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Bitcoin developer talks regulation, open source and the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto

James Niccolai | May 20, 2013
Jeff Garzik says the Bitcoin creator was a brilliant architect and economist but that his coding left a bit do be desired.

IDGNS: What's your background, how did you get into Bitcoin in the first place?

JG: I'm an engineer through and through. I saw it on Slashdot about a year after Satoshi [Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin and has never made his identity public] mined the first block in January 2009.

IDGNS: So you've been into it for about three years.

JG: Yeah, that makes me an old man.

IDGNS: What were you doing before?

JG: I was a kernel engineer with Red Hat. What I was doing there is remarkably analogous to what I'm doing now. Red Hat paid me but they didn't tell me what to work on, they paid me to be an OS engineer and contribute to Linux, so I would send my changes to Linus Torvalds. Same thing here, Bitpay isn't paying me to work on Bitpay, they're paying me to work on open source.

IDGNS: So they're paying you to strengthen the Bitcoin platform overall.

JG: Exactly, because if I make Bitcoin better, that benefits Bitpay.

IDGNS: There are a lot of parallels between Bitcoin and open source, politically and philosophically.

JG: A lot of people are into the whole libertarian aspect, I think of it more as an interesting engineering project. When I first heard about Bitcoin, I thought it was impossible. How can you have a purely digital currency? Can't I just copy your hard drive and have your bitcoins? I didn't understand how that could be done, and then I looked into it and it was brilliant.

IDGNS: There's a lot of powerful hardware coming onto the market for mining bitcoins [mining is how new bitcoins enter the system]. What is there to stop, say, Google from loading the Bitcoin software into one of its data centers and mining all the remaining bitcoins?

JG: Technically nothing, but in practice CPUs are powerless against ASICs [custom chips designed specifically for bitcoin mining]. Google would have to manufacture its own ASICs for that to have an impact, and that's never really been a worry. The worry now is who controls the foundries that produce the chips, so you have to think a couple of levels up.

IDGNS: Like TSMC?

JG: Yeah, you have companies designing the ASICs and then the chip foundries make them. Who's to say the foundry won't simply produce a million chips on top of your thousand-chip order?

IDGNS: Are you afraid that will happen?

JG: There are enough people who are pursuing ASICs that it isn't likely, but that's the current battle over decentralization of mining, that and mining pools.

IDGNS: What are the big obstacles to Bitcoin achieving world domination?

 

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