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BitInterviews #1: Alex Vasquez

Redazione BitCultura
AMA with Alex Vazquez

È con grande piacere che oggi, 3 Maggio 2019, abbiamo dato il via ad un nuovo format che ci piacerebbe portare regolarmente: #BitInterviews

Una #BitInterview non è altro che una intervista che teniamo nella nostra Chat Telegram, in formato testuale. Un format dinamico, che crediamo si adatti bene ad un gruppo come quello di BitCultura!

Di seguito puoi trovare l’intervista completa che si è tenuta Venerdì 3 Maggio 2019. Non perderti la prossima, entra subito nel nostro gruppo!


Nice.. So, let’s start with the first question. You can find italian and english versions of the question 🙂

🇬🇧: Hi Alex! It’s a pleasure for us to try this new format with you for the first time in our Chat. We would like to let you introduce yourself: who are you? What do you do for a living?
What brought you inside Cryptocurrency world and inside Blockchain development system?

🇮🇹: Ciao Alex, è un piacere poter chiacchierare una mezz’oretta con te sperimentando questo format AMA in live sulla nostra chat. Per introdurti alla nostra community di chiederei prima di tutto di spiegarci un pò chi sei e cosa fai nella vita?
Che cos’è che ti ha portato ad avvicinarti al mondo delle cryptocurrency e della tecnologia blockchain?

alex v
Hi Simone, firstly I’d like to express how grateful I am for your invitation. I really enjoy being in touch with other members of the crypto community and sharing my experiences. My name is Alex, and I’m one of the core devs of NavCoin. That’s what I currently do. Thanks to the Community Fund I can get a compensation for my work so I can proudly say I’m crypto full-time 🙂

Reading about Wikileaks accepting donations in Bitcoin because of the visa ban was what made me look at crypto for the first time. Even if I already was in touch with bitcoin/cryptocurrencies as soon as 2012 (that’s the earliest record I have of an interaction with crypto), I have to admit I didn’t let myself give all my attention to the idea until 2016. There were many questions at the beginning I could not answer, and the whole thing seemed to be a scam for my naive eyes. The concept needed some time to mature inside of me before I could see the whole transforming potential. I always felt interested in alternative systems, from a technological, social or philosophical perspective. Crypto falls in all of the three categories, it was not surprising that the amount of time I invested in educating myself about crypto only grew exponentially.

I have a software development background coming from my mother’s influence, so getting involved in the development side was kind of a natural move.

Yeah I think that Wikileaks VISA ban brought lot of people to the Bitcoin world, of course.. Now I have a general question!

🇬🇧: First and easy question 😀 What do you think about Bitcoin?

🇮🇹: Domanda, di riscaldamento, cosa ne pensi di bitcoin?

alex v
Good one! Bitcoin was the catalyst which started it all. Only for that reason it deserves the highest of my respects. It is the most fascinating living social experiment we’ve seen lately in history, and the outcome is proving to the world that the idea of having decentralised sound money is feasible. I agree with most of the technical decisions the bitcoin core team has taken, and even if Bitcoin does not meet completely all the requirements an ideal cryptocurrency must have, I don’t see in the short term any other contender for the #1 position.

I think that it’s nice to read these words from an “altcoin developer”. I think that people shouldn’t look at the crypto world like politic world, but with facts. And I agree with you. Bitcoin has to be the #1 position.

You told me that Bitcoin doesn’t meet completely all the requirements of an ideal cryptocurrency
So, I’ll reply with another question:

🇬🇧: What do you think bitcoin limits are? What do you think about off-chain solutions like Lightning Network?

🇮🇹: Quali pensi possano essere i limiti di bitcoin e cosa ne pensi delle proposte di scaling off-chain come lighting network?

Thanks! If there is any factor which is constraining Bitcoin’s capacity to evolve, this is its size. Bitcoin nowadays is too big and there is too much money involved to see some of its fundamental characteristics changed. This is very limiting. For example, privacy on the base layer is fundamental if you ask me, but it’s too risky from a technological/fundamental point of view to see it implemented nowadays. We’re seeing how some features which are essential to protect user rights are not put into effect because of those limitations.

I fully agree with those who think scaling must happen off-chain. Lightning is the best technical solution we have right now for the scaling issue, assuming we want to keep the network as much decentralised as possible.

Yeah and I think that’s because Bitcoin today is not an “experiment” anymore, so we need to put stable and tested algorithms and updagrades to the protocol.

You told me about privacy protocols..

🇬🇧: Do you think that services like Coinjoin will be able to eliminate the gap between Bitcoin and Privacy Coin?

🇮🇹: Pensi che servizi di mixing come coinjoin possano effettivamente colmare il gap tra bitcoin e privacy coin?

Bitcoin will never be a privacy coin as long as it does not offer full privacy in its base layer. With full privacy I mean transaction un-linkability.

We call it complete transaction un-linkability when all the data publicly available about transactions provides no hint about who the individuals which interact are. That means the likeliness of you having interacted with someone you really interacted is the same as the likeliness of you interacting with anyone else you never had contact with.

With Coinjoin the real source of the coins is simply blurred in a list of other possible candidates. You don’t know for sure who is he, but you know he’s one of them. So if you are participating in CoinJoin you will probably be tagged as a suspect, even without being a prior suspect, just because you are using CoinJoin, which is identifiable.

The fact that amounts are viewable (even if they are obfuscated through division in denominations) creates small metadata artefacts which can be used to reduce the set of possible sources when trying to trace a transaction graph. Also, CoinJoin does not offer fungibility in the current conditions. I am sure chain analysis companies/agencies will consider coins used in CoinJoin processes as tainted, the same they currently do for those coming from DNM, tumblers or gambling sites. I’d be careful using CoinJoin if you really have strict privacy needs.

As you can see, there are many drawbacks. CoinJoin is not what ideal privacy means, but it probably is the better Bitcoin can offer currently. This proves how important it is to have privacy enabled in the base layer of a cryptocurrency protocol.

[In reply to alex v]
You’ve just written the word ‘fungibility’ and I think that this is the main difference between a native privacy algorithm and a service like CoinJoin. I think that this is the reason you joined NavCoin team!

🇬🇧: Why did you decide to contribute to NAV development? What attracted you to this project?

🇮🇹: Come mai hai deciso di di contribuire allo sviluppo di NAV? Cosa ti ha affascinato/attratto di quest’ultima?

It was greatly casual, my involvement in NavCoin grew in parallel to my interest in Crypto in general. It was the first project I liked which gave me the opportunity to be involved. Right now I’m really proud of the level of decentralisation we did achieve, the human quality of the community and the ideals we fight for. Those are reasons which make me feel committed to the project nowadays.


🇬🇧:What is the difference between Navcoin and other privacy coins like Monero?

🇮🇹: Qual è la differenza tra navcoin e altre privacy coin come Monero per esempio?

NavCoin can not be considered a privacy coin right now, as we don’t offer private transactions at the moment, so please let me write my answer deviating myself from the question a little bit 🙂

There’s an ongoing debate in the community about defining what NavCoin’s identity should be. There’s a very healthy conversation happening between two sides: being a privacy coin vs. a store of value. I invite everyone interested in the topic to swing by our discord server.

If you ask me, transaction amount obfuscation is really needed in order to offer full privacy and therefor be considered a privacy coin. Following this principle I’ve designed ZeroCT, a new privacy protocol based on Zerocoin with expanded features which is already on testnet. As I briefly described in your previous question, leaving transaction amounts on the clear leaves artefacts available to observers pretending to trace transactions, hence making their task easier. ZeroCT features amount obfuscation. But this brings us to a fundamental issue which is the inability to audit the money supply. It’s at the cost of making the whole project vulnerable to an hypothetical hyperinflation bug which would kill NavCoin’s consideration of store of value in the case it happens without being detected.

Even if I’m myself a supporter of offering a higher level privacy protocol level, I understand other side’s concerns. Having decentralised sound money is strictly necessary to develop our self sovereignty. I know that in order to be sound, money needs to have a controlled emission and retain its store of value properties. And I’m aware that this would, above all, protect my own investment and every cent put in NavCoin. But if I have to be completely honest, looking what is already available out there, I think the world is more in the need of having better privacy-enhancing tools than to have another strictly sound money alternative.

Overall, I find beautiful we have the right mechanisms like the Community Fund to govern the project when taking this kind of fundamental decisions, and I’ll be respectful in the direction of my developments for NavCoin whatever result the voting sees. I’ve learned so much while creating ZeroCT that it’s already worth it.

But if the network decides for supply auditability, NavCoin will never be able to be marketed/considered as a privacy coin, the same as Bitcoin can’t be. Doing so would be lying. CoinJoin does not make Bitcoin a privacy coin, the same as it won’t do it with NavCoin.

Yes I think that Community Fund is a good way to vote and approve/reject upgrades with democracy that lots of altcoins doesn’t have!

Good point! Bitcoin Private died for the same reason.. The team pre-mined like 2 millions coins anonymously

🇬🇧: How does NavCoin scale onchain? Do you think that a massive usage of Nav Blockchain will cause same effects that we saw on Bitcoin or Ethereum?

🇮🇹: Come affronta NavCoin la problematica della scalabilità onchain? Non temi che un utilizzo intensivo della blockchain di nav possa portare agli stessi problemi della blockchain di bitcoin ed ethereum.

alex v, [03.05.19 21:15]
NavCoin would see the same effects as Bitcoin if an intensive use arises in the current conditions of technical development.

People is normally confused when they have expectations of a blockchain offering an insane amount of transaction volume on chain on the same level as traditional systems. First of all, being mainstream should not be the first goal of a crypto project, but to offer an alternative for whoever voluntarily decides to switch to an unorthodox self-sufficient financial apparatus like NavCoin. And there’s a lot of work to do until a considerable portion decides to really switch.

Secondly, blockchain is all about decentralisation. What is game changing from a technological point of view is its ability to reach consensus about some state in a decentralised and untrusted manner. Decentralised means the same operation (in some degree in the better of the cases) has to be repeated across all the members of the network. This is inherently non efficient.

But it offers a system which is un-censorable, permission-less and immutable. For me it is worth it to have an “inefficient” system if it offers those properties.

That’s absolutely right, there’s always a trade-off between decentralisation and scalability!

🇬🇧: Bitcoin maximalists think that we don’t need alternative coins (altcoins) to Bitcoin.
What do you think about it?

🇮🇹: I massimalisti bitcoin credono che non ci sia bisogno di una coin alternativa a quest’ultimo. Cosa ne pensi?

Really good question!

Let me start by saying that maximalism is never the right position. It’s fundamentally so on the opposite side of some of the principles of Bitcoin, like decentralisation and voluntarism!

I agree Bitcoin is superior in many things. Its strength is incomparable. But one should not be so narrow-minded as to think the reality is one only and give up on subjectivity per sé. Taking a close-minded view and practice of one leadership philosophy will assuredly limit Bitcoin’s success. We should all be together in this.

One of the main raison d’être for alt coins is to serve as alternative systems for all those which do not feel confortable with the properties of any of the others options. As I always say, freedom does not exist without alternatives. Beside shitcoins whose only purpose is to enrich a (group of) scammers, altcoin’s existence is well founded from the perspective of its purpose.

On the other hand, as I said before, Bitcoin’s biggest limitation is its size. And because of Bitcoin’s big size, we can derive Bitcoin’s capacity to technically evolve is quite limited. Other alternative projects are heavily needed to bring innovation, both technically and fundamentally, to the scene. 😉

Yeah I think that we shouldn’t ignore all altcoins projects, because we can implement and test new algorithms with sidechains technologies for example, so Bitcoin can grow too!

I think that sidechains are perfect for native privacy algorithms.. I have the last question for you, and it’s about privacy coins:

🇬🇧: Do you think that governments will be able to block or “ban” privacy coin? With “block or ban” I don’t mean “block privacy coin” but “block financial gateways”, middlewares between FIAT world and Blockchain world, like centralized exchanges. Do you think that P2P platforms like BISQ could be a valid form of gateway?

🇮🇹: Pensi che i governi abbiano la possibilità di “bloccare” o “bannare” le privacy coin? Con “bloccare” e “bannare” non voglio dire bloccare tecnicamente le privacy coin, ma voglio dire bloccare quei Gateway tra il mondo FIAT e il mondo Crypto, come per esempio gli Exchange centralizzati. Pensi che piattaforme come BISQ possano essere una valida alternativa?

Loving your questions so far! 😉

Ideally the goal is a world where one can suffice during its life-cycle inside of crypto. With exchanges with other cryptos every now and then when strictly needed as a result of regular non-enforced interactions/trade/commerce. Until we reach that point I’m sure governments/agencies will make it hard for everyone who tries to stay out of their control.

I don’t know if a complete ban would pay it off for them, as it could trigger a gigantic wave of attention towards crypto. You know, people use to like what is forbidden an average of a few thousand times more than what is legally permitted, but I’m firmly convinced there will be some regulation attempts as we’ve already seen. But I don’t expect very broad bans.

Yes, Bisq is the best we currently have as an alternative fiat gateway. And works pretty good too for crypto-to-crypto exchanges if the market has liquidity.

Adding to the first question, investigators are motivated to leave some part of the trade under their control. At least they can know what happen in regulated centralized exchanges, and catch criminals/collect evidence when they try to cash out through them. So no, I don’t think they will ban the use of privacy coins.

This is a point that shoud be explained very well to crypto users ahah.. NSA and CIA are reading us! 😂


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