Interview With Jameson Lopp, Creator of and Bitgo Engineer

This was originally hosted on Token Daily with Jameson LoppCypherpunk · @BitGo engineer · creator of · priority responses via

 Would you be so kind to outline the main topics in which I should be focusing my attention to learn and practice so I can become a cryptographer and blockchain expert one day?

You don’t have to be a programmer in order to help build the ecosystem — I recommend taking whatever skills you have currently and trying to apply them. Building the ecosystem can also be in the form of education — like hosting local events where you help explain the benefits of using crypto and the dangers that need to be navigated. If you /do/ want to be a programmer and have no experience with that, it’s best to start with the fundamentals of computer science before you jump into the complexities of blockchains. There are a ton of MOOCs available online to help get you started:

The two biggest concerns people seem to have with regards to the Lightning Network are that opening/closing a channel will still be expensive, and that the network will tend towards large “hubs,” compromising decentralization. Can you offer any counter to those points?

The fees for opening and closing channels will be up to the users; in many cases I expect users won’t need to pay a high priority fee. These fees can be further reduced via channel factories, which is a concept currently under development.

The whole argument about “hubs” is interesting because sure, there likely will be some highly capitalized nodes on the network. In fact, I expect the network topology to be scale-free. I explain more in depth here:

It’s odd to argue that hubs will compromise decentralization when the nextwork is permissionless — if you think the network is becoming too centralized then you can just spool up some new nodes that are only connected to outer portions of the network graph!

Is there a specific way (i.e. a la tokens or eventually buying stock in Blockstream) of investing in the potential of Lightning, short of just buying more regular bitcoin?

LN will enable BTC owners to “stake” their coins and essentially “earn interest” on them by putting their capital at risk in a hot wallet that operates channels and routes funds on the network. I suppose you could try to invest in the various companies that are building Lightning implementations, like Lightning Labs / Blockstream / ACINQ. Or you could think of LN as a new platform and start building services on top of it.

Will there be any ways to reduce the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining in the future? Or to make mining more eco-friendly?

The energy consumption is effectively the computational security of the network itself. Wishing to reduce it in order to be eco-friendly is a detriment to security — if anything, using renewable energy for mining is the best way to be eco-friendly. And it appears that quite a bit of mining energy is already renewable — especially from hydroelectric sources. Industrial scale miners tend to seek out the most abundant forms of energy and set up shop nearby.

In the event of an Ethereum collapse, do you think the token economy built on top of it would be portable to other platforms? (could also be read as: If Ethereum dies, would the token economies built on top of it die with him?)

I suspect so, though it would probably be a bumpy migration. If you think of blockchains as a database and each new block is just updating the current state of the database, then you can migrate data from any blockchain to another blockchain just by taking a “snapshot” of the data you care about and seeding the new blockchain with it. Of course, then you need to get everyone who is using your token to update their software to use your new blockchain and new network.

What’s the best way for a non-technical person to get involved in this space?

It really just depends upon your skills — something as simple as helping answer questions for newbies on forums is a simple start with little commitment. Or you could host meetups in your area if there aren’t any. Or if you’re willing to go full time, there are more companies in the ecosystem and thus there are more opportunities for more traditional roles like sales, marketing, HR, etc. I have a number of crypto careers lists linked on my site at if you want to see what’s available.

What are some of the most important first steps for newbies in crypto?

I think the most important thing is for folks to be cautious and not get ahead of themselves. It can be exciting and make folks want to jump in head first, but this leads to mistakes and often catastrophic losses. There are no training wheels with this technology — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Do you think that the lightning network (or another future advancement) will be able to solve the current problem with bitcoin transaction fees and payment times?

I think that there will probably always be more demand than supply of available block space. As I speculated 2 years ago, a highly successful Lightning Network could actually create so much utility and demand that it causes on-chain transaction fees to rise enormously.

Bitcoin has already vastly exceeded my expectations. I expect it to continue to get better, though it will never improve fast enough to make everyone happy. Folks who complain should expend their energy contributing rather than complaining 🙂

What do you think of Rootstock and similar layering/sidechain solutions. I’m curious how you see the ecosystem evolving around bitcoin as the “ethernet” layer.

It’s interesting to think of bitcoin as an “anchor” for other systems — I wrote about this extensively here:

Sidechains as experimental playgrounds for proving that new concepts can work make a lot of sense to me. Using them in production with real value is another story — the main question in my mind is what security model is offered by the sidechain. How are the assets pegged from the main chain? Those guarantees will affect the trustworthiness of the sidechain.

What is your opinion about G20 summit and regulations which it will bring on bitcoin?

I haven’t really kept track of it, but I doubt it will change much. We’ve already seen examples in countries where heavy regulation is enacted — it just drives users underground / to unregulated exchanges.

Wouldn’t this lead to just one lightning node for everyone? Everyone on one mega hub. That would be theoretically so convenient. And if that does happen, what will the first layer even be used for? What am I missing here?

There are disincentives to running mega lightning nodes.
A) You probably can’t find a computer with enough resources to support thousands of high traffic channels.
B) You’re concentrating a lot of value in a hot wallet that becomes a juicy target for hackers
C) You’re creating a single point of failure that is susceptible to denial of service attacks

For these reasons and more, it’s best for a lightning network to be as widely dispersed as possible in order to prevent systemic risks from arising.

Do you foresee smart-contract solutions (akin to what Lightning has done to attempt to solve scaling issues) being developed for bitcoin (a la RSK) becoming mass-adopted or even warranted?

Definitely, and this is why MAST is so interesting.

Can you please explain what Vitalik said on Twitter today?

This one? Just that all Vitalik facebook accounts trying to sell ICOs are fake.

Though yesterday he had some more in-depth tweets around consensus failures. He was basically saying that there’s a social layer of consensus around these systems that can be leveraged in order to be “OK” with accepting a higher risk of 51% attack because the community has agreed to fall back to human consensus in certain failure cases.

Do you think it would be sensible for the whole Bitcoin ecosystem to ALL start trading in or pricing in smaller units other than Bitcoin ( Satoshis ? or something else) . I see the high price of Bitcoin as a major barrier to entry for the common man. Has this every been considered as a possibility ?

I think it definitely makes sense to use smaller units once lightning network becomes ubiquitous, as it will then be more feasible to actually transact in units of bits or satoshis or whatever. The unit bias is real — I’ve had plenty of newbies tell me they bought LTC or XRP because it seemed like a better deal than BTC.

I ask because I am concerned about Tether & implications it could have on the crypto ecosystem if it’s found to be insolvent. Could it be next Mt Gox & stifle development for 1+ yrs? Or is it not big deal?

I can see why folks are concerned, but I don’t have any visibility or control over the situation. There certainly could be an event that creates a cascading sell-off, but I’ve seen so many of them happen over the years that they don’t cause me concern about the long-term health of the ecosystem. Developers are going to keep building; speculators are going to keep trading.

Do you ever speak at public events? Do you have a list of recommended speakers/personalities for us to follow?

Sure, I run local events in North Carolina and I travel to speak at conferences quite often. For folks to follow, just check out who I follow on Twitter: and you can find my recommended blogs / podcasts at

If LN is successful, does it spell the end for BCash?

I suspect it will take a lot of wind out of the sails of the “cheap and fast transactions” narrative since LN payments will be cheaper and faster than anything bcash will be able to offer. But I doubt bcash will die — it’s incredibly difficult to kill a permissionless network. Basically, they only die if everyone who is supporting it gives up on it.

Do you believe crypto exchanges should be regulated? Wouldn’t regulation instituted by a centralized source (government), violate the very principles that a decentralized ledger purports to uphold? Wouldn’t it be just a bit ironic?

Custodial exchanges are in an odd position, straddling two different worlds. I’m not a fan of them being regulated as it has caused me a fair amount of grief trying to move my own money around. But I’m optimistic that non-custodial decentralized exchange technology will be ready for mainstream use in the next year or two and that will provide a superior user experience.

It seems to me that the more connected a LN node is, the more likely it is to attract additional channels, since connectivity/hop-efficiency is a valuable quality to users. Taken to its extreme, imagine a situation where every single user of the network is connected to LoppNode, and is therefore just one degree of separation from every other user in the network. LoppNode also enjoys the benefit of maximum liquidity with which to optimize the rebalancing of channels.

Intuitively this seems like an unlikely outcome, since empirically speaking, open platforms rarely produce pure monopolies, despite the theoretical maximization of efficiency. But if the topography did emerge such that 80%+ of traffic flowed through one supernode, what sort of systemic risks can you imagine in such a scenario? Anything worse than the supernode simply going offline, inconveniencing users to close and reopen their channels elsewhere? Are there any serious dangers of centralization on the 2nd layer?

There are disincentives to running mega lightning nodes.
A) You probably can’t find a computer with enough resources to support thousands of high traffic channels.
B) You’re concentrating a lot of value in a hot wallet that becomes a juicy target for hackers
C) You’re creating a single point of failure that is susceptible to denial of service attacks

I touched on some of the macro issues I expect to arise here:

As someone who intends to operate Lightning Nodes, I don’t think I’ll be operating any that have more than a few thousand dollars in capital since they’re being operated as a hot wallet and any funds outside of a channel (that are held in reserve to open more channels) could be stolen by hackers. I suspect that the balances of the incentives and disincentives will keep the number of highly connected nodes pretty low, as only the most diligent and sophisticated operators will be comfortable with taking such risks.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous while diving into crypto?

The ecosystem has grown so large and is accelerating at a pace that makes it impossible to keep track of all the developments. This advice holds true for most fields, but I recommend going deep into whatever facets interest you the most in the space. Since I’m a highly technical person, I try to understand the technical developments well enough that I can explain them in layman’s terms to non-technical folks. There are plenty of things I don’t understand well, like trading or mining, so I try to find the folks who are deep in those sectors so that I can absorb their explanations in simpler terms. The hardest part is finding the good signals in all of the noise, which is why I really like Twitter — I can curate my Twitter feed at a level that isn’t possible on most other social media platforms.

How did you learn about blockchain engineering? Do you have any helpfull resources that you can share?

It was mostly self-taught — my first real project was forking Bitcoin Core itself, learning how to build it and how to modify it. As I journeyed down this path of self teaching, I wrote a number of articles to help others follow me. You can see one of my first Bitcoin blog posts here:

These days I keep a list of curated educational resources at

What’s something you believe in crypto that few people agree with you on?

I believe that over the long term (decades) crypto assets will become more popular than financial systems that are controlled by elite groups of bankers and politicians. I also think that this will lead to the rise of a new class of “global citizens” as described in The Sovereign Individual.

What have you changed your mind about in the space in the last 3 months?

That exchange rate volatility would have to keep declining as the ecosystem grew bigger. We actually saw a reversal in 2017 from the past 2 year trend. It’s become clearer to me just how small the crypto ecosystem is compared to the rest of the financial ecosystem — as it eats away at traditional finance, it will continue to be quite volatile.

In your view, what is holding Bitcoin price down? I felt there was much more infighting at $17,000 — $20,000 (early Dec) than now. Felt more like a market bottom than a top.

Probably just the fact that a lot of newbies who are trying to get onboarded by exchanges are having to wait a really long time before they can buy anything!

I’ll name a person and you tell me what you disagree with them on (whether a huge difference or slight nuance):

Vinny Lingham
Balaji Srinavasan
Vitalik Buterin
Roger Ver
Naval Ravikant

Hmmm well I disagree with Vinny and Roger regarding prioritizing low transaction fees over low cost of fully validating node operation. I tend to disagree with Vitalik around proof-of-stake security / social consensus mechanisms. Can’t think of anything I disagree with Naval about 🙂

What kind of shifts do you forsee in 2018 in the ecosystem?

2017 was the rise of dapps and ICOs. I expect 2018 to be the rise of lapps and better bitcoin smart contracts.

I just wanted to see if you could point me in a direction to materials on scalability and the issues that arise from it. I ask because I was looking into the Credits ICO and they claim their Alpha (which isn’t out yet) can do 250k to 500k TPS, with the final version doing 1 million and scalable to 10 million. I find that extremely hard to believe but it did peak my interest in learning more about scalability. I’ve read articles about Lightning Network and have been looking forward to lightning since I heard about it last year. My curiosity is mainly in how a new company can make a claim to even 250k TPS and what that would actually require in order to achieve. Any articles or sites you think would be informative would be appreciated.

It’s easy to make such claims; the real proof is in the pudding. Unless you can actually run their software and stress test it, I wouldn’t believe any such claims. On the other hand, it is easy to get that type of throughput if you highly centralize a system. So you have to look at a lot more than just throughput — you have to analyze the architecture of the system and figure out what security model it offers. Trading security for throughput isn’t something I’d recommend — it’s basically how we got to where we are with the traditional financial rails.

Why are bitcoin users still paying such high fees in a low fee environment? Is this because exchanges haven’t batched transfers and users are getting the default fee?

Fee estimation is a hard problem. I’ve worked on it extensively and wrote about it here:

The short version is that services tend to get a high volume of support requests due to transactions that have been unconfirmed for a long time. As a result, it may behoove them to overpay on the transaction fees in order to reduce support volume. There are a lot of services that have not grabbed the low hanging fruit of transaction batching and segwit adoption that would enable them to lower their transaction fees significantly; I think this is because many services pass the fees directly on to their users. As a result, it’s important for users to voice their displeasure with services that are creating high fee problems due to their own negligence.

Love the insight you give on Twitter, but I wonder why you never address the situation with Tether. It’s clearly manipulating the market and it seems like it could lead to a great loss in investor confidence. Does this concern you?

The tether situation is not clear to me — though I think that’s exactly why folks are concerned. I believe that the market is “manipulated” in many ways and that this is the nature of free markets. There certainly could be an event that creates a cascading sell-off, but I’ve seen so many of them happen over the years that they don’t cause me concern about the long-term health of the ecosystem.

What other altcoins (besides Zcash and Monero) are you bullish on?

I’m following (and funding) the Grin project, though it only exists as a testnet at the moment. I suspect that a lot of altcoins will continue to increase in value as the size of the ecosystem grows, but I don’t have time to pay attention to more than a handful of them.

How do you think ethereum’s eventual shift into PoS will affect its price given the very tangible investment in mining hardware previously needed in PoW becoming effectively moot?

It will be interesting to see if they can pull that off without creating another “classic” fork. I wouldn’t make any claims about how it might affect the price — in general I don’t think speculators really care much about mining algorithms. For example, you can look at the Bitcoin Gold fork that changed mining algorithms to “decentralize mining” and it doesn’t seem to have captured much interested from the ecosystem.

How would someone without programming skills but passionate about bitcoin best go about finding an opportunity to work & make a living in crypto (not trading)?

Check out the “crypto careers” section at the bottom of — most job postings are for developers, but as the ecosystem grows many companies will need folks with other skills. There are plenty of jobs in sales and marketing, for example.

What do you see as the future of coin storage? The only thing that I can think of is the scary micro chip anti-christ scenario where one can only transact if they are marked with the mark of the beast lol. I’ve owned a Trezor for a few months now. What are the threats to Trezor besides theft or loss, if any?

I think that the best storage solutions will ensure that the user has sufficient redundancy in order to protect them against loss. From what I’ve seen over the years, loss due to negligence is much more likely than loss due to theft (if you store your own crypto assets.)

If you want to get really paranoid you can start worrying about “rubber hose attacks” of what would happen if you are kidnapped / tortured. Then you start talking about duress accounts or even about multisig setups that prevent you from having direct access to your assets without involvement from trusted friends/family.

When you accept a payment channel are you putting your self on the hook for closing it?

Indeed, though if all of the channel value was on your side then you’d have an incentive to rebalance the channel so that it could continue to be used without having to settle on-chain. You could do this by sending some value out through that channel, route it through other nodes, and back into another channel your node was operating. Channel rebalancing logic is going to become an interesting new challenge for optimizing the Lightning Network.

If you want to be able to close it in the fastest / most efficient manner. You could just abandon the channel and assume the counterparty will eventually close it unilaterally, but if you aren’t at least listening to the blockchain then they could publish an old channel state that takes back more money than they should have in the final state.

Do you think there could be a decentralized bank in the future that is peer to peer where gains are distributed on a independent level instead of a corporate level? I hate the big banks.

Yeah, you’re basically describing a Decentralized Autonomous Organization. I think this will happen eventually, but we’re probably a ways away from it being trustworthy. We already saw what happened to TheDAO in 2016…

What new project concepts excite you the most when it comes to Bitcoin and where do you see them going?

Primarily Lightning, because it’s going to end up being used for more than just buying coffee 🙂

What do you think of RaiBlocks / DAG cryptocurrencies?

DAGs are interesting but I’ve yet to see a great analysis of the security model that DAG-based crypto assets offer. The only one I’m particularly familiar with is IOTA, because of how many flaws it has that have been exposed by academics and developers recently.

What are your favorite projects out there right now?

I’m most interested in the development of Lightning Network, secondarily I’m also quite keen on Grin

What are your thoughts on the Telegram ICO?

It’s actually an interesting ICO, because they’ve already proven themselves capable of building user-friendly technology with pretty good privacy. IMO the biggest issue with ICOs is usually the team rather than the concept. I generally steer clear of ICOs because I don’t have the time to do the due diligence required to vet the teams behind them.

What do you think is the biggest existential threat to Bitcoin? Curious of your views on either a technical level, or a non technical level.

At the moment I’m most concerned about the influx of new users. We’re hearing numbers like “100,000 new users per day on exchange X” and yet we KNOW that the network isn’t capable of allowing all of these users to withdraw money to wallets they control. So I suspect that exchanges are just sucking up a lot of value and increasing the systemic risk in the system. I doubt that huge exchange hacks would kill Bitcoin, but they do tend to set back the ecosystem adoption each time they happen.

Bitcoin can’t die unless everyone who is a part of the system agrees to stop using it and working on improving it. From that standpoint, nation states could cause a chilling effect by imposing heavy regulations, but unless all nations did this en masse I suspect that crypto users would just pivot their usage. We saw this happen in China, where Localbitcoins volume shot through the roof as soon as the government shut down the centralized exchanges.

What do you think of stable coins?

I think they’re fundamentally flawed. Stability is in the eye of the beholder — all value is relative to the value of something else. So if you’re going to peg a value of one thing to another, like USD, you’d have to have a huge amount of liquidity with some trusted third party to attempt to maintain the peg. Perhaps if a consortium of big banks got together then they could accomplish a real stable coin. But I’m not so sure that it’s possible to do in a trustless manner.

What do you think of privacy coins?

It’s a vision of the direction in which the world is headed due to privacy enhancing technologies.

I’m generally more interested in privacy coins than in utility tokens or smart contracts. I think they’ll be a necessary tool in order for crypto anarchy to establish a strong foothold in the world.

What is your take on decentralized exchanges?

I’m quite excited to see folks working on decentralized exchanges, for several reasons:
1) Custodial exchanges centralize large amounts of value in the ecosystem and create systemic risk.
2) Custodial exchanges have been unable to keep up with demand.
3) Custodial exchanges are more like banks than like crypto services. They’re straddling two worlds and are often hamstrung by regulations.

Decentralized exchanges will make it easier, faster, and safer for folks to swap crypto assets. And since they won’t create single points of failure, I suspect they will be able to remain usable even during periods of high demand — traffic volume will be spread out across an entire network rather than all concentrating on a few servers that will buckle under the load.

What do you foresee as it relates to regulation?

Every government agency is going to do what it can to define crypto assets in the way that give them the most control over its usage. This is why cypherpunk approaches to building the system are so important — they are the most effective way to neutralize the effects of regulation. I think the game will really change once folks stop trying to move value out of crypto and back into the traditional financial system — that’s how the average user will be able to reclaim their financial sovereignty.

Can more than 1 lighting network exist on Bitcoin?

Absolutely; anyone can use the Lightning protocol to form their own network graph. You could have an unlimited number of unconnected networks, but then it would be quite simple to connect them with some new channels, which would greatly increase their utility.

Your thoughts on Namecoin and the .bit domain. In your opinion, does it have a bright foreseeable future?

It’s a neat concept but I doubt it will go mainstream; I doubt namecoin can scale to meet mainstream demand and there’s a bootstrapping issue where they’d need to figure out how to get computers to recognize .bit domains by default. Not many regular web users are going to go to the trouble to manually configure it.

Do you find that privacy coins will plateau in adoptability due to regulatory constraints?

Not at all — worst case scenario perhaps regulated exchanges would de-list them, but I expect that decentralized exchanges would take up the slack and meet demand.

I know that you’re mainly a Bitcoin Core guy but I was wondering if you think the SEC will crackdown hard on “Utility Tokens” and if that will crush the overall crypto market?

I don’t think it will hurt the long term health of the ecosystem but it certainly would slow down progress for 1–2 years, no? Just wanted to get your overall thoughts on if it’s a concern of yours

Seems like the SEC is looking at tokens pretty hard to figure out which ones are actually fly-by-night securities. I’m actually surprised that we haven’t seen more crackdowns already. I do expect that major crackdowns would create a chilling effect across the ICO ecosystem.

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Wilson is a 3x Startup Entrepreneur. He is passionate about the cryptocurrency space. You can catch him tweeting about cryptocurrency often @itswilson8 You can also email Wilson directly at

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