John joins the team as the new Community Lead
It's time to welcome a new Community Lead to the team! Like previously mentioned, I have been transitioning into a Communications Lead role and with that it was time to make way for someone new. Community being an integral part of what we do, we searched for a while and found a great person to fill this role.
John Light has been involved in the cryptocurrency scene for years and we really want to give him a warm welcome from everyone in the team! In this interview he will share his reflections on Ethereum and on how he came to work at Aragon with some fresh ideas which he intends to bring to life soon.
Past team interviews:
Hello and welcome to the team John! We're delighted to have such an experienced fellow join our lineup.
You will be profoundly working in relation with the community, any first words you'd like to say?
First I want to say that I am so grateful and excited for this opportunity to be a part of the Aragon core team, and especially in this Community Lead role.
I really admire the culture and values of the project, and the passion I've seen in the community for the mission. The Aragon community has been a great place to discuss distributed organizations, open source governance research, and other super interesting topics. This is a unique opportunity to be around to watch and participate in putting these ideas into practice.
So tell us about yourself, what kind of interests, hobbies and background do you have?
My interests and hobbies are pretty diverse. I spend a lot of time reading and writing about topics that are interesting to me. Like art, crypto/blockchain tech, economics, political philosophy, and all things startups and open source community. I also enjoy music (listening, making, sharing, experiencing it live), watching TV shows and movies, exploring outdoors, skateboarding, meditation and thinking, working out, and the occasional midday nap.
I dropped out of college after my third semester to join a startup and have been unschooled ever since. The first startup I joined was a media startup founded by Adam Kokesh, an Iraq Veterans Against the War activist and former Congressional candidate from New Mexico. We produced libertarian propaganda and organized grassroots antiwar/pro-freedom events across the country.
It was the 2008 financial crisis that woke me up to the incredibly centralized, fragile, and corrupt nature of the legacy financial system. I was coming of age as a legal adult and knew I had decisions to make about how I would earn, store, and invest my money. And I decided I wanted nothing to do with the legacy system. After looking for alternatives for several years, I eventually found Bitcoin.
Within a few months of research I became convinced that Bitcoin could help solve a lot of the problems I saw in the legacy financial and monetary systems. I later moved to San Francisco, got more involved in the local Bitcoin community, and started doing consulting for crypto companies and investors in the area. As time went on and more resources got invested in cryptocurrency research and development, I became interested in other cryptocurrency systems as well. And this interest eventually led me to Aragon.
Between discovering Bitcoin years ago and now joining Aragon, what have you been working on?
For the past few years I have been an advisor to cryptocurrency startups and investors. Helping them with marketing and business development (in the case of startups) and digital asset analysis, acquisition, and security (in the case of investors).
Through my experiences working with startups and investors I have learned a lot about many aspects of starting and running a business and creating and marketing products that people love. I have also continued pursuing self-learning about many other topics of interest. I am incredibly grateful for the vast wealth of knowledge that is made available by the internet and hope to give back by sharing knowledge with others.
In 2015 I partnered with Mike Doty, one of the first crypto enthusiasts I ever met in the meatspace, along with Jay Feldis and Konn Danley, two engineers Mike knew from the local and online Bitcoin community, and together we co-founded Bitseed. The goal of Bitseed is to make it easy for anyone to run their own Bitcoin full node. We have also worked on other experimental personal server projects, such as a Namecoin DNS resolver and OpenBazaar store server.
I have also enjoyed working with some of the most friendly, passionate, talented people I know organizing open source community efforts. Over the years I have had the privilege and pleasure of co-organizing the Decentralized Web Summit with the Internet Archive in 2016, co-organizing the BlockstackSummit at NYU in 2015 and starting the Buttonwood SF cryptocurrency trading Meetup in 2013.
What about Ethereum, when did you first learn about it and what about it fascinates you?
My interest in Ethereum was sparked by Vitalik Buterin in a private chat message in the fall of 2013. I was lucky enough to have convinced Vitalik that I had an opinion worth asking for, and he invited me to read an early draft of the Ethereum whitepaper. I then saw Vitalik publicly announce Ethereum a couple months later at the Miami Bitcoin conference and the rest is history.
Since then I have been following the project online and attending Ethereum meetups to learn and hang out with very interesting, exceptional people (shout out to the SF Bay Area meetup organizers, including Christian Peel, who have been hosting for almost three years now).
To me the support for Turing-complete smart contracts is fascinating because it allows the programmatic movement of assets to be infinitely more flexible than a limited scripting language. A smart contract system that is as flexible as Ethereum has the potential to affect many parts of society by automating and de-risking many different kinds of transactions and other contractual relationships. The parts of society that will be most affected are finance and governance.
Finance, because this industry currently has many intermediaries and complex contractual arrangements that could be turned into smart contracts. Governance, because governance is about determining who is in control of resources and how those resources should be managed, and blockchains and smart contracts can do this in a way that is predictable and trustworthy.
In the future sharding will be a critical tool in the scaling toolkit. It would also be useful for Ethereum to support daemons for long-running processes i.e. contracts with operations that run for longer than one block cycle. And formally verifiable contracts would help improve the security of smart contracts.
I am also interested to see if Proof-of-Stake can be made to be as secure (or more) than Proof-of-Work. Replicating the economic cost of mining virtually seems like magic but with the power of cryptoeconomics it might actually be possible --- we'll see!
Besides the effects it will have on society, what other aspects of Ethereum do you find exciting?
Besides Aragon (of course), there are several kinds of applications I am very interested in seeing work at-scale. Prediction markets, stablecoins, gaming/ gambling, Peer-to-Peer lending, and decentralized identity.
For example, P2P gambling will disintermediate traditional online gambling platforms run by centralized operators who can cheat the system and are vulnerable to being robbed or shut down. P2P gambling platforms built on Ethereum will not need such an intermediary; players can gamble directly with each other.
I can also imagine P2P lending and social credit networks arising to fill in the gaps left by commercial banks and payday lenders. Creating a more resilient financial system from the bottom-up. There may always be a place for specialized lending institutions but they should not and will not be the only providers of credit.
Perhaps the most transformative will be the transition to P2P energy systems. Where instead of having a centralized grid produce and deliver electricity, we have decentralized energy production using solar, wind, and other renewables. And decentralized distribution using wireless delivery and rechargeable battery packs. Smart contracts could be used to track the production, distribution, and sale of this energy without the need for centralized, fragile coordination systems.
I personally would much prefer to be using Web 3.0 technologies that make services more resilient against censorship and give me greater control of my digital identity and data. If we can get the user experience right and properly communicate the value of this approach, I think most other people on the web will start using these new technologies as well.
How do you see that Aragon fits into this future vision of Web 3.0?
Aragon will be used as the "governance layer" of the decentralized application stack by all organizations building on the blockchain. Before Aragon, it has always been necessary to trust individuals with power over the resources of an organization. Now it is possible for the members of an organization to have direct collective control over their resources.
People will use Aragon to create and run distributed organizations and manage their resources without central points of failure. For example, a non-profit could use Aragon to give donors greater control over how donations are spent. Or an open source project could use Aragon to give contributors a voice in the direction of the project that is proportional to the value of their contributions.
By eliminating the need to trust a single person or small group of people, Aragon enables new kinds of organizations to quickly form and solve the challenges that their members are passionate about with less bureaucracy and risk. With a generalized yet powerful tool like Aragon, it's inspiring to think about what new creative uses people will find for this technology.
In your new role as the Community Lead of Aragon, what are you most looking forward to?
I cannot wait to help Aragon transition to a fully community-governed project. And to share Aragon with communities around the world who need trustworthy governance solutions. This is the first time in history that groups of people can collectively manage their resources --- without centralized control --- to achieve a shared vision. And so it will take time, patience, and persistence to learn and teach others how to take and use this power responsibly and effectively.
One idea I have is to do a recurring interactive demo series, where people in the community can sign up to experience what it's like to participate in an Aragon organization as a group. We'll use the app on a Testnet to deploy organizations, issue tokens, take part in votings, assign permissions, and run through different scenarios that might be common for a distributed Aragon organization. I'm currently finalizing my plans for the demo series and the community should expect to hear a formal announcement once v0.5 --- The Refactor Release is out!
Anything you'd like to say to the other team members at this time?
Celebrate all wins, big and small, and constantly remind people why the vision is important. Act with integrity and transparency so that team members can be proud of their team and the work they are doing. I think the Aragon leadership has done a great job of this so far.
Thank you for the insightful answers John, anything else you want to add?
I just want to say again what an honor it is and how excited I am to have been chosen for this important role.
If anyone reading this wants to bring Aragon to your local community or another online community you're a part of, I am always interested to hear how we can help provide the resources needed to help educate new users and get people interested in new forms of governance. Feel free to ping me, @light, in the Aragon Chat any time to share ideas.