curious, they want to explore they want to, you know, it’s not a question of why I do it, it’s a question of why not do it? If it seems like an interesting idea, then, you know, let’s just, let’s just go and implement it. You know, it doesn’t take that long. And we can try it out, we can experiment. And it’s for the just for the pure joy of curiosity and experimentation. And so part a big part of it was that it was like, you know, look, here’s an here’s an interesting idea, why don’t why don’t we run with it, and it’s, if it works out, it could change everything. You know, in any case, it’s sort of a new thing, this idea of a multi chain heterogenous, multi chain, it’s a new thing, no one else is doing this. So maybe let’s go off in this direction, see what turns up. And But yeah, I mean, we didn’t want to, like hang around forever waiting for, you know, eath, to design to land. I mean, it’s, what, four years later, or something, and it’s still not really nailed down. You know, in that regard, I don’t regret anything. Like it was, yeah, of course, we should have gone off to do our thing, rather than wait another year, and another year, and another year. And, and for me, it was also about trying to MIT it like trying to minimise what how much we’re doing. We didn’t want to do every like, you know, you can imagine everything, we wanted to really just create the core of the platform initially, which is, you know, partly why we didn’t try and do something as big as like a huge shot at smart contract platform where it does everything that the existing platform does. And really, we wanted to break it down to just the, the, the the very, yeah, the very core of the platform and let other people build on it. So really, it was more like an innovation engine than than a full on like us a platform.
Jamie Burke 18:33
It almost felt like an antidote to what we were seeing happen in the wider and web three ecosystem, where we were seeing isolated legal systems, creating these false barriers, these silos between blockchains. And you described it as polka.as, a bet against chain maximalism. And this idea of sovereignties. Again, I’ve heard you talk about web three in the context of sovereignties. And also the shift away from purely thinking about token tokenization blockchains as currency and kind of economics, but to becoming more political, and decision making. And I guess, what you’re talking about there, this inability for one of these systems to adapt quickly enough, was as much a political problem as it was a technical one. Is that a logic that follows into some of the thinking around polka dot? Yeah,
Gavin Wood 19:26
yeah, I mean, I see light, really blockchains are about allowing people maybe even machines to you know, govern their interactions to have rules over their interactions and allow those interactions to happen without the need to trust each other. The good expectation that of what what the ramifications will be of any given message or transaction or or, you know, action instruction. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s, you know, one of the ways that you can interact to send money same value, right? Plus One of the ways you can interact and that’s where Bitcoin came from was like, yeah, we’ll send this this number, this piece of value. This, this, this scalar you know, it’s just a single number between people. But that’s, that’s just one of, you know, myriad ways that people can interact with each other. And it wasn’t long after Bitcoin that, you know, I don’t know, if you remember, like 2012 2013 there were like coloured coins, and it was like, you know, you can colour these bitcoins to be like, not just bitcoins, but like red bitcoins or bitcoins that represent dollars or bitcoins, I don’t know that represents some piece of Samatha it was sort of like the initial version of of NF T’s I suppose, but they had they happen sort of on the Bitcoin blockchain itself and there was special software that would analyse the Bitcoin blockchain in order to pull out whether, you know, this particular Bitcoin had a particular colour and therefore meaning aside from the fact that it was a Bitcoin. And, and of course, afterwards, like after that, there was a theorem people like, Oh, we could interact with each other in the, you know, kind of smart contracts. And we can create rule sets by which we have fairly arbitrary rule sets, by which we sort of play a game with each other on chain. And in the end, it’s like, this is all about allowing people to interact with each other and nothing like it’s, it’s as general as that it’s got nothing to do with currency, per se, currency was just a use case. And in my mind, governance is really just another very basic, like currency form of interaction between humans. So there’s like collective decision making is really an the means by which a collective makes a decision, like as a vote, do you randomly choose someone? Do you do a combination of the two? Do you have like hierarchies? There’s all sorts of questions. And, and this is all stuff that has been, like debated for millennia. And it’s, and now we have this, like, really awesome technology that allows us to take the fruits of these debates, and make, you know, really wizzy fast, sophisticated systems, allowing us to, to become like collectives and given ourselves. So a lot of for me, it’s like currency defy. I mean, you know, it’s fine. It’s interesting, you see it working, it’s kind of like a Yeah, okay, fair enough. But like, the more general thing is like these social systems, and finding and experimenting with new ways of allowing people to organise themselves with each other is also one of the very exciting frontiers of this technology.
Jamie Burke 22:33
And you describe that as agency and you talk about polka.in, the context of full agency. So if you look at that evolution of use case, you have, you know, three equal tokens, the three C’s of tokens commodity, like digital gold currency, like aetherium, eath, and then Corp Corp, you know, around this kind of governance context. So maybe that’s a good way, a good point to start going into polka dot itself, and to try to unpack this scalable, heterogeneous, multi chain idea.
Gavin Wood 23:06
Well, okay, so
yes, polka.is, a scalable, heterogeneous, multi, it’s like the scalable heterogenous, multi chain, there are no others. And was it mean? Well, basically, it’s a multi chain, because it’s made up of multiple block chains. So that’s the easy one, you can you can, you know, take polka dot, compare it to 100, block chains, and it’s, it’s sort of got a bit in common with them, right? It’s like polka dot can also be, we hope 100 blockchains. So then it becomes scalable and heterogeneous. What does these mean? Well, the heterogenous basically means each of those block chains, each of those 100 block chains can have arbitrary transaction processing logic. So some of them might be like Bitcoin, UT, EXO based, very simple scripting language basically lets you send an amount number between between the participants between accounts. Another one another example of business logic would be the Ethereum blockchain, business logic, smart contracts. So this is where you know we have an account based system. And you add account can be just like a wild Oh, secret key public key pair, or it can be a smart contract. It’s the little computer programme that sort of runs its instructions when you send it some funds when you ping it with a transaction. Now, these are fundamentally these are quite different propositions, but they all fit into the blockchain metaphor, right? They all they all basically, they all process transactions, the transactions all do something. And they have some state right they have a Merkel tree put in a Merkle trees cryptographic data structure. So they have some state that they maintain the transactions come in, they flip some stuff in the state and then and then the next one comes in and so on and so on. You bundle them into blocks. That’s a blockchain. So crucially, In polka dot these, these 100 block chains also can each have different business logic. They can each be really good at doing different things. Bitcoin blockchain is really good at like being Bitcoin, basically passing currency between accounts. And the Ethereum blockchain is better at handling smart contracts. And there are others. There’s like namecoin, which is really good at doing registries and and a few others. And the point is that, you know, it’s not enough to have a Turing complete blockchain in ackwards game. Because you always have to make these design decisions, these trade offs, these design decisions, and how is it showing company? How do you manage things like resource metering? How do you guarantee that there isn’t any any spam or that one smart contract doesn’t just take everything out? What language do you use for the smart contract? How do you manage transaction queueing? How do you manage the priority for transactions, all sorts of these design decisions, these trade offs that you have to make? And it’s and the point is also, as you become more general, you necessarily lose efficiency? Yeah, your performance gets down. Because just like, basically any any part of computer science in any part of engineering, General generality costs you stuff, like a CPU might be very general, but you don’t want to do 3d graphics processing. And particularly, you want to push that off to a specialised unit, the GPU. So that’s, that’s basically why it’s heterogenous. These these different chains can each do different things. And then it’s scalable. and scalable is one that you might sort of a lot of people get confused about scalability is highlife, it’s a multi chain scheurer scale, you got hundred block chains. It’s like, well, it’s not enough to have 100 block chains, because 100 blockchains, like, there are 100 block chains. It doesn’t make block chains scalable. What makes it scalable is if you’ve got 100, block chains, and they can all talk to each other. And, very importantly, they don’t fight each other over the very scarce resources of security. Right? So security of a blockchain is for a proof of work. blockchain is basically mining power. For a proof of stake blockchain. It’s basically capital right? Now, both of these things are things that if you’re using a WAN chain, you basically can’t use it on another chain. Now, there’s something like merge mining, where you can try and argue that well, the same mining power could be used for both, and it kind of works. But there’s all sorts of tangley issues with with doing merge mining.
But in general, these resources cannot be shared between chains easily. And what polka dot does is it says right? Well, we will scale these mean polka dots proof of stake. So it basically means we will stay at scale this capital across these chains will do it in a way that is super easy to do basically, validators just run polka dot, and polka dot manages all of the security of all of these, all these 100 chains that makeup or so whatever I want, like I don’t want to like say 100 chains that ends up being 99. But you know, hundred also chains that makes up the polka dot community.
Jamie Burke 28:14
And so you talk around this emphasis on governance and upgradability in the context of combat in forking, could you talk through that a little bit and and also this some reference to agency, how you are for agency as a system.
Gavin Wood 28:30
So agency is about is really about a sort of economic concept. And it’s the ability for a given a system to make its own decisions to sort of take control of itself. You know, it’s sort of the difference between a rock which has no agency just sort of sits there and does its thing. And let’s say a person that has agency in that they can decide what they do with their day. And now some systems are designed to be rocks because rocks, you can you can reason about a rock, you can say, right? Well, you know, it’s shaped like this today, it’s probably going to be shaped basically the same way tomorrow, unless some very large person with a big sledgehammer comes along and starts smacking at it. You know, it stays as a you know, people like things that say that they’ve, if it’s if it’s for a particular purpose, such as, let’s say, managing your assets. If you buy a part of a rock, you can be pretty sure that it’s going to remain part of a rock, like if you buy a lump of gold or piece of a lump of gold, then you can be fairly sure it’s going to be the same piece tomorrow. The reason is that gold is very stable, it has an element, it doesn’t really react with anything. And, you know, this level of stability of constancy is very important under certain circumstances. But the thing is, it also means it doesn’t adapt. If it’s gold, it’s always going to be gold. And if for some reason the world change now if you find a meteorite Just hold the 50 billion tonnes of gold, then the existing gold on earth will be worth very little, because we’ve got so much more gold that we just suddenly managed to discover if they’re basically the point is if the environment changes, and it always does in such a way that it’s disadvantageous for this for this system for this thing, then it’s going to eventually become obsolete. irrelevant. And we’re kind of already seeing that with block chains of the past ones that really found it very difficult to change. Bitcoin probably will survive, but primarily simply as a currency that enough people have bought into. But it’s questionable with any of the other blockchains, whether they can seriously argue that they could survive over time, given that they don’t really have any way of adapting to changing circumstances. And those changing circumstances can be very simple ones like, well, another blockchain comes along that can do everything but bigger, better and faster. And what agency does is it says right, well, actually, we’re not going to be a lump of rock or a nugget of gold, we’re going to be, you know, sort of living, breathing, corporate, if you like, or a human like entity, we’re going to be able to make our own decisions, we’re going to be able to change ourselves, and for the better, we’re going to be able to adapt, right and evolve. And this is I would argue, you know, absolutely critical in a we’re in a fast moving world, where you know, things are changing where technology is changing, the environment is constantly changing. Unless you really are sort of basically your resin data, your your USP has to be something that never ever changes, but there can only be a few things, right? If you have 1000 bitcoins, there’s only going to be one of them. That is the one that people actually bother buying into, because you don’t need 1000 things that none of which change. There can be one thing whose USP is to not change. But everything else basically is stuck in a race. And and you have to find you know what it what it is, you have to either adapt or find what it is that you that’s special about you, but it’s probably not going to be that you don’t change.
Jamie Burke 32:14
And how does that practically play out? Because I understand it, there’s agency in the system as a whole. But then also, in a power change. You mentioned this, this number 199 or 100, of blockchains that comprise the polka dot network. They’re called para chains. So does that agency then extend down to the para chain level? Well,
Gavin Wood 32:36
yeah, absolutely. So the idea is that para chains are just as able to make their own minds up about what they are, as the relay chain as the polka dot main chain. And they’re both based. I mean, there are two main things, I think I’ve probably covered it two main things that will give you agency, the first thing is, you have to have some way of actually changing yourself, like actually kind of making decisions and enacting Well, they have some way of enacting decision. So those decisions are are about how you should alter yourself into the future and great. The other thing is you have to have a way of making those decisions, right? So it’s the two halves, you gotta be able to make a decision, and you’ve got to make sure that that decision actually gets enforced and acted. And we’ve seen systems that can make decisions without them being enforceable. And, you know, we have so many systems that can, you know, actually enforce or enact decisions without any way of actually making them. But decentralised systems have a slightly more cumbersome, complex problem, which is that there isn’t like a CEO or something a CEO of Bitcoin or CEO a theory on the kind of as a CEO, very rarely, but there isn’t a CEO of most of these systems, in theory, at least, that can that has the that has the ability that has the authority to make that decision for the network because it’s a decentralised network, right, lots of different people or politically different alignments. So it’s very difficult for them to, you know, on the face of it come to any decision about how they should change on that. And that’s where we have governance, which is this way the algorithm the processes for how to make decisions, and then separately to that, we actually have to enforce them. So polka allows both of these things to happen. It has governance governance systems based largely on pre existing governance systems, by camera will try camera systems.
it has what we call like this web assembly, sort of upgradable meta protocol, right? So meta protocol, very simple, very term pack that very quickly is we have that. We have a protocol protocol like Bitcoin protocol like aetherium. And meta protocol is a protocol that sort of sits underneath as like a higher degree sort of thing that the other protocol works on top of. And the idea is that the meta protocol for polka.is doesn’t actually include any of the importance of polka dot, all it does is it includes a means of interpreting what it is that this other stuff that is polka dot should actually do. So what we do is we put a computer programme encoded in webassembly onto the chain, and then all the polka dot does, which is a meta protocol is run that computer programme, right. And that computer programme, which is defined on chain and therefore is eminently changeable, and adaptable and evolvable. That computer programme contains polka dot. And we’ve already demonstrated this, I don’t know 20 or so times how we can change this computer programme the poker, we call it the runtime, which is a bit of a dodgy naming but mind how we can change this computer programme and show how this changes the fundamental business logic of polka dot. And we do it because it’s stored on the chain, it piggybacks on our existing consensus. So we don’t need that basically, like, you know, if you do hard forks, you might have heard of hard forks, Bitcoin aetherium, all that sort of stuff. If you do hard forks, you have to get everyone’s like individual permission, basically, you have to go to all the miners, hey, you’re going to actually upgrade because if you’re not, then the network’s gonna, like have a fork, and it’ll be really problematic. And as we saw with the classic fork, it’s like, not always so easy to get everybody on board. And what what we do, because it’s because this sort of code is stored on the chain itself, we can guarantee that everybody is on board, because it’s just part of the protocol, part of the meta protocol, the actual nuts, the real stuff is written in this language. That’s the real polka dot stuff. But the the stuff that because it’s a meta protocol, the stuff that that defines polka.is on the chain stored on the chain in this web assembly language.
Jamie Burke 37:10
Great. So it’s also really interesting how you’ve brought polka dot into the wild. And again, quite a novel approach. So initially, you launched the Kasama network, which is still alive. I don’t know, if that was regarded as a test net. Could you could you explain that approach? And what is the future of Kasama? Does it coexist alongside polka dot? How do they interact?
Gavin Wood 37:36
Sure, so Kasama is a canary network.
So what we mean by this, it’s a little bit like Litecoin, compared to Bitcoin. So it’s not a test net, because it actually has people people value persona tokens. As a value, like, you know, if you look at the Bitcoin test net, it doesn’t have a value like you can’t buy bitcoin test net Bitcoin on exchanges. But I think it was actually a time where you could buy a little bit banning.
Unknown Speaker 38:05
Gavin Wood 38:06
The reason I call that Canary net is because it sort of does everything before polka.so, we have big changes to make the polka.or interesting sort of experiments that we think are probably
too interesting for
Bogota to experiment over Bogota, then we put it on persona, we put it on this Canary network, try it out. And the reason it’s not a test net is because all the reason it doesn’t, you know, we don’t want to do as a test net is because a lot of these experiments rely upon people actually treating the underlying sort of tokens are the network with with value. For example, if you have a governance system, you can’t test the governance system out on a test net in any sensible way. Because nobody cares what happens, right? It’s a test that you can always restart it, there’s like, no one has any long term
Unknown Speaker 38:55
Unknown Speaker 38:58
Jamie Burke 38:59
potential disincentive to the game.
Gavin Wood 39:01
Yeah, want to test how a game plays out? Yeah, that’s it. So another way of calling it will be like a value bearing test net, and that we are kind of using it to test but we’re using it to test in a real world scenario. So yeah, because Amr is basically a sort of real world experimental test net with with value on it for poker and we absolutely want to keep it around. It’s a really important piece of infrastructure. For polka dots, sort of continuing evolution. We don’t want to roll stuff out and polka dot before we’ve tested it on console. And we’ve already seen how it works in the wild.
Jamie Burke 39:37
Yeah, and that makes sense, of course, is there’s increasing economic load on polka dot, and to kind of somehow separate or partition, I guess, risk from innovation and experimentation. So let’s come back to the power chain concept. This idea of 100 block chains within within the blockchain so para chains are specialised shards or polka dots. They give projects in their communities agency, this word agency, again, over their respective goals. You mentioned that the number 100, could be 99 is the idea that these would be specialised to particular use cases, industries stakeholders? Or are you kind of just leaving that open to the market to decide? bottom up?
Gavin Wood 40:22
Yes, very much. So we have
the like these these hundred slots, I mean, I don’t know how many they’re going to be really, but we hope we’re sort of aiming around 100. And there are a few things that these slots could do, obviously, part number of these slots are going to be system para chain. So they’re going to handle things that are fairly intrinsic to polka dot, and do stuff that is kind of, in the in, as we say the common good at sort of functionality that benefits everybody on the polka dot network, and nobody sort of disproportionately. So that’s, that’s the one sort of set of slots, and I would think, maybe five or 10, para chains are going to be used, like five or 10% of the slots be used for this. Then we’ve got para thread threads, these use up slots, but they they do so in a sort of resource sharing way. So there’s sort of like a time slice, it’s like a timeshare projects can come in one block at a time, use one of these slots for their project, and then the next block, some other project uses this slot. So the idea is that there’s probably going to be a few of the few dozen slots given over to, to allowing power threads to execute. And then the rest will be sort of auctioned off in this in this auction system that we’ve Chrome, which is basically it’s not really an option, because you don’t really pay anything as leaks. It’s sort of a reverse auction for is it, though, so it’s not even a reverse auction. It’s just a standard auction. But for leasing, leasing these slots, and you put your money, you put your dots in and the dots kind of get locked up along with the power chain for the period, that you’re actually using up the slot and the locked once you’re done. And yeah, it’s what’s going to be in those slots is is really tough to say, and we are very much up for leaving it to the market. We don’t we don’t have a big risk. Obviously, we see some projects, and we have an idea of the sorts of hot hot things that people are itching to deploy. But we don’t have for these bunch of slots, any any sort of desire to control or whatever, what what goes in there.
Jamie Burke 42:38
And do you think that there’ll be network effects with empower change? Do you think there’s going to be a period of competition. So we’ll talk about the idea of IPOs, a little bit initial powertrain offering as you were saying, you need to have a certain amount of dollars to be able to participate. And so people might might crowd crowd fund carousels crowd fund dots unable to pay until after presumably, if they don’t already own enough, they’d have to demonstrate to the community that they’re going to bring value to the polka dot network. But as I mentioned earlier, we had better have a colour network on and you know, it’s very much their mission to be that defy power chain, do you think there will be a period of competition? And then it will it will kind of coalesce into a form of network effect? Or do you have any feeling on how that might play out? Um, I
Unknown Speaker 43:29
think there’s probably going to be
Gavin Wood 43:32
not really, you know, I think there’s probably going to be a few chains that launch I think they’ll be a lot of kind of semi general purpose chains. So chains that have a rough direction that they go in, but that also have like a smart contracts framework on them, so that they can kind of host other stuff. And they end up kind of just evolving into whatever the market needs. I think there will be network effects within the chains. I think there will be eventually kind of partnerships between these chains. I think we will see sort of wormholes going between the chains where it’s becomes very easy to interact between certain subsystems within these chains. For example, you might have decentralised exchanges that exist on on multiple different chains and they every five blocks or something, they kind of just equalise out so they, you know, they they move their prices, they equalise their prices between them. I think I think we’ll see a lot of a lot of innovation. And it’s always difficult to say what what’s gonna come out of this. It may end up being that, you know, over the course of the next 612 months, we kind of see an almost polka dot what would you call it? consortium or mafia almost form amongst some of the bigger power chains, and are building up their their systems, integrating their systems between each other forming partnerships, and so on. But I think, you know, there’s enough slot so that it’s not going to be, you know, I think we will see continuous, refreshing, continuous sort of churn of applications coming in. And especially with para threads that allow, you know, sort of short lived or all sort of experimental platforms and daps to be sort of brought into the polka dot chain. And if they end up doing something that’s really useful, they’ll probably stick around become power chains over time. So I think we are going to see a lot of innovation, but I think there’s also a possibility that some of these early players will try to, we’ll try to do some forms of sort of partnerships between themselves, it’s gonna be really interesting to see what how it turns out.
Jamie Burke 45:59
Yeah, I mean, there’s almost definitely going to be a project called polka mafia isn’t there at some point in that system, I need to go by the URL quickly or whatever. And equally, you know, seeing the Explorer to navigate and map all that is going to be super fascinating. So I can’t wait to see that happen. You also talk about chain mergers and acquisitions. So is that when is that talking about how these sovereignties as para chains will interact? He talked about it in a very collaborative way. It could that be more aggressive acquisitions, mergers within power chains? And how would that work?
Unknown Speaker 46:39
I don’t, I mean, in theory,
Gavin Wood 46:41
sure. In theory, how would it work? Well, basically, these power chains each have governance, governance systems within them, in theory, a power chain, combine a sufficient amount of tokens of another power chain, in order to sort of basically like take over and be able to make, make its own governance changes. And then at this point, it could, it would basically be able to, to decide how that power chain went forward, it will be able to, in principle, move it’s kind of basically, like, combine, it’s combine the two, very similar to how it works in the corporate world, really. And I can’t like there’s all sorts of small sort of technical questions that pop into my head when I consider this, but I don’t Yeah, I mean, in theory, it’s 100%. Possible. It’s just whether whether you could buy up enough on the market, I don’t know whether you’d have to maybe find a few whales that sold the power chain from one. I’m not, I’m not quite sure how it would get to the point of controlling, let’s say, 51% of the tokens of another power chain. But if it ever did, then yeah, for sure. It could, you could basically do whatever it wanted, which could include moving all of the everything off one power chain and bringing it into another, and like integrating it into its existing systems.
Jamie Burke 48:11
Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s a conversation needs to happen over a pint? I guess. So as a founder, and as somebody that’s leading different business in imparity, an organisation like web three, how do you stay benevolent, but at the same time, give direction to, to that open market and the experimentation and innovation? That’s going to be? Well, I, you know,
Gavin Wood 48:36
I don’t think it’s too difficult to save a novel. And the question is, whether you whether you rule, you know, if you’re if you’re going to be giving this direction, are you going to be able to, I guess, to sort of get the buy in from from those who it is that you’re that you’re sort of giving the direction to. So you’re always, in my mind is always worth considering yourself with more of a kind of teacher almost than a than a, you know, a sort of traditional leader, like, I mean, leadership has a number of things, but a number of sort of facets to it. But I think really important in this sort of open systems movement, open source movement, whatever you want to call it, is in terms of leadership at really explaining why it is that you’re saying what you’re saying. So and in that, in that sense, you know, yeah, being a teacher, getting that intellectual buy in, I think, is crucial.
Jamie Burke 49:35
So as a founder, I mean, you know, you’ve been through several cycles, you know, there’s been this big focus on infrastructure. Do you think is there is a type of web three founder that would be successful? Do you think that’s changing now does it need to change using different types of people coming to the system and contributing And how do you see the evolution of polka.do? You think that I go back to forget the number of people that were building or using various implementations of polka.is, there going to have to be this focus on middleware being built out by the ecosystem? And to what extent would parity look to do that versus to allow the ecosystem to kind of just have that happen? bottom up?
Gavin Wood 50:25
Well, from the web, for my hat as president of the web three Foundation, we really do want to engage with as many teams as possible. And seed all of this stuff from my hat is a person on the polka dot and Kasama Treasury Council, I’d say the same, we really want to ensure that those who are doing who are really interested and enthusiastic about doing this work and get get supported accordingly. And yeah, for my hat as sort of as the founder of parity, then yeah, I’m happy for us to, to do as much take on as much as we can. But at the end of the day, is there’s you know, you can only focus on so much. And you know, you should, you should pick and choose what it is that you spend your time your focus on. And it should be that which you’re really excited about enthusiastic over. And you shouldn’t try and try and take on more than that, which you really, really are really want to do. And you should let other people, other people do that as much as possible. So I, you know, yeah, we want to build some tooling. Yes, we want to sort of carry on building substrate and making it as great as possible. But, you know, the degree to which we do more than that is probably going to be a question of how well we can scale out more than how well we can scale up. So and I think this is like a really crucial thing to remember, within the web three ecosystem as a founder, it’s like, a, you know, in my mind, you shouldn’t really be trying to build the next sort of Google or Amazon or Microsoft, where you’ve got 10s of 10s of thousands of employees working under you, because that’s not really in fitting with the decentralised nature of what you’re building.
Jamie Burke 52:11
So what are the big problems, challenges, opportunities that that you want to have the ecosystem respond to? There’s a lot of people email@example.com, I said, there’s a lot of money looking to go into projects that are building in polka dot, where do you think the opportunities are? Or, you know, what are the the big challenges that you see, and that you would like solved,
Gavin Wood 52:33
I think, you know, one of the biggest ones is using governance effectively. So we have these treasuries, they’ve got millions in them. And we really need to deploy this for the good of the ecosystem. So we need to build those tools. And those sort of systems, infrastructures, frameworks, so that people can really so we can do this capital allocation, so that we can, we can, in a decentralised fashion come to come to deploy this, this, you know, this massive amount of capital that we’ve got for the good of the network. And that’s, that’s something that’s still in its early days, you know, we’ve seen other protocols, a dash I think, was the was one of the first that had this, but yeah, we, you know, we need to do, we need to do better, we need to really, we’ve got the basic building blocks for the eo. So we really need to push forward. And you know, we’ve got a few things we’ve got like bounties, we’ve got tips, we’ve got a few sort of ways that this money, this, this capital can be sort of deployed, allocated, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. And we really need to push forward in terms of, you know, in terms of building appropriate structure to attach to be able to use it. Another one is, is, is monitoring, like I live monitoring tools. So as much as possible, like and I think a lot of people in the ecosystem, like them, I know validators live monitor monitoring tools. And as we, as we grow as we have these, like, not just the polka dot network in the Kasama network, but also another hundred 200 how, who knows how many sort of pair of chains running, we’re gonna want to be able to monitor them we’re gonna want tools for for for checking that this stuff is working properly. So I think they can, there’s still a lot of room a lot of innovation that can be done that with building these kinds of pieces of tooling, and it’s like airparrot is doing some of this stuff. But again, we are what we’re still only so many people, we can only still focus on soup, so many things. So I think there’s a lot of potential innovation there. Other than that, I mean, there’s you know, the sky’s the limit with with regards to para chains, we’ve got you know, defy chains and privacy chains and asset chains and smart contract chains, compatibility chains, and I think there’s
I think there’s a lot of
a lot of potential for More like social level chains, whether it’s sort of reputation and self sovereign identity, or whether it’s, like, more like kind of collective management, let’s form groups, let’s let’s let’s pull resources, do he kind of style and things. I think there’s there’s a lot of potential for using blockchain to manage that kind of stuff. But I mean, I don’t
know, there’s a, there’s a tonne of
potential stuff that can happen. And I think the big value out isn’t necessarily going to be any one of these. But when they start to hook up with each other, in the end with composite systems, you end up with them, you know, what we have what we’re seeing with DeFi, in that, because they’re all in the same system, they can, you know, you got four or 567, things that are all sort of interacting with each other. And that’s where the real value creation is. That’s where the real innovation comes from. And thankfully, within polka dot, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got powerchairs, Greg CMP, we’ve got the cross chain messaging formats. So this, this is stuff that we are like, nicely confident that we can really push forward. But the platform’s only one thing, you also need to have these things that sit on the platform, that that can that want to talk to each other. And, and that’s, that’s going to be, you know, key, a key push forward.
Jamie Burke 56:25
And so the big question, I kind of did a push out on Twitter, as I said earlier, for questions that were load, we’re not gonna have time to answer all of them, it might get a couple in. So the big question, the repeat question was, you know, how does this coexist set alongside Ethereum? Whether it’s a theorem 1.0 or 2.0 or 3.0. So So how does it coexist? And looking at cerium from a polka dot perspective of where you are now, what do you see aetherium becoming will it? Will it be just a settlement layer in a in a kind of subset of DeFi? Or how do you look at Ethereum in the context of
Gavin Wood 57:11
where pocket on like, I mean, honestly, at this point, it’s it’s a really like, obviously, there’s each one. And for each one, we want to facilitate, like that technology set to help people that know that technology set as much as possible within polka dot, which is why we have solidity to wasum compiler, which is why we have a bridge system so that you can easily connect your polka dot your Ethereum, open Ethereum private chains into polka dot, which is why we have the Ethereum compatibility the VM compatibility system, and which is why we have the mere theory of main net bridge under development. So we’ve got these various ways that you can use aetherium with polka dot, you know, and it works in many of them, it works super, super transparently, it just, you know, you just deploy and it works. So with regards to eath, one, I see polka.as being a sort of a sort of big sort of system that can really magnify the effects of what’s going on in the theory of main net, and also facilitate everybody that has already been building on the platform to bring this stuff and have it sort of work underneath, or alongside sort of other other systems within polka dot. Now, my knees start saying, Oh, well, what about e two, then it’s, then it’s a much more difficult question to answer because he too, has evolved so much over the past span over it’s sort of lifetimes not really born yet. So it’s difficult to call it really a lifetime. But over over the course, that it’s been an idea is evolved a lot. And even some of the things that some of the researchers have come out with have made it look quite a lot like polka dot, like, you know, talking about how the two shards should have domain, specialisation functions within them so that they can do certain things much faster. sounds quite a lot like, you know, a heterogenous. Multi chain. So I you know, I mean, I think there’s there’s still a lot of ideation going on with these two. And I mean, they’re kind of just about at the point of law of, you know, having this beacon chain, but I mean, that that’s step one, the probably the easiest step of their five point, paper. So it’s gonna be a long while in my mind before, before eath two is at a point that that it’s as useful as eath one, and and, you know, depending on precisely what features and functionalities they decide to put into eath. Two will determine to what degree it’s sort of trying to sidle up as an as a copycat of polka.or or whether it’s like legitimately going to focus on just being a you know, scalable, but otherwise pure, smart contracts. version of, of eath. One. And I think if it’s if it’s the latter, then there’s a lot of potential to, to collaborate and sort of, you know, build bridge and have aetherium to basically be a sort of premier smart contract, sort of part of polka dot. But if it’s, if it’s like, if they sort of take a lot longer, and they try and decide to bring in a lot of the polka lock features and try to make it sort of the best possible thing of everything, then I think it’s gonna be a lot harder. You know, I think I think the two could, it could end up potentially sort of being an either or sort of thing.
So it’s, you know, at this point is really difficult to tell.
But I think the future, it could go either way, it could be that they are very much sort of complimentary, or it could be that they end up becoming quite competitive.
Jamie Burke 1:00:53
Again, and thanks so much your time and your candidness. As I said, I would love to do a retrospective on all the stuff we didn’t get to talk about. Maybe we have to save that for a web three documentary at some point when when the world’s been transformed. But thanks again for your time and good luck with pocket up.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:08
Thanks a lot, Dave.
Jamie Burke 1:01:11
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