Hot sunny day in London, with its normal hustle and bustle, and I’m inside Henry’s cafe in Piccadilly. I have an interview with David Packham, Head of Strategy & Community EOS42, who’s been elusive for three days during my stay in UK. Now it’s arranged although the last moment he changed the venue. Loud music and conversations around, glasses clinking- definitely the right place for talking about the global EOS community…
CryptoComes: What do you think of the future of EOS?
David Packham: I didn’t expect such a bumpy first month..I am happy we are where we are. I was not sure whether we would be in the top 21 for a long period of time so it’s very humbling and a huge relief for us. The team haven’t been paid in five months, I am about to get my first paycheck since January.
So yes, it’s humbling to be voted up in the top 10 right now, but it’s always challenging: with DPoS you never know where you will be. Regarding this I think these are the healthy times in the community debating in a decentralized manner- very, very complex things about the future of the network. And of course the beauty is if some people fundamentally disagree with the way the direction goes, say in governance, they can and will be able to just simply set another instance of EOS. It’s open source- so it’s not difficult to set another chain up in theory. Their big challenge will be getting the economic gravity of the community to move with them. It requires a fundamental split in creative energy. If you keep debating like we are, eventually the community should reach a form of consensus. The mainnet is always going to be king and now its established it will likely always be the most important EOSIO network of all, but there is going to be others for sure.
Decentralized, but how?
CryptoComes: Critics often say that EOS is not, in fact, a decentralized network, but subject to control by something akin to a government. They specifically mention the recent decision by the EOS centralized body to ban transactions from the specific 27 wallet addresses. What would you respond to the critics?
David Packham: There’s a few points on that. If the system is centralized, decision making will be quick, fast and efficient and you would see no external debate. We couldn’t be less like that! You see so much continual controversy, debate and people just prevaricating between the most inane details: that’s because we are decentralized. It took us a long time to even agree the frequency of the Block Producer meetings, because you’ve got a decentralized group trying to reach consensus. So I believe we are highly decentralized. If you look at Delegated Proof of Stake, it’s decentralized but making trade offs for performance. When you look at mining pools in both Proof of Stake and Proof of Work it is far more centralised in reality; Bitcoin has got six pools, the other governance structure is the unelected core devs, they effectively run the entire Bitcoin network in a meaningful sense. Therefore our interests as elected Block Producers is a lot better in line with the token holders.
CryptoComes: You think in delegated proof of stake they can change this consensus?
David Packham:Ultimately it is governed by understanding how the real world works, in which we delegate our power. You and I in a democracy delegate our power to representatives to run the government. So in this case in EOS, the token holders delegate their power to run the network to individuals, groups- the block producers. We have very strict controls on what we are allowed to do or not. That is all found in our constitution and our code of conduct.
That is why I disagree we at least have 21 individual groups at any one time running the network. Now there is some controversy about whether or not some of those groups may be controlled by multiple parties. They are being looked into actively by the community, and if they are they will try to shut them down. This is why it’s so important to have a really involved community that care. They are looking at this and I can see some evidence of voting that makes them suspicious and they are worried about it. The community are saying we are going to try and find proof and if so try and get these BP’s taken out of the top 21.
I genuinely don’t know if that is true or not but we are in the group listening to these discussions saying yes, we need to try and find out if that is true and act if so.
Right now we have got 21 different BP’s from all around the world and another 42 paid standbys- any one of which can switch in and out the moment you as a group of token holders decide this bad actor is taking bribes or underperforming.
For example if I am sitting here with Masha right now, and Masha is giving me an envelope of money to try and behave in a certain way and it gets found out. The community would say right, your reputation is destroyed and we as a Block Producer would be gone so fast- the penalty is enormous. So it’s a powerful system in that sense as our interests are highly aligned.
Regarding the 27 accounts, they are all direct byproducts of EOS 911. What happened is that those individuals raised a case with ECAF- the default interim arbitration service - they all submitted information onto the Ethereum account that EOS42 built, which proved they can move and control the Ethereum account where the tokens were, but could not control the underlying other account and each one of those 27 accounts had escaped mysteriously by somebody lets say a hacker, potentially, hasn’t been proven yet.
What ended up happening is that ECAF, being brand new and the network brand new, is that the block producers were put in a tough position as the only elected representatives in the entire network at present. ECAF has not yet been elected, the constitution has not yet been ratified and is interim. So following the spirit of that we collectively all reached 100 percent consensus between all the block producers and all the standbys on a two hour call, and said the right thing to do is for each of the accounts to be frozen to enable ECAF to investigate. Nothing more, no judgment just enablement of the constitution to function as intended.
It has been highly controversial! It led to a lot of thought about whether or not that’s really how things should work or not. And so the community is doing what it should and is having a massive debate. Dan Larimer the chief architect of EOS has strong views, other hugely influential community members are expressing different views. We will get there, we will work out what the right constitution is and we are going to have a referendum and then we will vote on that.
Certainly amongst those accounts in question, some of the admins of the EOS 911 channel are alleged account holders that have been defrauded. One account got missed by one BP and the money was moved immediately to exchange, so they lost 3,000 EOS as a result. It shows there is strong evidence relating to those accounts. These are individuals mostly from places like Korea who registered with a fake portal.
CryptoComes: How will you describe the EOS approach to governance, on a scale between a totalitarian state and complete anarchy?
David Packham: The best way, I think, to view EOS is it's more of a very large DAC. It’s a decentralized autonomous company in its own right. So when you put in place its governance structure, it is all hard wired, or it should be, into the code with Ricardian contracts which explain the interpretation of that into human language. So there is nothing that you and I can do, even if we were say part of the governance layer, to start making arbitrary decisions- everything needs to be constitutionally voted. Anybody can put forth an amendment to that constitution and if they get enough support for it have it voted on. So there is no sort of centralized control its decentralized governance but people look at the likes of ECAF, which looks very centralized. That actually reflects a lack of understanding of what arbitration is, and its limited role in the EOS governance and economic ecosystem.
CryptoComes: Btw this ECAF they are taking care of the same as you do at 911, for example like if there is a problem with the account, with the private keys, or they are officially the Block.one’s arbitration?
David Packham: They have nothing to do with Block.one technically. When Thomas Cox finished the draft constitution, and nominated an interim arbitration service to be created, called ECAF- that needs to be set up from scratch. Right now it doesn’t have any funding, the people working in it are working for free as volunteers and they are trying to get setup but it’s nothing to do directly with Block.one. Block.one actually deleted all the governance constitution documents in GitHub ahead of launch, it was left for those of us setting up the network to decide what we wanted to pull and restore. We ultimately as a group decided to implement the interim constitution, and decided it had been circulated widely throughout the community, debated, ratified, and agreed as best we could prior to a real referendum.
CryptoComes: What is the role of Block.one now? What happens if some producers will join forces to challenge the principles ingrained by Block.one into the system?
David Packham: In theory if ,all the block producers turned hostile to Block.one, said right we are going to freeze your account so you can never move money again. Block.one would simply set up a new EOS Blockchain. Why not? Literally any,body can set one up, and with their last commercial backing and the funds they have I am sure they would pull across the economic momentum of gravity and a lot of the community with them.
It’s a hypothetical question that’s not a serious proposition, in the sense that people would never do that. You also would be able to challenge them in the constitution. Block producers cannot arbitrarily freeze an account, the rule is as soon as the constitution were enacted it would need an ECAF order or another arbitration order to freeze an account. But actually the alternative constitution proposed by Dan Larimer is that this power should not sit at the base protocol level and that it would be above at the dApp layer.
So in that vision, each app could decide “we are going to use a different arbitrator for any dispute resolution on EOS and we are not going to use ECAF.” Any customer that signs up with you has to sign the terms which agree with that. What that would mean is there is no base layer going on at all, it’s all handled in yours. Your governance can be quite different from the governance rules of another app. That’s what Daniel Larimer wants and that’s his vision, which differs quite substantially from others. It’s an interesting one, the problem with it is much of the code and support mechanisms required to support that vision do not currently exist yet. So we would have no arbitration or protections for potentially years in the interim and be equivalent to say Ethereum. The community will decide what they want in that respect, and EOS42 will honor that decision and serve the network as a Block Producer.
CryptoComes: How big is the community you are working with? How will you describe it? What are your major principles in working with your community?
David Packham: The main thing I think is very simple with regards to community: if can never lose sight of the fact that as a block producer, you literally work for the token holders. The token holders are our collective boss to serve, if you lose sight of that then you will not last very long as a block producer. You will be out of the top 21 and will become a standby or unpaid even.
CryptoComes: How many user members do you have so far in the community? Individual wallets?
I don’t actually the estimated size oof hand I am afraid.
CryptoComes: How many are involved in the your Telegram group?
David Packham: The main EOS channel has got over 65,000 in it. For EOS42 it depends if you look at EOS London or our main BP one. EOS London blurs the line with us. We haven’t got a huge, huge group because we prefer to build up the community in real life, there’s enough Telegram groups already. You know some people have got 10,000 people but half of them aren’t real community members. Ours has got about 300 or 400 but that’s fine, thats a nice number and that means the community in that are the really active ones. If you think about our meetups, we get about three-400 at EOS London events, that means quite a few of them are engaged and actively on these groups too and its nice. I am not worried about numbers, there’s more to it than that!
CryptoComes: According to recent research, theft in crypto industry is booming, with the volumes stolen this year times exceeding similar numbers in 2017. What are EOS tactics on dealing with this?
David Packham: On EOS every single account potentially compromised so far, has been purely down to the the registration process. It was down to the fact that we were doing a token swap, in effect, from Ethereum on to the mainnet. So the fraud occurred off chain, it occurred because of the registration process. So no lasting effects are known, I don’t think there any new ones occuring.
What’s happening other than that is that people are losing their private keys and having accidents but that was always going to happen. To a large extent that can be in theory resolved going forward, but before that we need to confirm whether or not ECAF will be the long term arbitration service or not - we need the referendum. Hence why many EOS block producers, including EOS42, are working together building a referendum contract and interface, and making it a priority.
CryptoComes: Do you think anything can be improved in the EOS voting system? Do you think it could be more fair?
David Packham: I don’t think it can be more fair than a referendum, where its one token per vote. I think it is a pretty powerful way of representing views. Some people are concerned about whales, concerned about individuals with what they would define to be too much power. But another way to look at it is those with the most tokens are the most invested in the long term success of the network. There are few who are going to care more about the success of EOS, than those with say 10 mln tokens- you care more about its success, not less.
It’s delegated proof of stake, but at the same time you are right it’s still the one who has the stake can vote than the one who doesn’t have them. That’s the minus of it.
The guy with 10 mln tokens, has so much more money than you and I have combined. The counter argument is they have put in all that investment, they have so much on the line, it’s not fair for them to not have a bigger say. It is directly equivalent to shares in a company. Should the person who owns $10 mln dollars in Amazon only have the same say as you, who has put down $10,000?
If you look at what EOS token is for, it buys you a percentage of the bandwidth of the computational capacity of the network as well as the ability to vote. So in effect it gives you two things: it gives you a say in how the network is run and it gives you access to the power of the network directly linked to the amount you put in. So to me that is pretty powerful as a way of saying it is fair and right, but other people may disagree.
CryptoComes: When do you think EOS will dethrone Ethereum or it’s not on the current agenda?
David Packham: I think actually the individuals up at the top, like Vitalik and Dan Larimer, are way beyond simplistic things like EOS vs. Ethereum. I think they are true believers who are in it for the right reasons, that’s why for example Vitalik was in the EOS code base giving advice pointing out errors and things to think about right up to the EOS launch. You couldn’t see a better example of people cooperating and in it for the right reasons. They are way beyond money these guys, all of them.
I think it is fair to say they all want to see the benefits of decentralization. They are both trying different flavors of the same idea, which is they want to build a decentralized operating system and economy. No one is yet sure how best to do that. So you have to try a variety of ways, to really experiment and find out what works best. Until we try we will never know. That’s how most of the great experiments have led to discoveries. How many different chemical formulas did we try before the lightbulb. Blockchain is still in this discovery phase; we are trying different configurations and theories, and at some point we will get one that works extremely well and everyone will pursue that path. DPOS is the only scalable, proven model we have for public blockchains so far.
What we realize with Ethereum is some brilliant ideas and the concept, flaws with scalability, dispute resolution is non-existent, forking seems to be the only way they can handle and resolve. No protection comparable for current day bank accounts, if your money is stolen or you lose your private key you are left a hapless victim.
So these are problems that Ethereum is also trying to resolve by gradually upgrading the system. In the meantime Dan Larimer’s own invention, DPOS, is taking this great idea and marrying the lessons from Bitshares and Steemit, the things that went right and wrong, to produce this third generation blockchain - EOS.
You know we may be talking again in five years time about a version 4 Blockchain project. Who knows, or it may be that EOS for example is so scalable and adaptable that unlike those before it can morph fully into a version 4 Blockchain and beyond as intended. It is designed to have every aspect of it re-coded on the move, which is something that Ethereum struggles with: you can’t do it that easily, you cannot change contracts once they are deployed. If you get one bug in them like the parity wallet hack where someone initialized the contract for the first time (as Parity forgot to do that in testing and deployment), the inadvertent hacker took ownership of the contract as the initializer of it, and then they selected to kill contract and it froze all the money in the parity wallet. Now in EOS you can actually fix that, you can go back and actually fix the problem. This is where you are getting more sophisticated models than before. It’s going to be really interesting seeing how it works.
But I do think going back to the original question these guys are not hostile to one another.
It could be multiple Blockchain models thrive and they are all part of a giant economy.
When I spoke at an EOS/Ethereum debate the core Ethereum developer and myself agreed on the same thing: we are all in this, it could very well be that EOS is London and Ethereum is NY, and they are two cities interacting economically together within the Blockchain community in the future.