Satoshi, Synergy & Self-Sustaining Systems: An Interview with Michal Zajda

A hands-on kind of engineer with a proven track record of working on some of the hottest development projects of the past few years.

Michal Zajda has been responsible for the architecture, scalability, and performance in systems behind RTB markets, Mobile Chat apps, and IoT systems that run for hundreds of millions of customers. Many consider him to be an extremely calm and easygoing person. He strives to bring this into his work environment as he supports the æternity team in using Erlang technology to deliver a state-of-the-art blockchain. Recently, we asked Michal about getting his hands dirty as a blockchain architect and why he believes this technology will be a worldwide game-changer.

What got you into this blockchain thing?

I read the Satoshi paper in early 2011. What struck me back then was the elegance of the design. As engineers, we have this sensitivity for neat mechanisms. The way Satoshi combined several fields of computer science, produced synergy.

We see that very rarely; a self-describing, self-secured system that behaves like a living organism.

Unfortunately, it took me a good couple of years until I got my hands dirty with blockchain. I worked with systems around Bitcoin full nodes. Sometime later, I came across a new blockchain written in Erlang. Soon after that, I had a call with Yanislav.

What interests you most about Blockchain?

Trustlessness. This is the new value that blockchain introduces. By the way, current blockchains have probably more than one thousand definitions. They emerge from this kind of libertarian way of thinking, so it’s not a surprise that everyone has a little bit of a different approach to it.

Trustlessness within the definition of a blockchain is one of the most important things that makes it different from traditional systems.

I already touched a little bit on this: it is a self-running and self-sustaining system. Thanks to that — it’s independent. We don’t have to trust anyone to check how it is behaving. This is a real game changer!

Do you think that blockchain has the potential to change the world?

It has a lot of potential to change the world. It can change industries. It can change governments. It will be harder to experience the latter in our area of the world, as political order in Europe has become cemented over centuries.

Still, the way we vote, the way we make decisions, the way we fund initiatives, the way we guard the value of a currency — all may be questioned thanks to new mechanisms provided by blockchain.

On the other hand, revolution in the area of industry may be very near. Blockchains provide liquidity in so many areas that impact our life. Entertainment, energy, ecology…and the list goes on.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of working as an Erlang architect?

Working as an architect in the blockchain space puts me in a position of balance between the blockchain world and the capabilities of software. I try to bridge that and build the best system possible. Erlang is a really suitable technology to do it! Blockchain is a system that is built from many parts: discovery and structure of the network, Virtual Machines, Consensus of State and guarding this consensus. Each of them can be built and optimized on their own. The big challenge is to find a good balance to know where to spend work cycles. Also, it’s a challenge to get to the bottom of the meaning and purpose of some components.

Blindly following blockchain papers is dangerous, as it may produce over-complex systems that are prone to bugs.

It is a lot of work to dig through specifications of systems created in the last couple of years to find classic optimal answers from the area of distributed systems and operating systems.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

I would say to keep your mind open. Don’t be deceived by words and graphs. Check everything yourself.

Outside of work, how might a friend describe your personality?

I am more of a butterfly-effect than a demolition truck kind of guy. I think that only inner-motivation drives people and pressure from outside is useless. So, outside of work, to make all of that possible, good food, good drinks, nature, and friends are the essence of the matter. 🙂

Enjoyed the interview? Have a question? Get in touch with Michal in the Forum.

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. Michal Zajda held two talks — one dedicated to “Consensus, Stratum and æternity”:

And one focused on æternity’s Naming System AENS:

Interested in æternity? Get in touch:

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