Smart contracts represent all the buzz for cryptography and Blockchain protocols. Ethereum has been chugging along since its release last July. Developers have been working around the clock to make the Turing-complete Ethereum system as innovative and functional as possible.
The end-goal of the project has been, in part, to anonymize the web, and create peer-to-peer methods for building contractual arrangements without third party arbitrators. So far, everything seems to be going well for Ethereum developers; and in early November, they swept into the annual DevCon conference in London.
They were wide-eyed and enthusiastic, ready to talk about their goals, projects and ideas. Bitcoin.com was lucky enough to interview one of the developers and speakers, Hudson Jameson. We asked him about his personal background, what transpired at the conference and his opinion on the future of smart contracts.
“Smart contracts are a “middle man killer” because you can now use a decentralized world computer (the Ethereum network) to verify computational functions and actions. Why would I pay a person for an arbitrage services when I can have a smart contract lock my funds in escrow and only release the funds once a certain condition is met? There are many processes that could benefit enough from smart contracts to destroy entire market sectors that rely on providing a trustful third party intermediary.”
-Hudson Jameson, Ethereum developer
Bitcoin.com (BC): Can you talk about your professional background and experience with Bitcoin?
Hudson Jameson (HJ): I have been messing with computers and programming since I was 13 and took a particular interest in computer security and cryptography in high school. This meant that I mostly messed around Backtrack OS and studied penetration testing topics, but this gave me an intro into cryptography concepts.
I discovered Bitcoin in the summer of 2011 during my freshmen year of college. I saw that Bitcoin was being used on Silk Road to buy products and it amazed me to see people putting a value on a “currency” backed primarily by cryptography.
I lurked on the Bitcoin Forums and mined about 0.75 BTC with 2 CPU miners running constantly for a few weeks in my room. I stayed interested in cryptocurrencies throughout college and did some Bitcoin trading here and there. Near the end of college I did a semester project on Bitcoin mining using an ASIC and started to become more involved in other cryptocurrencies, such as Darkcoin (now Dash). After college I took up a job as a developer for a banking and insurance company.
BC: Do you actively use Bitcoin?
HJ: Yes, as often as possible. I am constantly surprised by the number of vendors accepting it.
BC: How did you arrange to go to DevCon?
HJ: I was able to obtain a developer discount for the conference tickets for my work in the Ethereum community/development. Additionally, I made some very profitable Ether trades in the month preceding my trip and traveled as cheaply as possible.
BC: What is DevCon all about?
HJ: DevCon is the annual conference that is a gathering of Ethereum developers and those from the community. The first DevCon was DevCon0 in November 2014 with about 40 participants. DevCon1 was in November 2015 and had a much larger attendance with around 350 participants and many businesses and organizations showcasing their Ethereum related projects.
The conferences are meant to be primarily developer focused and are pivotal events that shape the future direction of Ethereum. There were many amazing projects that were revealed or released during the conference.
BC: How did Ethereum play into DevCon?
HJ: Ethereum was the focus of the entire event. Ethereum founders and core developers gave updates on their progress designing the protocol, DApp (distributed app) developers gave talks on their products, and many good discussions were had that were spawned by the talks given. In my opinion the most interesting topic of event was the talk on Ethereum’s eventual switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake with the implementation of the CASPER protocol.
BC: Can you tell us a little about Ethereum and how you got introduced to it?
HJ: I found out about Ethereum from reading articles about Vitalik Buterin and his ideas to put a Turing-complete programming language on the blockchain. I immediately saw the immense opportunities that this could have on distributed systems and the differences Ethereum’s scripting language could have compared to Bitcoin’s.
Ethereum is a blockchain/cryptocurrency platform and turing complete-ish programming framework that allows users to run autonomous computer programs (smart contracts) on a blockchain based decentralized virtual machine . Ethereum shares many aspects of other blockchains such as transparency, permanence, and decentralization. However, rather than create a blockchain for a single primary purpose, such as Bitcoin for currency transactions, Ethereum allows users to create smart contracts for an endless amount of purposes.
I’ve been developing smart contracts on Ethereum since March 2015 and I find it very easy to understand compared to other more complex cryptocurrency coding challenges (such as mastering OP_CODES in Bitcoin). The Ethereum community is a lot less scary and offensive than other cryptocurrency communities and it has intelligent developers who really believe in what they are doing.
“The conferences are meant to be primarily developer focused and are pivotal events that shape the future direction of Ethereum. There were many amazing projects that were revealed or released during the conference.”
-Hudson Jameson, Ethereum Developer
BC: What is your take on Smart Contracts?
HJ: Smart contracts are going to revolutionize trustless communication between entities. Individuals and enterprises are now able to automate functions that previously required a paid, trusted third party to accomplish. A simple example of smart contract is a multi-signature wallet in Bitcoin. You have a certain amount of signers who must sign a transaction to release Bitcoins from a wallet. This is a smart contract because it requires the Bitcoin network to verify that a predefined operation occurred before an action is taken.
BC: What does the future look like for Etherum and Smart Contracts?
HJ: The future looks incredibly bright. Recently products like Slock and AIRA have used Ethereum smart contracts for Internet of Things use cases. Slock allows you to control and rent out your physical smart home devices. Think of it as running your own AirBnB, but with a smart contract controlling and validating who can rent your apartment (or other physical good).
AIRA allows a human to hire a drone for a job using an Ethereum smart contract. The drone would act as an autonomous agent executing the smart contract on its own accord, and would receive payments for the rendered services. Gnosis and Augur are two examples of Ethereum prediction markets that are making waves. There are even large companies such as UBS who is experimenting with an Ethereum based smart bond platform. As a need arises, groups come to fill gaps in smart contract design, such as Oraclize, which allows your smart contract to query information from APIs and websites.
BC: How will these applications affect society and the economy?
HJ: Smart contracts are a “middle man killer” because you can now use a decentralized world computer (the Ethereum network) to verify computational functions and actions. Why would I pay a person for an arbitrage services when I can have a smart contract lock my funds in escrow and only release the funds once a certain condition is met? There are many processes that could benefit enough from smart contracts to destroy entire market sectors that rely on providing a trustful third party intermediary.
Once self driving cars become more prevalent, there won’t be a need for a service like Uber because a smart contract can be used to set driving coordinates and pay cars to transport people. Gambling using a smart contract will be much more secure than trusting humans to honor their bets or to not be influenced to lie about the outcome of an event. The transparency of blockchains are inherent in smart contracts. This benefits everyone who wishes to free themselves from costly third parties. A societal side effect of this is the decreasing need for human decision making because smart contracts will be smart enough to correctly interpret data with more reliability.
BC: What advice can you give people who want to get into using Smart Contracts?
HJ: Visit the Ethereum subreddit for a lot of good links and discussions on smart contracts. For developers wanting to write smart contracts, I have a link on my website (hudsonjameson.com) to an Ethereum Tips/Tutorials page with a large resource list. For those who want to see a list of distributed apps (DApps) that use smart contracts, visit http://dapps.ethercasts.com/.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Mr. Jameson, and for providing some perspective on smart contracts and Ethereum. The possibilities for changing the face of economic and social interactions are exciting and we are stoked. The future may be a lot different than we can imagine, and various elements of the human condition might be radically altered by autonomous computers. This is unbelievable stuff, and everyone should prepare for moving into yet another aspect of the digital age.
What do you think about the future of Ethereum? Let us know in the comments below!