Bitcoin, Blockchain & The Open Internet with Nicolas Cary of Blockchain.com

Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are changing people's perceptions of money. People may now exchange crucial information on a peer-to-peer basis without relying on a centralized authority, making money transfer as simple as sending a text message. In this episode of The Money Movement we discuss how Bitcoin and blockchain technology is helping to enable  people all over the world to increase wealth and improve their standard of living, alongside the numerous native utilities of this technology.

Joining us this week to explore this topic is Nicolas Cary, Co-Founder & Vice Chairman at Blockchain.com. Blockchain.com is the world’s leading crypto finance house serving people, projects, protocols and institutions since 2011. Nicolas is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur and lifelong technologist. He attributes much of his insight to his personal journeys around the world. Nicolas also serves as the Chairman of YBUSA.org, the leading youth accelerator he co-founded. He is the winner of the 2015 European Digital Leader award for his inspiring and innovative contribution to initiate progress in the digital world.


Jeremy Allaire: Hello, I'm Jeremy Allaire, and welcome to this special edition of The Money Movement. I'm here in London, England, sitting above the city of London here with Nick Cary, the co-founder, and vice-chairman of blockchain.com, one of the most long-standing companies in this space and a real crypto OG. Super excited to have Nick here today, Nick.

Nick Cary: Great to see you again.

Jeremy: Welcome.

Nick: It's amazing to be back together. We have a lot of symmetry. We met almost a decade ago in Dublin here in Europe. I remember you were pitching Circle. It was one of those moments where I was like, "Oh, my, there are some amazing professional people coming out to this."

[laughter]

Nick: Our very first office in London was actually just 100 yards away from here. It's a bit emotional to be returning to this space here. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Jeremy: Absolutely, Nick. This is awesome. I'm really excited for this. I want to use this opportunity because you are someone who I think just has some of the broadest perspective on crypto in the world. You've been involved in this just as long as almost anyone, maybe aside from Satoshi or that group early on. We'll do a little bit of origin story to start. Then we're going to do a little bit of fundamental economic philosophy with respect to all this stuff because I think that's something that's core to all this. Then I hope we can carry the conversation all the way to today and what's happening where.

As always, Bitcoin was born out of a geopolitical and geoeconomic crisis. We're finding ourselves in an interesting geopolitical geoeconomic world again but take us back to your own getting involved in the space, the time the place. Tell us a little bit about what you're doing and how you came into this in the first place.

Nick: Yes, thanks. I think all entrepreneurs start off with earning their first buck doing something. Mine was selling clams from the Long Island Sound to my neighbors. I wanted to buy a boombox and acquire things. That's how I got started, started building websites, and then built a CRM company called pipeline CRM. I was always interested in how businesses operate. My family was really international, my dad lived in South America, my mother's French. Seeing the frictions of even just making payments was always observable in my life.

When I learned about Bitcoin in 2011, at first, I was incredibly suspicious of how something could actually work that way, but after spending over a week completely obsessed with understanding what the implications were, it became very obvious to me that I would need to spend the rest of my life working on this. Then it was really at the intersection of politics, money, and wealth creation. When you mapped all that onto a technological fabric, the opportunities were immense. I got into it basically out of a real interest in economics and in studying statistics. My fellow co-founders, all here based in the UK, so we were founded in New York in the middle of nowhere. The original one.

Jeremy: That was 2011?

Nick: That was 2011. The website registration,-

Jeremy: blockchain.info.

Nick: blockchain.info, this was the OG website for looking at the transactional history on the Bitcoin network was registered October 15. We celebrate that in the firm now. The one thing we wanted to do at the beginning was really just take a look at whether or not there was real economic activity happening on this network. I think some of the earliest arguments were, "Well, no one's using this stuff. It'll never work. It's only for internet geeks." What we've learned over the last decade is that there's just been an ever-increasing expansion of the market for a variety of different reasons.

At the time, we wanted to make sure that there was four things happening. We built essentially something called a Block Explorer, which is just a search engine for looking at originally the Bitcoin Blockchain. We've since expanded that to a whole bunch of new chains but at the time, that was the only one. The community was really small back then. There were a few 100 people talking on the internet forums and coordinating globally this experiment in the early days. That was the first thing we built. What we learned was there was an economic activity happening and people were really using Bitcoin to do things like move money over the internet.

What a powerful idea being able to transact precious information between two people without centralized authorities on a peer-to-peer basis, making it as easy to send money over the internet as sending a text message or an email. I've heard some of these things from you so I am stealing some content from you [laughs] but I'm paraphrasing maybe. Anyway, what we did next then was build a wallet system. We knew if bitcoin was ever going to become adopted, it was going to have to be easier to use. We went about building a tool that would make it possible for anybody in the world to be able to send, receive secure, and then trade and exchange digital forms of money.

We built the blockchain.com wallet. It's now the most widely adopted noncustodial wallet in the world, which is an important distinction we'll need to get into in a little bit. That wallet's available for free for anybody. We've had 80 million people sign up to use that.

Jeremy: I started there and started [crosstalk].

Nick: As a founder of a company, as soon as you see your product out in the world and people using it, you really get to connect with your community. Those users have now over the last decade transacted over $1.2 trillion worth of transactions on the chain. We now serve users in over 200 countries. The distance we've traveled in that last decade has been monumental. There have been some pretty interesting lessons along the way. One of them is just the global nature of all of this, which I know you're really aware of as well.

This thing doesn't just belong to Silicon Valley or Singapore, Dubai, or London, it is really a globally lifted, technological, and now cultural movement. I still think we're seeing we're in the early days a decade ago. We're still evolving, but the conversation's changed a lot.

Jeremy: Yes, it has. I had a very similar experience to you in terms of, in 2012, I was hearing about it, then I was like, "Yes, I know." Then I spent time with it and heard that like, "This is going to be bigger than the web, this is going to be so much bigger" and reached a lot of similar conclusions and similarly was like, "I'm going to commit the rest of my career to this. This is so clearly going to have that bigger impact." We're starting to see that now. We're still in the early days, this is really the early stage.

That's cool because it's so big already but it's still early when you think about what it's going to mean for billions of people to be using digital currency and interacting over this is mind-blowing, for sure. I want to go back to the early days again. I also, by the way, have some background in economics and political science. We came at this, was also a software technologist, I came at this, through that lens, that global political-economic lens as well.

It sounds like that was important to your own journey into this. Maybe just talk about philosophically, what did you see? What did you understand? What did you believe about Bitcoin and what that meant in that realm?

Nick: I studied political science, wrote a thesis in economics, and have a degree in business leadership. I actually wrote my thesis on Shackleton which it was so cool because I recently just found out the shack. Anyway, a lot of the same building blocks there. I think, for me, the conversation about what is money is such a fascinating one. If you have that conversation with parents or family members, you get a lot of different answers like, "Well, I think it's this cash I hold, or it's this concept that enables me to do things."

Most people, if we take a step back, we spend our entire lives in pursuit of accumulating money and wealth, we're trying to improve our standard of living, we want to acquire possessions, we want to enable outcomes for our family members and pursue endeavors in the world. In the context of that, what kind of money should I be trying to acquire? If we're to invent a form of money for the age of the internet, what would that really look like? If you really think about humans, money is a tremendously ancient concept, it's prehistoric.

We find relics and tombs in Scotland that come from the Middle East that are 1000s of years old before any writing existed. We have been improving and optimizing systems as a society for 1000s of years now. We started off in caves, we invented the wheel, we paved roads, we're always trying to make things a little bit better. We've also tried different forms of money over our civilization's existence. We used to barter and trade eggs for milk, we used to use pearls and seashells and feathers. Cigarettes are arguably a form of money if you ask anyone that fought more with you.

Jeremy: Good durables, scarce record-keeping system.

Nick: Exactly. We've seen a lot of systems collapse and fail too, and there are reasons for that, economic reasons, social reasons, cultural ones, and others. I think that that Genesis is partially the key philosophical question, which is, "Okay, so we know that money is basically a collective system that we agree to use to exchange wealth. If we're going to use the internet to exchange precious information and collaborate, maybe we need a more efficient global system to exchange wealth. What would that look like?" Bitcoin took the first shot angle on this.

It drew on some powerful economic concepts and principles that we used to rely on and then separate ourselves from. For those that don't know the world economy in many currencies that were created by governments used to be backed by hard assets. Things like gold. Then we broke the gold standard and just are running what is called a fiat system now, where central banks basically create money, and then they lend that money out to banks and it flushes through the economy. Now, there were some good reasons for doing that.

Maybe you want a credit-based economy, increases consumption, more spending, more economic velocity. Those are good arguments. I think we're in battle testing those for the last 50 years. We've been also running a pretty, I would say, arguably concerning experiment with how money is created and how much of it there should be. Right now we're experiencing the highest rates of inflation in 40 years. This isn't a surprise to people that study economics because we've created, I mean, we, central banks around the world have created enormous amounts of money partially in response to the public health crisis. Then also since the 2008 financial crisis.

It's not a coincidence that Satoshi came out right after that. There was a real crisis of confidence in the banking and financial sector. Satoshi and the group that started the Bitcoin network referenced this crisis in the core code that they launched as an open-source protocol, inviting anyone in the world to review what they'd come up with. Some of the key principles of the Bitcoin network were to create essentially a fabric that enables people to make peer-to-peer payments over the internet without counterparties.

Then they layered in some really interesting economic fundamentals, including digital scarcity, which is probably one of the most important concepts ever because we now have a property rights concept for the internet. If something is rare, precious, and useful, it will always command a price. Even though the Bitcoin network was conceived in 2008, 2009, and then launched, it wasn't until about two years later that the first price for Bitcoin was ever cleared when some person on this web forum where we all used to connect on sold two pizzas for 10,000 Bitcoin. Then all of a sudden you had a market.

More tools were built, the markets got more complex, and it bootstrapped itself. One really interesting principles in cryptocurrency was drawing, specifically, Bitcoin, drawing from what I would call real molecular economics. We use gold because it's fungible, it's difficult to obtain, there's relatively--

Jeremy: Hard to counterproof.

Nick: Yes, hard to counterfeit. There's relatively even distribution of it globally from a mining and how much of it in the Earth's crust there is. As a form of money, it has the store of value. It can be used as a medium of exchange, but probably less convenient these days as you can't shave off a little bit to buy a cup of coffee, but there were some good reasons why we use gold at an atomic and molecular level. Anyway, Bitcoin invented scarcity economics basically, and how the currency comes into circulation.

It's important to understand this a little bit. Anyone can run software code that basically supports the Bitcoin network and verifies the transaction history. This is called running a minor or a node, and that node holds a database on it. A database called the Bitcoin Blockchain. This is just a record of everything that's ever happened, and that record-keeping system stays in a constant state of agreement globally. Today, your bank has a record-keeping system. My bank has a different record-keeping system. The one in Boston, to Singapore.

They're all trying to stay coordinated and it costs a fortune to do so. They've got all these people checking each other's work and filling out forms and double-checking that stuff.

Jeremy: I'd like to say banks are regulated database operators essentially.

Nick: That's a great way to explain that. [crosstalk]

Jeremy: Then I also like to note that I've noted this a couple of times in my podcast, but at one point met the CIO of the federal reserve and I said, "What's the tax stack of dollar? What is the dollar?" He said, "It's an Oracle database cluster." Actually, the dollar is just a set of records in a database. When Fiat was created, of course, that literally is what it became. It was just like, "What do we say it is? What are our records of it?"

Nick: When they want more, they go in there and they add your [crosstalk] Quantitative easing is a SQL Insert statement, and then the records exist. Then they go say, "I'll buy those mortgage back securities from you." Those records then get put into another bank's database and hence it goes. To this point though, it's like not a lot of people realize it is really just about the record-keeping, the scarcity of the records themselves, the durability of that. Again, who's allowed to interact with it?

Jeremy: Yes, that's another [crosstallk]

Nick: I guess, another breakthrough here is that it's not this precious group of people that get to interact with that centralized database. It's anyone. It's a piece of software on the internet and they can be verifying those records, and they can interact with it, and they can transact. It's a shared public form of money that's just never existed.

Jeremy: A financial utility for the internet. The scarcity comes into the rate of inflation for the distribution of newly minted, cryptocurrencies, or Bitcoin in this specific example. The total supply of the currency was hard-baked into the original network. There's only ever going to be 21 million Bitcoins. Those are divisible by update decimal points and the rate at which they come into existence is basically decreasing every four years. Just like it's harder and harder to mine gold out of the Earth's crust, gold still has utility in industrial use cases, and other use cases.

In theory, the price of gold goes up because utility and scarcity. Same as true of Bitcoin. It modeled itself on the is fundamental old principles, ones that we have built trust in for thousands of years and basically applied technical terms to these things that are now widely accepted. The market access one is so big because financial services broadly globally have not been able to lift billions of people out of poverty because they can't access them at all. Anyone that has a smartphone now can download a piece of software that's completely free. That gives them a tool to passport money anywhere in the world instantly, and in many cases, basically for free.

There are many reasons to be intellectually and financially curious about inventing better forms of money, but one of the ones that's most important to me is just financial access. If we bring billions of people into the economic influence of the internet, we will raise the standard of living for billions of people all over the world. In many cases, billions of people that have been completely underserved and completely ignored by some of our colleagues, just in the center of town here.

What's so cool about this is many people now all over the world, actually have a tool on their phone that gives them even better access to doing things like sending, receiving, securing, and trading digital forms of wealth than the people in Canary Wharf. To me, that is of fundamentally amazing opportunity and it's going to increase financial freedom and increase financial prosperity globally.

Nick: Big ideas. This is great. No, this is great. This is going back to the basics, which I love. Actually maybe to connect into some of the economic theory and economic philosophy here, I think a lot of this is rooted in sound money theory. This is a piece where I think there's a huge departure in modern political and economic thought away from sound money theory. There's been arguments and debates on this in some ways since the 1930s when a lot of the sound money theory really took hold. It was the Chicago school was thinking about this, Austrian economic philosophers, economists, others on Hayek, and others thinking about this.

I think part of the concept was a form of money that is built on a known supply and a fixed supply that it couldn't be abused in the way that governments abuse money. They dilute the money. Coinage classically was diluting the actual quality of the coin and a copper coin obviously or whatnot, but the dilution of money which was how inflation took place back in those days. Then obviously once paper money existed, that was theoretically gold-backed. The governments would take all kinds of actions that effectively change the exchange rate of the paper money to the amount of gold and it was, another form of inflation.

The sound money theory, I think the place where economists often get, I don't want to say hung up, but there's a big debate is, on the one hand, the theory is in a system of scarce value. It essentially forces fiscal discipline by definition because you don't have the ability to you inflate. It forces fiscal discipline and the concept being, "Well, that's a better system because actors in the economy have to live within the bounds of that scarcity and that from a rational economic act or perspective forces you to be able to be both more efficient and responsible.

That's a good thing. On the other hand, I think there's a view that you need to during periods of economic contraction where the real economy is disrupted in different ways, you need to be able to adjust fiscally in order to deal with stimulating economic activity in different ways. That's a root issue. If you get into a debate with most I would say probably 85% of economists, they'll just rip down things like Bitcoin saying, "You can't manage an economy if you have this because it's going to be deflationary and you're going to end up in a situation where that fiscal discipline is going to lead to really harsh economic outcomes for people."

I wonder, is sound money theory on that basis, which is really where Bitcoin is rooted, is that right in your view? Do you think that that's right that that level of fiscal discipline is what basically the world needs? Take the medicine and adapt and that's what you have to live with, or is there some other form of digital currency that uses a scare store value like Bitcoin, but also is something that can be utilized in the context of fiscal monetary policy?

These are very challenging questions that are being debated by very clever people all over the world. Let me provide a little personal view on it, potentially. I think we've watched our economies go through some fundamental reorganizations over the past 140 years. Famously here, the industrial revolution kicked off, the harnessing of steam power to broadly, massively increase our ability to farm and process goods. Then we had the assembly line come out. We remember the model Ford cars coming out one after another, and being able to quickly assemble things.

Then we had the computer revolution, which we've been growing up with. Arguably, there's a new reorganization happening, which I think is vastly misunderstood by policymakers. We basically spent the last 140 years being really good at reorganizing molecules, things in the real world. We create them, and we print them, and we do them faster and make them more efficient. We've increased access to all kinds of stuff.

If you look at the stuff that's decreased in price, it's almost all market-driven. Computer chips, cars, technology has driven the cost of access to things way down. In markets that are interfered with frequently by politicians, whether it's healthcare, education, commodities, subsidizing food production, all of these are getting more and more expensive. That's because of manipulation and changes to the economic policies, and how they distribute some of the wealth that governments decide to create in this Oracle database.

If we just take a moment to think about what the next 10 or 15 years look like, to me, it's extraordinarily obvious that the internet is going to be the greatest contributor globally to GDP by 2030. It will be itself the largest economy on earth. This economy needs a native system to settle and clear and transact precious information that's valuable. To me, that sounds a lot like some kind of money. Now, which type of money do you want to use on this system? I'm not sure it's my place to tell you, or actually, have a strong view on. You can choose to use Bitcoin as a store value on this system.

There are now many other cryptocurrencies that are tinkering with these fundamental economics in running market experiments over and over and over again, forming communities and testing to see which one of these things works the best. While a lot of us got into this for a variety of financial and intellectual and tactical curiosities, I think we all have to also accept that there's probably some new 17, 18-year-old kid who's dreaming up something that I can't even imagine the efficiencies that it could have, that will work even more effectively than the tools we've been building and scaffolding on from the previous decade.

In short, we got really good at organizing molecules in the last century. The next century is all about organizing electrons, and that's my foundational view of where we are. Then my view is also, we should deeply be encouraging and inviting innovation in this space. Better money is better for everybody in the world.

Jeremy: It was Von Hayek himself, who I think was writing a lot in the '30s. His last published work was the denationalization of currency, which now has a lot more meaning for people. In 1979, it didn't have as much meaning for people, it was considered like this guy's gone nuts. I think now we have seen it, it has happened. There has been a denationalization of currencies. It is just a fact of reality. People might want to put the genie back in the bottle. People might want to say, "I don't like this," or "This is bad," or all kinds of things, but the genie has left the bottle.

The interesting thing about it is that it's not like some corporation did this. It's actually just math and software. It's public and it's public intellectual property, it's a public good. Anyone can use it and it's just math has produced this.

Nick: I think it's also super important to point out that there isn't coercion happening here. No one is putting a gun to anybody's head to use this stuff, they're using it because they find it so much more useful than the alternatives. To me, those are all positive components.

Jeremy: This concept of competing currencies, we have competing currencies in the world today. Largely, the competing currencies that are used, the competition basically is which governments are most trustworthy with respect to their ability to repay their debts? That is essentially why you would choose a euro versus a dollar versus a yen versus Argentinian peso. It's will the government be able to repay its debts, gives you confidence interval in the currency, and more. There's network effects, there's utilization, there's all these things that drive the currency's adoption.

Now, we have this competition coming from non-government digital commodity money, which is fascinating. As you said, I think I've always been very, very reluctant to be a maximalist about any of this. I think you've seen that from me over the years.

Nick: You've taken criticism for that. [laughs]

Jeremy: I have. I got hammered for that for years and years and years and booed out of rooms and all this sort of stuff, but whatever.

[laughter]

Jeremy: I think it's turned out to be correct, meaning that a maximalist position on Bitcoin or Ethereum or anything else is not a good position to take because there is so much innovation happening here. It is evolving and you have open-source projects that are actually making changes to monetary policy. Ethereum's done this multiple times. Now, if I put on my Ethereum maximalist hat for a moment, the Ethereum maximalist will say, "Actually, Ethereum's got the better monetary policy now compared to Bitcoin in terms of scarcity, the actual inflation policy. It's a more constant, more slow-moving inflation policy.

It may end up being better, it has higher utility value. It's a commodity that has more use because it powers this global virtual machine and all the things you can build on it." Again, just putting on that hat for a moment. There is this super intense competition, but as you said, we're only 10 years in. Ethereum is basically seven, six, five, whatever number of years of heavy use. There's breakthroughs happening all the time.

Nick: They will continue. I think to deny that improvements in innovations should be just-- The maximalist perspectives in society I find usually to me draw relative danger to them. I think believing in a more improved future for anything, just having a perspective on that is more appealing to me. I got into this because of Bitcoin, and I still think Bitcoin is incredible and amazing. I think it's solved for a very specific use case so far. I still think it's possible for it to solve for more use cases in the future.

Interoperability across all this is also going to be one of the big stories I think, heading into the future. At the end of the day, myself, my firm, do not take a directional view on any one of these things. We're very much about enabling many outcomes here and ultimately just growing the pie bigger for everybody.

Jeremy: That makes sense. As you know, Circle, we've taken a view that there's a period of time here where the general utility of Fiat currency remains significant, and most transactions are priced in a unit of account that's constant, and that unit of account component stable value component has been really important for just everyday economic activity, et cetera [crosstalk]

Nick: Sure, buying coffee, buying plane tickets,-

Jeremy: All kinds of things.

Nick: -gain income trade.

Jeremy: Et cetera. Our view has always been that there's going to be these hybrid digital currency models. Originally, we tried to do that by providing real-time convertibility between dollars, pound, euros, and Bitcoin, and use Bitcoin.

Nick: I use you guys in the US, that's by far the best.

Jeremy: Definitely the best, but our mission was, how do we enable this hybrid interoperability? Interoperability to dollars, interoperability to Fiat, but all the openness of the public internet and essentially the form factor of cryptocurrency. We've obviously made progress on that with USDC and that's growing. I think coming back to some of the other discussions that we had, I think our view is that over the long run, again, we're in the early days here. Over the long run, I don't know if that's 10 years or 20 years or 30 years, there's going to very likely emerge new global digital currencies that act as a relatively stable unit of account. I don't think anyone knows what that's going to be.

Nick: I completely agree. We can see the direction of travel, the exact plot, and the characters in it, and everything else is still a little TBD. We are in a very interesting moment, a decade out from the genesis of all of this. If we think about the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic that we're all emerging from, and some of the similar, I would say, economic concerns and risks in the macroeconomic climate are pretty fascinating right now. To me, there are three huge macro trends, any one of which, if it existed, I would be pretty bullish on the future for crypto generally, but they're all here simultaneously.

We actually have an insert player three here actually just recently. For one, you have a macroeconomic climate where you have a billion people in wealthy countries around the world experiencing high degrees of inflation. There's a conversation right now happening, which is like, "Why is my milk getting more expensive? My gas just doubled in the last 8 to 12 months, baking everything. Am I being proportionately compensated for my work to deal with this? How do I protect the savings that I've worked so hard for, to make sure that they're not being destroyed by the increase in the cost of everything?"

People are having conversations around the dinner table about that. That's a really big deal. You also have traditional financial service providers that are looking to get yield for their pensioners, for their high net worth clients. These guys don't have a lot of their traditional packaging to go to anymore. They're looking for ways to diversify and get into liquid alternatives. The most liquid alternatives in the world are by far cryptocurrencies today.

Then the third, but arguably most powerful trend, is the cultural zeitgeist, the artists, the musicians, the creators of the content that we consume and entertain ourselves with, are now having a discussion about how do they have more ownership over the things that they create? Is there a way to better align their fans and their communities to actually be rewarded for ingesting their content? The last 12 months, we've seen this incredible proliferation and discussion for everything from NFTs to digital collectibles, to tokenize music collections, tokenize property potentially and all this is happening at the same time.

Now, we have a whole new example, just in the last three weeks with the ground war in Europe. It's like, well, we now have a whole bunch of new risk introduced to global order, honestly, in the society of nations. This is sparking up another conversation, Ukrainians have seen over $100 million of crypto donations flow in, which is five times more than the United Nations pledged. There are people all over the world coordinating capital, responding to the risk in the world, and making creative investments.

Jeremy: It's mind-blowing.

Nick: It is absolutely incredible to be at the nexus of it all and then also to be working on tools to I think, extend and expand human freedoms, especially in the face of fighting autocracy, which is right on the doorstep here in Europe, not that far from where we sit today.

Jeremy: I want to pivot a little bit into that geopolitical discussion because I think it's really important. I don't know if you read I forget the title of a book, but Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, wrote a book with the former head of product at Google as well. I think it was probably six, seven years ago, eight years ago. Effectively, it laid out a vision for the challenges that the internet faces in the future. I feel like Eric had a really interesting vantage point because he could see what governments were doing with respect to the internet.

I think crypto and my own background with the internet has always been this concept of this open global network that anyone can connect to, the freedom of exchange of information without intermediaries now, the exchange of value without intermediaries, more self-sovereignty, all these things, super powerful. There's embedded values in that. there's embedded political philosophy.

Nick: The risk of democratic failure.

Jeremy: There's embedded guys in that which I think, resonate for many people in the world. In Eric Schmidt's book, he laid out a vision, he made a strong case for a balkanization of the internet, and that was likely to happen. What would that mean? Now, what's happening in the world, I think, just like the pandemic accelerated digitalization, in so many arenas, the new geopolitical crisis is going to accelerate the balkanization of the internet itself. We've seen services in Russia completely shut off. You've seen tightening up of various forms of state control in China, as well.

I think one of the natural outcomes of the economic interventions that have happened is that I think other governments around the world are going, "Wait a minute, do I have the actual control? What do I need to worry about here?" I'm wondering if we see the risk of that open internet fracturing and what does that mean for crypto as well? Where we see stronger measures taken by governments, whether they're democratically elected governments or not, that are basically trying to draw harder lines around information freedoms or economic freedoms are other things in the name of national security, in the name of drawing these hard walls. Is there a digital iron curtain that is going to be built?

There is already a little bit with China, but is there going to be a bigger digital iron curtain built? What are the implications of that?

Nick: Well, I think you made some very valid points and raised huge concerns about the direction of travel on some of that. If you look at the parts of the world that have put the most stringent censorship systems over information, it's places that are generally led by autocrats or dictators, and they want to control, they want to manage how people understand their narrative and this should be resisted. I am really worried about it, though, because unfortunately, cryptocurrencies speaking from a pure policy perspective, combine everything our leaders, and politicians don't really understand about technology with everything they don't really understand about money.

It makes it really intimidating to think about these challenges. When I have these conversations, and I know you're doing the Lord's work in Washington, and around the world on this, it's to step back and get to those first principles, again, which is like, what do we stand for, and what kind of world do we want to live in. If we surrender a little bit of information freedom, or a little too much control over our privacy, or a little bit too much about how we spend our time, or who we can talk to, or where we can learn, we end up over time in dangerous outcomes.

My hope is that there's few trends that I think are positive. Switching to the view of maybe there isn't some horrific technological dystopian future where countries are just technical prisoners of their own geographies, which I hope is not the case. We've got some cool things happening. Starlink is the high ground. Again, projecting information from space, basically to anyone that has a receiver to choose to opt into the internet that I grew up with, and the one that I think is one of the most powerful tools for human coordination of time and talent, ever.

It will still be possible to beam I think into these other countries. Ultimately, if I think about it from a national security perspective, as an American, or as someone who lives in the UK, and I care a lot about this place, my wife is here, my family is here, I want to build a better form of money that competes with whatever those guys come up with. Because if they can't move it around, if it has no economic velocity, if it can only be traded between Iran and China and Russia, I think they're going to commit economic suicide.

We should head the complete opposite direction and build money that can basically beam anywhere in the world instantly, be accessible by everybody who's on the internet, and basically bring billions of people into the economic influence of the internet. You do that, you live up to your values, you increase prosperity and wealth for people in the world, especially amongst the most vulnerable people in the world that didn't have access to financial services.

Depending on the circumstances of your birth, or what your credit score was, or what geography you were born into, these tools can bring mass scale to basic systems of creating dignity in the world, which is working and earning things and developing wealth and creating new markets. To me, the national security argument is to lean in fast as possible.

Jeremy: Now, we make that case very strongly as well. I want a ladder off of what you just shared, and with what I think is also a point of optimism, which is, what's amazing about crypto is obviously there's these new digital commodity monies, there's stable value digital currencies, there's this infrastructure layer where people are innovating. One of the breakthroughs, this is something that drew me into this space originally because it was just early ideas people had, which was when you have an infrastructure like this, you can actually create new corporate forms.

You can create new organizational forms and the organizational forms exist entirely in software mediated ways and the organization, the economic relationships between the actors in those, the funds or the treasuries of those, the governance, the decisions, all this can actually happen on an open public decentralized infrastructure. Where literally the same thing just like anyone could initially exchange say Bitcoin, now anyone can participate in economic coordination and decision-making coordination and information coordination on the public Internet.

The Dows that are forming all over the place right now, I think we're just at the tip of the iceberg that we're going to see millions of these form in the coming years. I would argue over, maybe, five years or so, some of the most successful organizations in the world that are producing some of the most exciting things in the world are going to be these new types of corporate forms. That transcends that political and economic constraints, the world is going to need to adapt to that but it is, I think, an optimistic view of what can come out of this.

Nick: I'm so excited about those things. Traditionally, building companies is extraordinarily difficult, and coordinating people's time and talent is also very difficult but the internet gives us amazing tools to do so. If I look into the crystal ball too, I see that future. We went from a bunch of nerds doing peer-to-peer electronic cash payments on the internet to building decentralized autonomous organizations group this year, coordinated a bid to try and purchase a version of the US Constitution in seven days.

That was just a little thing. You could imagine buying collections of art that were previously impossible to get access to, franchised ownership over all kinds of things, market access for people to have opportunities to invest in things that would have never been possible just a few years ago. Again, this is like we build an economy that has more liquidity, more access to it, increases the standard of living for people around the world, this is all going to be tooled by cryptocurrencies, and, basically, blockchains as native utilities for the internet.

To me, there's nothing more exciting to be working on in the history of my life. I think about the big things that really changed the world, like the printing press, completely changed our relationship to the study of stories. At one point, there was only one book in the world and then this thing came out--

Jeremy: That's [crosstalk] political and economic changes.

Nick: Yes, and then, now we're in a whole other world where we can create this, to me, a more positive one than the one we inherited. To me, that's a big deal.

Jeremy: Coming back, full-circle, origin story. You're seeing that and saying, "Wow, the impact of this is going to be profound. I want to take my career on it." Sounds like you were pretty excited and optimistic then, it sounds like you're even more excited and optimistic now. So am I. It's a really, obviously a very, very special time to be working on all this.

Nick: Just got back from doing planning for the next year. We have more open roles than at any point in the company's history. I'm sure you guys do too. For anyone that heard anything that sounded interesting to them, please come build with us. We are so keen. We need help from every background to create this better financial future for everybody.

Jeremy: Awesome, Nick. Great conversation. Thank you so much for joining.

Nick: Thank you so much. It's great to [crosstalk]

Jeremy: Absolutely.

Jeremy Allaire
Co-Founder, CEO & Chairman at Circle
Nicolas Cary
Co-Founder & Vice Chairman at Blockchain.com

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