Daniel is our new Web3 Engineer. He is a globetrotter at heart with an interest in culture and how people live their lives. Meditation, traveling and working with his hands are some of the things he enjoys besides engineering.
Hello and welcome to the team Daniel!
Tell us about yourself, what do you like to do outside of work and how did you discover the world of blockchains?
My name is Daniel, and I'm a software engineer with interests in the broader implications of technology on society and individual lives. My experience is with frontend, backend, and the infrastructure side of things.
As a maker, I love restoring bicycles and designing furniture. I enjoy engaging with creation in the physical realm by molding and manipulating different materials. Over the years, I've dabbled with silver jewelry crafting, wheel thrown pottery throwing, and most recently woodworking. There's something magical about embodying our spirits and experiences into our creations. Every piece of art I've ever created was a journey of self-discovery. For as long as I can remember, I've also enjoyed cycling. Now that interest has expanded to include bicycle mechanics and restoration.
I practice Vipassana meditation, a type of mindfulness meditation, and have an amateur interest in the philosophy of mind and the hard problem of consciousness. This practice continues to be instrumental in my view of the world.
For fun, I like to do some solo traveling. When I travel, I'm thrown out of my usual bubble into a world of different cultures, cuisines, languages, and world views. Traveling gives me a new perspective on things and induces a sense of wonder about life and the world.
The first time I heard about Bitcoin was back in 2011 when a colleague mentioned it. I had no idea how many of the ideas in the whitepaper would affect my career in the years to come. By 2017 I had many of my knowledge gaps in cryptography, and distributed systems filled, and began learning about how all these ideas were fused to create Bitcoin. As I watched Andreas Antonopoulos's lectures, the intimidation from complexity was slowly transformed into a boundless curiosity. I could sense something like a Cambrian explosion of possibilities and opportunities.
Humans are collaborative in their nature, and Aragon facilitates many different types of coordination depending on the scale. Collaborating with stakes in a completely transparent manner is still a challenge as of 2019. Aragon provides many elementary tools to tackle that, most notably the voting app. Aragon attempts to solve a concrete problem, and its open endedness and flexibility make it highly relevant to society in my opinion. And that’s why I’m now working on the project as a Web3 Engineer.
What are some of the things you find interesting or exciting about the blockchain technology and community?
I think there are some very bright minds in the community. There's a lot of building and experimentation. Though I do hope that the community will shift more of its focus to user experience and accessibility. I find that the jargon used can be confusing, and the complexity can be daunting. Granted, that's the nature of new technologies.
I find it interesting how at its core, blockchain is a data structure that one learns in the first year of computer science degree, namely a linked list with some unique modifications. Blockchains allow for unprecedented novel solutions to old problems. However, what's more interesting is how they became a viral meme. A term thrown around that is so distant from any description of it. This reminds me of an experiment where people were asked how well they understood how a zipper works. Most people confidently replied that they understood it very well. But when they were asked to explain how it works in as much detail as possible, most had no idea. I feel like a simple idea, such as a blockchain is often misunderstood as a magic bullet solution to every problem.
From projects in the space, I find MakerDAO's DAI stable coin very exciting for a couple of reasons. To readers unfamiliar, DAI is a decentralized cryptocurrency engineered to maintain a constant value against the USD. This is important because the volatility of cryptocurrencies is one of the strongest deterring factors for most potential users.
It does it without any centralized authority like a central bank. It does it by aligning different interests in a newly created "game" defined by a set of rules laid out in the whitepaper. In practice, this means that it is governed by many individuals who vote on things such as interest rates.
What's fascinating about DAI is how game theory and excellent software engineering were combined to create stability in a very frantic space. Moreover, it appears that the DAI community is continuously adapting to new realities as adoption grows, and new phenomena emerge. In abstract terms, its highly adaptive nature is analogous to homeostasis in biological organisms – the force that resists change and keeps us alive.
Do you see these technologies as being something disruptive?
I think it's rather curious how the word disruptive is being used for its positive meaning. When I was growing up, being a disruptive student was negative, and somehow, the word describes the nature of groundbreaking technology, shaking up fields and replacing old giants in the process. It feels like we're in the golden age of disruption and while I'm mildly skeptical as to whether that's always a good thing, I have no doubt that decentralized technologies will continue disrupting existing fields.
One such field is governance. Ethereum allows for many new forms of governance, and while many will likely fail, the ability to experiment and instantiate new structures to meet changing needs could be part of a paradigm shift in how we conduct economic activity and govern public goods. Really, in any place where governance and transparency are necessitated, Ethereum can improve on the model of technocratic gatekeepers. On a smaller scale, could spark a new revival of co-operatives and grassroots community projects that collectivize to bring about local change.
Though I do think we will still need wider adoption of Ethereum and cryptocurrencies by the general public. This is, in my humble opinion, contingent upon things:
- User friendliness and collective understanding of the technology
- Reduced volatility - the subjective uncertainty due to volatility regarding these crypto-assets does strange things to the human mind – strumming our greed and fear chords
More broadly, I see cryptocurrencies as a counterforce to many established monopolies. Take, for example, credit card companies that take a cut from every transaction for their services. While there's nothing wrong with that, these companies rely to a certain extent on their monopoly to charge those fees. I mean do we really want to pay the credit card company 2% for changing bits in a computer? With cryptocurrencies, you have the potential to do away with intermediaries and reduce fees by allowing for much fairer prices.
Lastly, there's the question of the unbanked. As of 2017, according to the World Bank, globally, about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked—without an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. There’s immense potential in banking these underserved populations. Transacting in crypto can be as simple as installing an app on a mobile phone, and as infrastructure improves and mobile proliferation increases, we could see that number decrease radically with the help of cryptocurrencies.
What are your thoughts on the future of the decentralized web, or Web3?
Predicting the future is a fool's errand. Having said that, I think it's worth looking at the past. The web has evolved a lot since Web 1.0 and comic-sans. The first developmental stage of the web was characterized by allowing any person to become a publisher. Web 2.0 extended that idea by allowing for more intricate interactions between publishers and consumers, thereby blurring the line between the two.
But who says that Web 3.0 will be exclusively about decentralization? Of course, I hope it is characterized by truly decentralized systems that are resistant to coercion. But with the rapid exponential growth of the Internet, we have no way to predict how the evolution will play out. Throughout history, inventors had little influence over how their inventions were used.
Facebook aimed to connect the planet, and unforeseeably turned into a surveillance capitalism vehicle. I do hope that the Web 3.0 will be about what makes us truly human despite our differences, a place where diversity of ideas can thrive; a digital rainforest rather than a cathedral with less winner-take-all companies.
From a software engineer point of view, what challenges are there in these distributed systems, and what would you like to say to aspiring developers?
Working with distributed systems poses many engineering challenges. Finding ways to deliver a snappy useable experience without reducing the level of decentralization is a constant challenge. Keeping a mental model of all the technologies and the constellation of trade-offs is also a continuous challenge. Integrating with fast-evolving technologies is a part of that.
Discover what sparks your curiosity, find a technology you're interested in and learn as much as you can about it. Then, once you master it, share that knowledge with your community. Talk to non-technical people about it. Find the right language and analogies. Ultimately these things exist in our minds, and the more people understand it, the more real it becomes.
What are you looking forward to as a member of the Aragon One team? What message should the team keep in mind?
I look forward to having conversations and getting to know each other better as a team.
I want us to develop a culture where experimentation and failure are okay and are embraced as part of the process. We should understand our individual intrinsic motivations better. Let’s work towards gaining adoption and listening to users.
One thing to keep in mind; The KISS principle - "keep it simple, stupid."
We're overloaded with information all the time. It's still a mystery to neuroscience and developmental psychology how we make sense of the world. Keeping things simple makes systems agile and adaptive to change; one of the only constants in the universe.