Bitcoin Q&A: Privacy Experimentation and the Luxury of Laziness

Next question from Drew:
"The next Bitcoin protocol update." "What is the latest [news] on Schnorr
signatures, MAST, Graftroot, and Taproot?" "When could we realistically
expect to see these features?" That is a really great question. In fact, I have read
a summary update by one of the core developers, [Anthony Towns], who is working on
Bitcoin and the Lightning Network. It was a summary of some of the latest changes
and the expected state of the next big upgrade… to Bitcoin's core protocol, which is called SegWit V1. SegWit V1 is not the SegWit that we already have.
That is SegWit V0. It starts from zero because… the version of the scripting language inside
SegWit, which is one byte in the protocol. As programmers do, it is indexed from zero,
so we will start counting from zero. The SegWit as introduced into Bitcoin by
soft fork in August 2017 was SegWit V0. The next upgrade will be called SegWit V1.
This is not a project version number, it is…

Literally the scripting version number that goes
in the protocol, which tells you what version script… you are trying to satisfy in the Bitcoin
scripting language, in order to spend the UTXO. With SegWit V1, the next upgrade,
this can happen by a soft fork. A number of things are being introduced simultaneously,
[including] a new signature mechanism called Schnorr. Schnorr signatures provide significant improvements,
reducing [the size] from 73 bytes down to 64 bytes, signature aggregation, and a number of
other really interesting features to come later.

Taproot is a privacy enhancement that allows you to
have a number of complex scripts [appear] the same… the same, as a single public key payment. It means, if you are using complex script, whether
for Lightning, multi-signature, timelocks, or various… other privacy-enhancing scripts
like confidential transactions, then no one can really distinguish that UTXO from
one that is simply a payment to a public key [hash]. That really enhances privacy, because you can use
privacy [features] without sticking out like a sore thumb. MAST is Merklized Abstract Syntax Trees, which is the ability to have a complex script expressed
as a binary tree and then allows you to pay to the root… of the Merkle tree and execute any of the branches
without revealing the contents of the other branches.

Let's say there is a very complicated script.
You don't know what it is, but we do know… that the root hash of the Merkle tree
expressing this very complex script is 'X.' Now I will use the third branch
and it is the only one I will reveal. You don't know what the other branches are,
or how many there are, but here is a proof… that links the third branch to the root, showing that
it [belongs to] this very complex tree script. Now I can spend it, but you don't know
what else was in [that tree], or who else…

Was allowed to spend under other conditions. Compare that to how it is today: if you [set up] a multi-
sig, every time you transact, you must show all keys… that could have spent it, but didn't. If you send Lightning Network payments and then close
a channel, you are showing that this was [for] Lightning. You show the channel's public keys
and the entire structure of the script. With Merklized Abstract Syntax Trees, this would
be more more obfuscated, private, and efficient. You can represent a script with one thousand branches
as a tree with only ten levels, and that is fantastic.

It really reduces the amount of data you need to present
in a signature, even for a massively complex script. There are a couple of other important changes,
including a change in the validation of scripts. One of the important changes
is to the unused operands. In the old script version, these were called OP_NOP,
which means 'null operand' and doesn't do anything.

They will be upgraded to OP_SUCCESS, which is
interpreted by the script as a successful execution. That allows you to upgrade and introduce
new operands in the place of OP_SUCCESS, so that the script validation process is
more straightforward and easier to do, [particularly with] much more complex
upgrades through future soft forks, in the same version of the SegWit script. I know, this is all very technical. There is a great post on the Bitcoin developer
mailing list, if you want to read all of the details. [It addresses] how this [improves]
upgradeability for future scripts, too. So far, that is the bundle planned for the immediate
future. Realistically, when will we see these features? Some discussions are about [scheduling] soft fork
activation within the first six months of 2019, introducing Schnorr signatures, Taproot,
MAST, and a bunch of other things… to make future upgrades easier. [It would happen] via a soft fork.
It is opt-in and backwards compatible. This would be a fantastic development for
all kinds of privacy and scalability reasons. They will also increase the privacy and
scalability of the Lightning Network, It will be much easier to open and close channels,
and reducing the complexity of Lightning's protocol…

Through Eltoo. This is what is coming next, in terms of development. [AUDIENCE] Thank you again for being here, and to
the organizers. [ANDREAS] Thank you for coming. [AUDIENCE] My question is… I have
so many questions, but I will pick one. Related to [privacy] improvements like confidential
transactions, what [are your thoughts] on that? Regarding privacy and functionality?
These kinds of changes can be controversial. Do you think these enhancements are
considered detrimental to adoption? [ANDREAS] No. I am absolutely for, and optimistic about,
privacy-enhancing technologies. They are essential. In fact, we are seeing
an explosion in privacy technology. People [often] don't realize that, sometimes you don't
[protect your privacy] because you don't need to, and then suddenly you need to. Our entire cryptocurrency space
is driven by evolutionary imperatives.

When governments start trying to stop cryptocurrencies
by monitoring networks, then they will become stealthy. When they start trying to confiscate cryptocurrencies by
monitoring identity, they add confidential transactions. [Changes towards privacy-enhancing technology]
will [be developed] in response to crackdowns. Bitcoin, the granddaddy of the cryptocurrencies,
was not the first [digital currency]. It was maybe the twentieth digital currency;
the other nineteen weren't decentralized enough. Decentralization wasn't a feature we needed,
until we needed it, and then it was developed. Privacy will happen. I don't care about adoption.
With the way that [chain or code] forks play out now, I think of forks as the multiverse of development. Every possible universe of choice will express itself
in a fork; if you want, you can live in that universe. It might be lonely, or it might be greatly successful.
Who knows? It depends on your definition of success.

How free we are now to explore all possibilities.
Everybody gets their own cryptocurrency. Some of them will be screaming, "You are not the
real 'X'," and "You are a shitcoin." Just ignore that too. It doesn't matter. In the end,
we will explore all technological avenues. What an amazing environment
in which we can experiment. Let's hope we don't stop experimenting.
I am much more afraid of stagnation… than I am of reckless experimentation
where 99% of the experiments failed. Edison was once asked, "You failed to make
a light bulb nine thousand times. Why do you continue?" He said, "Because I have discovered nine thousand
ways that you can't make a light bulb." [Laughter] Just keep trying. Maybe we will discover all nine
thousand ways you can't make a cryptocurrency.

We are trying 1,200 at the moment.
That is a pretty good run of experiments. [AUDIENCE] Considering humans are lazy creatures,
in the hypothetical case that cryptocurrency becomes… mainstream in the future, do you think people will
sacrifice user experience in order to have privacy? Or will they prefer a nice, colorful smartphone app
that does everything for them, but also controls them? [ANDREAS] I think the answer is absolutely clear. They
will choose the colorful, compliant surveillance system. If you are interested in the philosophy
behind this, there are two [literary] giants… in the [subject] of human control
and the descent into totalitarianism. There was George Orwell, of course. His dystopia
in '1984' was of fascistic control that is obvious, in your face every day, and inescapable. I think he was wrong. What we are living in
now is the dystopic future of Aldous Huxley. You need to read Aldous Huxley's
work to understand how we got here. His idea was that the totalitarian fascism would come
wrapped in a sugar-coated, beautiful experience, where you would be nulled and dulled into compliance
through entertainment, addiction, and stimulation.

If that doesn't describe modern social media,
I don't know what does. But people will choose that. That is the future we are trying to avoid,
or at least disrupt. Here is the [good news]: Freedom doesn't need to "go mainstream" for us
to give people freedom. If 80% of people choose… the candy-colored interface of 'FacebookCoin'
with full surveillance that controls their lives, and gives little dopamine stimulants
every time they use it, that is okay… As long as some of us have the ability
to opt out and use the other systems.

Is there a door that allows you to exit?
People will need to exit, and they will find that door. They will work very hard to find that door.
Laziness is the luxury you have… when they are not shooting at you. Laziness is a luxury in an environment where you are
not starving, freezing, or your family [is being killed]. When you are not in a totalitarian disaster.
No one in Venezuela [can afford to be] lazy. It is impossible to do that. But the more comfortable a
society is, the more lulled into subservience they can be, the more lazy people will be with
their choices of freedom and privacy.

Can we [at least] keep the [exit] door open?
Can we have an alternative choice? Those of us who see or want to see [the truth]
will go there and guide others to the exit. We can find some freedom. Today, we live on an internet of Facebook,
[Google], and a giant surveillance machine… full of [fake] happy images that pollute your brain
and make you believe the biggest lie of mankind: that other people have happy,
uncomplicated lives all the time. If you believe that, you will be very
miserable for the rest of your life. It is all fake. That drug, [convincing you that]
all these other people seem so successful…

And you must be doing something wrong. That drug exists. That is the world we live in. But five hundred people showed up today to hear
about something that isn't comfortable [lies] like that. We have already chosen to listen to
something else, to do something different. The same internet that is the surveillance
hell of Facebook and dopamine injections.. is also the internet of Tor and the dark web,
of whistleblowers and truth archives. It is the internet where Bitcoin was born,
where 1,200 cryptocurrencies are operating today. Unstoppable, uncensorable, and disrupting
the most powerful governments in the world.

Those are in the same place. We have opened
a small door through which freedom is flowing. The door gradually grows bigger and bigger. Yes, when Facebook makes a coin, or the
U.S. dollar [becomes] a [fully] digital currency, and they come with super convenience- They have this already in China, a program called
Sesame Credit, with financial and socio-political scores. I just read [about it] the other day. It has a feature
where, if you are in a train or some public space, and someone near you hasn't paid their debts,
[this program] will identify them [to you]. I don't know, so you can scream,
"Go pay your debt!" [Laughter] Some people will use that.
The question is, what will you use? I will not use that.

Find ten other people, give them a
copy of Aldous Huxley, tell them to delete Facebook. Show them a new path. We have hope, but in order
to [build a better future], we need to work together. Thank you so much for coming out today! [Applause].

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