(Infra)structuring the Future: An Interview with Sascha Hanse

Read the first interview from a new series, dedicated to æternity’s developer talent.

Sascha began programming 20 years ago and has spent the last 10 years working as a software engineer and lead architect. He was introduced to Bitcoin in 2011 and was immediately captivated by the diverse range of fields converging within blockchain technology.

Today Sascha works as æternity’s lead blockchain engineer.

Working towards the realization of æternity’s technological and philosophical visions for the future, he is the link between the Erlang expert architects and the world of blockchain. Sascha has written the majority of the specifications and protocols that make up æternity’s blockchain. Although many people might describe him as a somewhat reserved person, he is also someone you can depend on. We recently asked him about his thoughts on decentralization, governance and the biggest hurdles he finds in the process of building the infrastructure of the future.

What got you into this blockchain thing?
In 2011 a friend handed me some bitcoin, sort of forcing me to learn at least the basics of how to interact with this weird system. This led me down the rabbit hole of trying to understand cryptocurrencies from many different angles.

What do you think about decentralization?

I find decentralization important. Decentralization is both trustless and disruptive as far as I am concerned. Despite the fact that research suggests that we’re still far away from it, I personally hope that decentralization will help to facilitate better and more sustainable models for various (online and offline) communities.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of your work at the moment?

In blockchains in general, things are constantly advancing. It just takes a lot of time to understand the exact problems that need to be solved, to come up with solutions, and to build them. It takes even more time to then convince the general public that it is worthwhile to use a new system instead of one they are familiar with. To give you a more concrete answer; probably the most widely agreed-upon problem is currently scaling — or: how do we manage to make public blockchains able to handle enough to be actually usable by a couple of million people? There are a lot of proposals but none have really been put to the test so far.

What æternity application interests you most?

Governance would not be considered an application but it is by far the thing that currently interests me the most. Governance is, at a very high level, about different approaches to solving the problems of different entities trying to coordinate with each other. To give an example, this might include developers and users trying to decide which features to include in a protocol that a given system uses. This is important because I think that having a sound approach to governance is integral to the sustainability of any project that has many stakeholders and is not controlled by some sort of central authority.

What æpps do you think will be best implemented on æternity?

Best implemented? That’s hard to say, but I would most certainly love to see æpps related to universal basic income and self-sovereign identity being built, both of which will most likely go hand in hand together.

What do you hope to accomplish by working with æternity?

As far as I’m concerned blockchains create infrastructure. This infrastructure should make it easier to build decentralized platforms and applications. If we manage to provide a solid foundation for these platforms then it’s a job well done by us. In a more general sense, I most truly hope that all the experiments with different economic incentives and self-governance are fruitful and that they enable us to build more sustainable decentralized platforms in the future.

Want to learn more about governance? Check out this blog post by Vlad from the æternity team. For more information about æternity, have a look at the dedicated Bitcoin Wiki page or visit the official website.

UPDATE: æternity Universe One — the first conference dedicated to the latest R&D in the blockchain space and æternity, took place on September 20–21, 2019 in Prague. Sascha Hanse held a talk on the topic: “What Are We Trying To Agree On, Anyway?”. Watch it below:

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