From Crypto Skeptic to Blockchain Enthusiast: an Interview with Dimitar Ivanov

One of æternity’s brilliant State Channels and API developers left the computer terminal for a while to do a short interview for the AE community.

Photo by Candré Mandawe

Dimitar is a software engineer, a family man and a blockchain enthusiast. As a result of his work in software implementation for banking institutions, he has witnessed first hand, this international revenue-controlling machine. His love for blockchain technology is rooted in its potential to disrupt and democratize the world of finance, and his work in State Channel and API development is especially valuable because of his openness to new information. Dimitar enjoys discussing various points of view, especially ones that he disagrees with. His philosophy of testing logic and adapting when he is wrong, makes him a particularly strong member of the æternity team. Recently we spoke to him about his views on free societies, trustlessness, and how he got “hooked” on blockchain.

What got you into blockchain?

At first, I was rather skeptical about blockchain. I was surrounded by people who were just speculating with digital currencies but seemed to have no regard for the underlying technology. I wanted to show them that blockchain is broken by design and that it cannot work as described, so I started reading about it. A blockchain network is a distributed computing system and it poses some difficult algorithmic problems. But during my research, I was blown away by how these problems had been solved — it was so elegant, so neat! The more I read about the different approaches taken, the more excited I became. And the assumption that every actor can be malicious? From a system design perspective, this is a thrilling concept! It also is the only way a trustless system can operate.

You could say that I got excited about blockchain because of how radically different it was from everything else. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place and I got hooked.

What is the most interesting part of your work?

I have been part of the team implementing æternity’s State Channels. These State Channels are a really smart way of scaling a blockchain’s transaction throughput.

They increase privacy while maintaining the same level of security already provided by the blockchain.

On top of that, they provide soft, real-time micro payments, and smart contracts with zero fees or gas costs, where users only pay for their own electricity. This changes the paradigm quite a bit and opens the door for a lot of new opportunities including entirely new business models. I am eager to see how they’re going to be used in practice.

What interests you most about blockchain?

Trustlessness goes hand in hand with “decentralized” but probably trustless is even more important. It is all a matter of freedom. When one delegates one’s own trust in another person or organization, one is sacrificing a degree of freedom. The more trust is given, the more freedom is lost. Eventually, people grow dependent on the entities they trust the most.

We trust companies with our data. We trust banks with our money. We trust governments with our future. Unfortunately, these entities don’t always have our best interests in mind.

If power tends to corrupt, and if absolute power corrupts absolutely, the more of our freedom we give to those entities, the more corrupted they will inevitably become. The thing is — it doesn’t have to be that way. Nobody will take better care of my data, my money or my future than me.

What is your favorite thing about Erlang as a programming language?

Without getting too technical, Erlang is a great language but as with any language, it is just a tool. As it happens that Erlang is a terribly good tool for building distributed systems. Its main focus is rock-solid systems that withstand the test of time. This, of course, is no accident. Erlang runs on its own very special virtual machine — the BEAM. It was specially designed for managing many simultaneous tasks running in parallel, each taking care of its own data. At the heart of the BEAM are its garbage collector and its preemptive process scheduler. They make sure that the system continues operating even under a heavy load. Erlang has a lot of primitives for handling errors and crashes built into the language itself. This, therefore, results in creating predictable and stable systems. There is an anecdote, usually called “Robert Virding’s Law” (as he coined it) that

any sufficiently complicated concurrent program in another language contains an ad hoc informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Erlang.

How do you think this technology might change the world?

History is probably not the best teacher, as anyone can draw almost any conclusion from it, however, culture, science and progress are always driven by free societies. It is always free people that push the boundaries and make the world a better place. Ancient Rome and Greece, the Venice republic and later the thinkers in the age of Enlightenment were all comparatively free in their mindset. It is a constant trend.

The freer a society is, the more prosperous it can become.

This is where the trustless blockchain comes into play. It can really teach people to take care of themselves, to grow less dependent on external entities and, thus, to be freer. When the safety nets of the currently existing alternatives are removed, people become more aware of the risks and can, therefore, become more independent. We really need this as those safety nets are imaginary and they often fail in times of crisis. We’ve seen this over and over again.

I really think the blockchain will educate people on the necessity to think for themselves and this will make the whole world a freer, better place to live.

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. Dimitar Ivanov held a talk on the topic: State Channel Client: Unleashing æpp Scalability”. Watch it below:

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