In this interview, blockchain pioneer Scott Stornetta shares his insights on the past, present, and future of blockchain technology. Interviewer Maria Debrincat offers readers a glimpse into the mind of one of the most influential figures in the industry.
Are you (or are you part of) Satoshi Nakamoto? If not, what does it feel like to be mentioned in Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper?
I first became aware of the Bitcoin white paper not long after it was released because I received unsolicited letters and emails asking if I were Satoshi. Those queries suggested that I might be Satoshi because three of my scientific papers on time-stamping written with my collaborator Stuart Haber were cited by Satoshi and because I speak Japanese.
But, no, I am not Satoshi Nakamoto. Although many names are bantered about as being candidates for Satoshi, both Stuart Haber and I have agreed, as a matter of principle, to not speculate on matters related to the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.
However, we are both happy that Satoshi had built upon our earlier work. By coupling the concept of an immutable record with money he was able to bring greater attention to our work. Although we did not agree with all of Satoshi’s engineering decisions, we have great respect for his coupling of our work with a financial system.
Looking back, did you ever think that your time-stamping invention would have had the impact that it has today?
Both Stuart and I always felt that our method was the proper way to assure the security of digital records. In fact, in 1990, I wrote, “the day may come when nearly every business document in the world will need to be time-stamped.” We assumed it was only a matter of time before all records were using this method.
Although we did envision a wide range of applications beyond business documents, we have been surprised by the great diversity and variety of applications.
What’s your say on the recent developments in the web3 space with the growth of industries such as DeFi, ReFi, GameFi, SciFi, etc…?
It has been interesting to see all the recent developments in the web3 space. Nonetheless, I think we are seeing a nascent industry that makes it easier to transfer value. And while now the use cases may seem trifling, they are a leading indicator of much more substantive uses going forward.
How do you think blockchains compare to DAGs and other distributed ledger technologies?
I don’t think of DAGs (direct cyclic graphs) as being separate from blockchain. I consider them to be well within the blockchain universe, a variation on the same theme. DAGs are merely a question of trying to create more efficient ways of linking blocks.
What’s the future of AI and blockchain?
Not many people know that as a graduate student, I worked in AI and neural networks before Stuart and I wrote the papers that laid the foundation for blockchain. Needless to say, I have been following both AI and blockchain for decades.
I foresee both AI and blockchain continuing to thrive. Both will flourish. But these two areas do differ in the speed with which they will be fully integrated into our society. Blockchain requires a longer-term restructuring of current industries in order to make real gains in value creation. On the other hand, AI does not require restructuring within existing business structures to have an immediate impact. Over time I envision AI will also transform the industry by having a restructuring effect.
I know many people talk a lot about the overlap between AI and blockchain, because of AIs’ need for large amounts of data to analyse. But I don’t see that as much of a driver as others seem to think. Instead, blockchain uses small codes to register large amounts of data.
How do you think AIBC is contributing to the development of space?
Eman Pulis is a master at getting people to network. AIBC for several years has successfully brought together many different people involved in blockchain, AI, and other fields. I have participated in AIBC events for the past four years. It has been extraordinary to meet so many individuals involved in the blockchain and AI space.
At the first conference, I attended I was captivated by the networking and the enthusiasm of those there. Over time, it has been interesting to watch the maturity of companies in these spaces represented by those individuals attending the conferences. By that I mean the caliber of companies we see today is more advanced than what we’ve seen in the past.
Conferences provide a rich environment for inventors, investors, and entrepreneurs to meet and network. From the first hackathon I judged in 2018 to the most recent AIBC Pitch competition I participated in last November, I have been impressed with the support given to those trying to move AI and blockchain forward. I have enjoyed the opportunities to network with individuals from around the world and treasure the associations I have made.
Check out more exclusive interviews like this one in the latest BLOCK Magazine.