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Emin Gün Sirer on the Asteroid Heading for Technological Dinosaurs

Emin Gün Sirer on the Asteroid Heading for Technological Dinosaurs

Apr 12, 2021

Follow the White Rabbit podcastStart Listening

As an expert in peer-to-peer and decentralized, blockchain technologies, Emin Gün Sirer sees a technological revolution coming.

"Blockchain technologies are absolutely transformative, they are going to change the way the world works," Emin said on the latest Follow the White Rabbit Podcast. "They are like asteroids coming towards the earth and the dinosaurs -- the incumbents, the large banks, the gatekeepers -- need to watch out."

Emin has explored the Blockchain space for decades. In 2003, six years before Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, Emin built Karma, one of the earliest examples of a cryptocurrency built around a proof-of-work solution. Currently, Emin is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University and serves as the Founder and CEO of Ava Labs. By allowing users to build custom blockchains, launch decentralized applications, or digitize and trade assets, Avalanche, Ava Lab's blockchain platform, aims to democratize financial markets and connect blockchain platforms into a unified global network.

Emin's experience with decentralized technologies intends to correct the failings of centralized systems. "Today, finance, or even being a citizen, is a matter of trust -- you just don't know what is happening behind the scenes," Emin said.

With centralized services controlling the market, users are often in the dark about how the services operate internally, and what they do with user data. 

"That relationship fundamentally is kind of like a servant and a vassal in the middle ages," Emin explained. "The service provider is in control and you, as a user, have no transparency into what they do and have no control over what happens in that system."

The solution is to employ decentralized, peer-to-peer systems in which no single authority provides a service, but equally privileged participants share resources on a network. Blockchain is a good example of a peer-to-peer network. The advantage of these systems is that there is no need to trust a central authority; people can trust the system itself simply by looking at the code. "In peer-to-peer systems, what the system can do is circumscribed by code and we can inspect that code and we essentially know exactly what can and cannot happen," Emin said.

The implications for personal autonomy and privacy are significant. Without relying on central authorities, users are no longer subject to the whims of a single entity. Rather, users know what they are getting into and control their own information. Decentralization means users do not have to trust individuals, but can that the system, in and of itself, will protect their interests.

"From a very human perspective, [decentralized technologies] will change the way people sleep at night because they will be able to provide transparency and reassurance about the way things work" Emin said. "They will change the way we sleep at night because we can trust the system finally."

To learn more about Emin's thoughts on how to build trust and transparency, follow us down the rabbit hole. Listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Mar 8, 2021
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