Blockchain Innovators is an easy to listen to, informative video where the host, Web3 Labs founder and CEO, Conor Svensson talks to guests who have made significant contributions to the blockchain ecosystem during the past five-plus years.
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In this episode of Blockchain Innovators, Conor Svensson - founder and CEO of Web3 Labs, talks to Dan Burnett - Executive Director at Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.
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Hi it's Conor Svensson here, founder and CEO of Web3 Labs. This is a conversation I had with Dan Burnett, the Executive Director of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. Dan is a standards expert having been involved in the space for over 20 years, starting off with Voice XML, and then Web RTC before moving on in more recent years to Verifiable Credentials Data standards and blockchain. He got involved first in blockchain in 2017 when he joined ConsenSys and then moved on to his role of the Executive Director of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance in 2020. In this conversation, we discuss his journey with standards and also why they're so important for business. We also discuss how verifiable credentials fit in the context of decentralized identity and why this along with DeFi are such crucial innovations built on top of blockchain. It was also fascinating to learn his own personal perspectives here and I'm sure you'll appreciate his views too. Hi, Dan Burnett, fantastic to have you here! It's great to be here, thanks for inviting me. So, you've been working in standards for a long, long time, I believe starting in 1999. Was that with Voice XML? I'd love to hear your origin story of how you got into this world but also why it is so important as well and what's kept you so engaged with it for all this time. It's a world that I only learned about through my work through the EEA but you know to get the perspective that you can obviously bring here is huge. And so, I really want to dig into some of those details. Sure, sure, so I got a PHD in Computer Science and while I was doing that of course, it's research right? So I was working on using neural networks for speech recognition, very popular today. Neural networks are used for all kinds of things, many, many machine learning applications today and I enjoyed it. But, I also very quickly realized that I did not, I was not that interested in the life of a researcher per se. I actually, I did it, I did have a research job for a couple years at SBC, which is the company that the telephone company that bought AT&T a number of years later, and then moved to a company named Nuance, which is still today the leader in speech recognition technology or most well-known, I should say. I shouldn't call them the leader, I should say they're the most well known. But anyway, so I was living in the Bay Area at the time. I joined the research group there, a research group and realized that I actually did not want to do research. But, what happened at the same time was that I heard about this effort happening at W3C. It was a an attempt to standardize APIs to speech recognition engines and the particular approach they were using I thought 'that's really backwards, who's doing that, that's not the most advanced kind of dialogue stuff you can do'. So, my boss said 'well why don't you go there and tell them that and get them to do the right stuff'. And what happened was, it was interesting, I showed up at this meeting, at the first of my Voice XML meetings and I realized several things. First, they weren't going to stop what they were doing and second, Nuance really needed to be involved because they were defining something that Nuance was going to eventually have to implement and Nuance wasn't involved. So I on the spot volunteered to lead the development of a particular piece of work even though I had no approval from my boss to do that, right? And that's just because I knew we had to be involved. So then I went back and I told my boss and he's like 'what are you doing?', right? I said 'no trust me, we have to do this'. And it was interesting because over time, my boss was not that excited about me doing it because I wasn't getting my research work done but I was getting more and more involved in the standards work and eventually his boss wanted me to keep doing it. So, eventually Nuance created a position for me to continue doing the work because it was so valuable and it turns out that that was the first standard that all the speech recognition companies implemented. That was Voice XML. So, that was that was a real eye-opener for me and I think when I talked with people about that standard and they would say 'well, but it's not as advanced as this or not as advanced as that' and I would say 'well look, HTML was a big step backwards for the desktop publishing community, when HTML came out it was really inferior in terms of presentation to what you could do with all the desktop publishing tools but look at what it did for the world!' Okay, HTML completely revolutionized the way the world operated. And I would say that this particular API, Voice XML, did the same thing for speech recognition. So what I learned through that process was that standards are politics and a technology domain, okay? You have to be technical, right? If you're not technical then you don't even have the, you know, you can't even begin the discussions, right? You can't join if you don't have the technical background. But what happens is companies push their business agendas through the technology space there and so you have to understand the technology but you also have to understand the politics that are driving why a particular company wants a particular solution. I think standards are a great opportunity particularly for small companies to have an outsized voice, basically much bigger than they might in just the marketplace, particularly when they're up against the larger incumbent players. So, standards give you an ability to come in and help define how everyone is going to work in that space. So, that was a real eye-opener and I discovered that I actually enjoyed it. It was interesting to do a piece of work that required maintaining a particular focus over the span of years. It drives most technical people nuts, right? They show up and they're like 'but why aren't they just doing the obvious technical solution?' Well, the reason they're not doing that is because what's obvious to you is not obvious to these other players. And so, my favorite thing actually over the years, you know I graduated slowly from being someone who's just trying to push a particular perspective, to someone who's trying to help get the standard done, to someone who's trying to guide an industry in the development of standards. And one of the things that I really enjoy is taking a group of competitors, because standards is where competitors come together, to create something that all of them need, right? I enjoy taking a group of competitors who all come in convinced that everyone else is a moron because they're not doing things the way they do them, okay? And I'm serious, the technical people all come in with that attitude like 'you guys if you really knew, you know if you were really smart, you would do what I'm doing!' No! That's not true, okay? But eventually what happens is the people who are working together realize that actually the other people are also smart, they just have different constraints. And once you get past that initial barrier of assuming that no one else is as smart as you are, that's when you really begin to make progress and you begin to create something that can move an entire industry forward. Is it ideal for any single participant? Probably not. But the end result, if you do it right, is something that lifts all of the boats in your industry and propels it to be the solution. So one of those, and I'm sure we'll get to it, is when I talk about verifiable credentials and decentralized identifiers. I think that's one of the examples I like to use now. But, I would say even for Web RTC, Voice XML, in each of these spaces that I operated in my background, in my career, it was the company is coming together to produce this that allowed it to become the default that was used in the industry and to propel that particular industry forward. And at what point did you feel is the right time for a technology to start looking at standards? Because, it sounds, to talk to when your first entrance into it was somewhat fortuitous but also your company was kind of ahead of the competition there. So they no doubt felt there was a competitive advantage to that, but then you had these people who'd kind of come together and said 'oh yeah, I think we need to standardize this stuff'. And so, what were kind of the telltale signs? Because I'm sure there's going to be people listening to this who just haven't really engaged with standards at all, they obviously use things that are built on standards but it's kind of knowing when is that point that's kind of most beneficial because you've got to balance it with pure R&D and more typical research versus where you actually have something that's worthwhile, where you do have an ecosystem evolving and businesses and so on. That's an excellent question. So there are times when it's obvious that standards are needed and one of those is where there's kind of an unwritten agreement that things are done a certain way. An example of that is in the speech recognition space. When we first started, everyone used a particular form for speech recognition grammars basically where you listed the words that the recognition engine would listen for. There was a particular way that was done in the academic community but no one had written it down as the requirement. They hadn't defined a single format. It's basically Bacchus now Reform, okay, so for grammars. So that was a no-brainer, right? We absolutely needed to do that. But, I think the optimal time for standards development, it's not when you only have one company doing a particular thing, it's when you get to where you have five or six who have provided different ways, different APIs to doing the same thing and their customer base is beginning to be frustrated with feeling like they have to make a choice. And I've seen this happen in industry after industry after industry. If you're producing a product and you think 'well I want everyone to use my API because then they'll be locked into using me', that's a risky thing to do because your customers aren't stupid, okay? They know if you are locking them into your API, they know that you've done that and if they don't like something else in your product and you're offering in your business arrangements, whatever, then eventually they will move. There's a cost to moving but they will do it okay if they're unhappy at all. So, paradoxically by implementing and supporting the standard, you take that concern away. Okay? And so now you're competing on the other aspects of business which you really should be competing on. So again, when you're the only one doing it, you don't need to worry about that but when you get to where you've got like five or six different competitors and the problem that you're encountering in the space is someone saying 'well I don't know, are you going to be the one who lasts? Are you going to be the one who's going to survive five years from now? Are you still going to exist?' And that can actually be a barrier to someone adopting your particular solution. At that point, the standard is an advantage because then you can say 'look you don't have to worry about whether I'm going to be the one who's going to exist five years from now because we all implement this particular standard'. Now it turns out most companies, most customers or prospective customers, they want the standard but that does not make them more likely to switch. That's a real surprise. I think there's a concern that that is going to make someone more likely to switch but that's usually not the case. What they want is the knowledge that they could switch if necessary, okay? I think that's something that most people don't understand about standards, right? What it does is it allows for the person who's trying to decide which solution to adopt, it gives them the comfort of knowing that they could switch and thus that's not a risk for them, that maybe you go out of business, okay? So it just, it takes that concern off the table and now it can be about the business arrangements. It can be about cost, it can be about all of the other factors that they would really like to be focusing on. And actually, you know on that specific point, I think when you talk about those sorts of time horizons as well, that people need to know that this stuff is going to be available to. Do you think that it's often initially more business driven rather than consumer-driven, the need for standards? Because, I can think a lot of the time with like large enterprises for instance, they're assessing different vendors or they're assessing different solutions, they're thinking about those sorts of time horizons. Whereas, I would counter that probably your average consumer is not and whilst in things like telecoms networks which are of course, a great example for where the standards have proliferated and so on, I'm sure there's a lot of problems within that. But, there's still this underlying thing though that consumers can kind of jump between different networks and so on. But then if you look at the software standards in terms of what exists on the internet in terms of the web 2.0 type stuff, Facebook, Google, Amazon, having all this data in their own proprietary formats, it feels like we've got a lot further to go on the consumer side there. But to bring it back, do you think that it's often enterprises that help get them off the ground because they have those kind of more long-term time horizons built in and then it tends to start to benefit consumers down the line? Absolutely, absolutely. Standards are primarily something for business to business. They're not usually so much for individual consumers although we do have standards in our everyday lives - the wall outlets for power, I think, USB. You know, the USB actually it's a fascinating example because it's not uniform around the world, okay? It may be uniform within a country, maybe within a geographical region, but it's not uniform around the world but the truth is that without some standards there it would be impossible. In fact, if you remember cell phones right before the USB, the USB A format became popular, it was horrible, right? There was a different charger for every cell phone. It was a complete nightmare. Everyone had a completely different connector and finally there were some standards that showed up for USB and now USB-C and that's made a huge difference there, right? That people can for mobile devices, you can almost always find that cord and an ability to charge your device. But you know the analogy I would say for the blockchain space is, there is an analogy here and that is - how much do average consumers today trust putting their value on blockchains, right? There's a reason that there continues to be huge amounts of interest in cross-chain interoperability research attempts to standardize and so on and it's because none of us knows today who's going to exist 50 years from today, right? So I may trust certain amounts of value on Ethereum but do I have all of my retirement money tied up there today? In fact I could ask you, right? Do you have all of your retirement money, right? So I know the answer, okay? I don't even have to ask that question, right? Everyone has some amount of money that they don't want to put there because they just don't know, right? Even Bitcoin, which has been around for a long time, we just don't know 50 years from today whether Bitcoin will be around so I have my own thoughts as to who the winners will be when everything shakes out but there's a risk for me as a consumer with really trusting all of my assets to one particular chain. And so I think as we get more comfortable with cross-chain movement of assets, as consumers get more comfortable with how the technology works then that will make a difference, so standards there will help. So, what was it that actually brought you into the world of blockchain? Because you'd kind of established yourself within the web world with these contributions within W3C, but then you joined ConsenSys where you started getting involved in standards and of course, I was involved in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance at that point and very fortunate to have people like you there who are able to ensure that we're going about things on the right track. But, what was it that pulled you in so to speak? So, I've worked for a number of different companies, large and small, mainly startups. In 2014, I started my own standards consulting business so I could work for a variety of different organizations and was working on the verifiable credentials and decentralized identifiers which I'm still connected with today. But, I was ready for something different and I took a look at what were the two technology areas that I was most interested in that I thought I could, you know, I had a good enough technical understanding of, that I thought would change the world. Because that's what I wanted to do. And the two areas were machine learning and blockchain technology. I thought those two, look I don't have a medical background so there's a lot of great genetic based work that is going to change the world as well, but I don't have that kind of medical background. But, with a computer science background, machine learning and blockchain were the two and so I was looking for basically the best opportunity to start with there. So I actually caught myself up on machine learning, on the complete state of machine learning as of 2017. I was completely caught up and I was running my own training, I was doing my own neural network training on my home computer and trying to buy more compute power, which I couldn't get because those darn miners had grabbed all the GPUs, you couldn't hardly get them in 2017! It was pissing me off! But then this opportunity came up at ConsenSys, and I said 'you know what, let me go there'. And, as I said, sort of brought myself up to speed in the state of the art on both technologies at the time. So, I joined ConsenSys and it's interesting, ConsenSys. So, my father was... this is going to be a little bit of a digression... my father was in the navy in the U.S. and anyone in the navy says that if you stay in the navy long enough in the U.S. you eventually move to the Norfolk area, Norfolk Virginia because the naval base there it's just the place that everybody goes through. And I think ConsenSys is kind of the same thing for the Ethereum space, okay? It's kind of like 'yes I had my tour of duty through ConsenSys'. It's not a bad thing to have gone through ConsenSys, right, because you get exposed to a huge variety, at least of the Ethereum space. Yeah, and you see what everyone, what people have come out of ConsenSys have gone on to create as well. There's a lot of companies in the blockchain ecosystem who are doing big things. That's exactly right. There's a lot that comes out of ConsenSys. It's not a bad thing to have worked at ConsenSys for a while, it's really a good place to start, I think. Now of course, I was very aware of the EEA and you didn't specifically, well actually let me not get into that yet, I mean we can go there if you want but anyway that's how I got involved with with blockchain technologies. I said 'what are the two technologies that I think have the greatest potential to change the lives of everyday people?' and I think they're machine learning and blockchain technology. I personally think machine learning is actually going to affect probably more people's lives eventually, ultimately, than even blockchain technology just because people's jobs are going to be directly impacted by machine learning technology, right? As more and more gets automated and okay, I can't just let that stand, I do have to make a statement about that now that I've said that. My friends who asked me 'well, what's going to happen you know with machine learning? It's going to take all our jobs away!' and I think my answer to that is, I think all of the science fiction predictions for a future world where humans don't have to work, everything's taken care of by machines, all of that is actually going to be possible. I'm not saying within 10 years or 20 years, but I think that future is doable. Unfortunately, there may be a whole bunch of social pain between here and there as we figure out how to ensure that the benefits are shared more equally in society, right? The benefits of this automation if you look at the Ubers and the Airbnbs and all of that and you look at the people that it's helped and the people who've lost jobs because of it. If we can figure out a way to help the gains that the users get be distributed financially more equally among those who have lost their jobs as a result of it, I think that we'll move more towards that kind of world. Now, why am I bringing that up? I'm bringing that up because blockchain technology and in particular Ethereum let's face it, Ethereum was started because of a great observation by Vitalik, right? That you can do a lot more than just make a currency with the distributed ledger technology. But there was also, I think, a desire by many early participants to change the world, to decentralize all the things and not just to get rich quickly, okay? Although there's plenty of that but, actually to make for a more equitable world and a more inclusive world. So it may it may surprise some people to hear me the Executive Director of the EEA talk about this sort of social agenda. Definitely within the EEA, I'm here and the EEA is here to serve business, to serve industry but I think that we will serve business and serve industry the best ultimately by serving the world, okay? By enabling people who have had no participation in the entire financial and internet ecosystem that the rest of us are deeply involved in today. So that's why I did it, right? I did it because I'm looking forward to the potential and I think Ethereum today has the greatest potential to be the layer one that enables this new world, that is a more equitable world. Now, that doesn't mean that a lot of people with money today aren't going to do quite well with the financial innovations that are showing up but, honestly when people ask me about DeFi today, decentralized finance, I think DeFi is the promise, is beginning to show the promise that Ethereum made when Ethereum was created, right? DeFi was envisioned by those who created Ethereum when it started. I'm really passionate about this because I think we're beginning to see today the realization of a lot of the promise that existed even when Ethereum started. It's just being called DeFi and it is this ability for anybody to stake, to provide liquidity, to transact with low transaction fees, and fees and relatively high speeds, right? Whether it's on Ethereum directly itself or whether it's on layer twos. I love it, I love this ability! I like the fact that I can put a thousand dollars into a liquidity pool and get the same interest rate as someone who put a million dollars in, right? That is not something that you can do today in the traditional financial system. If you're not an accredited investor, meaning literally, accredited literally means you have credit - you have lots of money already, right? Then you don't have the ability to do that. So I think I'm really really excited about this. We are going to see regulation move in, it has to, right? So people who think that all those regulators are just for centralized finance, no, sorry no, regulation is going to move in. But my hope is that the continued pressure for faster speed, lower costs, fewer individual middlemen essentially, we'll just continue and so the regulation will eventually be about what the end result is and less about restricting, adding human barriers to individuals being able to participate in these kinds of systems. Yeah, and it's certainly such a key point as well, the DeFi angle there, because you so much of the more westernized press about it is focused on the yields and so on. The people are getting these startups that are coming up with new ways to do things and the value there but it's, as you rightly highlight, a site those people who are in those parts of the world where they can't take for granted that they have a reliable fiscal money system wherever they live. And yes, there are criticisms like the cost of transacting with DeFi and Ethereum but at the same time here's a way for anyone to actually access it. It is non-discriminatory and so at least people in these other places too can engage with this in some context and that is incredibly powerful. And rightly I think not enough is said about that side of the coin with DeFi, this is so important. I think if people...what I really would like to encourage actually, I said this when I joined the EEA, what I would love to encourage innovators to focus on is how to make it, continue to make it, simpler. Continue to make it more accessible. It was interesting, I was talking yesterday with someone who said 'oh you know, what is it that you do?' and I was trying to explain it, this is someone who is not technical, doesn't know anything about finance, any of that, right? And so, they're just a little nervous when they hear about Bitcoin or Ethereum like 'I think I've heard of that but I don't know what that is', right? So I was talking with them and then they always ask me, of course, 'do you have any tips?' and I just said the same thing that I always say which is, that just like it's recommended that you have five percent or something, of your net investable wealth in precious metals and art and things like that, right? The same thing is true for cryptocurrencies because look if it goes to zero it's not going to kill you, if it goes up by a factor of 10 you'll be glad you did it, right? And so I mentioned this to this person and she said 'yeah, but how would I do that?' I said "well, yeah, okay..." and I started just trying to explain and like I mean, it's just the onboarding is just a nightmare. It's still a nightmare even with Paypal, even with Robinhood, even with others beginning to allow you to even purchase the currencies themselves, much less all the rest of DeFi, okay? It's still hard and people don't understand it and that's painful. So I think that what I'm most excited about is when I hear of projects that try to make it easy for anybody to get onboarded on your mobile device without a lot of knowledge about how it works. Yeah, absolutely. And kind of, I guess, tied in with all of this as well is identity. I know that DeFi has been more about inclusive finance but there's of course, a big identity angle as well. You mentioned earlier on about your involvement with verifiable credentials. First of all, I think it'd be useful to talk about that but also why it's important and how that relates to decentralized identity, which is obviously a very hot topic as well with blockchain and especially with inclusiveness as well on it for people in those parts of the world who don't have things like birth certificates and identities, which is a real problem. Right, so let me... I'm gonna have to take my Executive Director hat off for this conversation because when I talk about the verifiable credentials work it is blockchain agnostic and I will say that that's the best thing ever. So you know Ethereum maximalists are not gonna like to hear me say that, so I'm just gonna take that hat off, okay? Alright, so the verifiable credentials were created to help address problems that people claim they need identity to solve, okay? And I use that phrasing very purposefully. I have watched the identity space change, we get one new paradigm after another but in almost every paradigm there is someone who wants to provide your identity. They want to do this for you and essentially what that means is they want to be the gatekeeper. They want to be the controller for your identity. I hate that! I think that's exactly the wrong way to go about things, okay? Because what you're doing is then you have to figure out how to build privacy back in. You have to build the the safety back in. How do you, if there's somebody who's providing your identity? Then what happens when they get hacked? What happens when they are told by a political, a geopolitical region, that you're not allowed to have that identity? Okay? So that was actually the inspiration behind verifiable credentials and decentralized identifiers. Verifiable credentials just say 'look, let's almost treat identity as an emergent property and say that all we really need in order to do a transaction, any given transaction, is to know certain properties about you (and by the way I don't have to know that those properties are true) I just have to know whether I trust the entity that claims those properties about you to make those claims.' So, verifiable credentials are literally just a set of claims made by an issuer about a subject and that's what goes in the credential and then that credential is given to a holder which may well be the subject of those properties or it could be someone else and then that holder can give that credential to a verifier and the verifier can verify that that issuer made those claims about that subject. Notice I didn't say truth, anything about truth, in there anywhere. It's up to the verifier to determine whether they trust that issuer to have made those claims, okay? But, they can be assured through cryptography, through digital signatures that are in the credentials. That that issuer did make those claims, that issuer ID to be more precise, made those claims about that subject identifier, okay? So in the case of one of those parties that you don't really want to have this information for, say Google, Facebook, with their sign in. Of course, they could, in this model they could be the provider of the credentials and then there's that question of whether you trust that. Is that fair to say? That that could slot in? I know it's not ideal. That's exactly right. So often what happens, I have a conversation all the time with people about this, and they say 'well okay, well it should be the government that issues it' okay? Maybe so if you trust your government, then that's great, okay? But, you're not just trusting your government and your government's intent, you're also trusting that they haven't been hacked, okay? That no one's been... no individual has been bribed or you know who has access to it now. And the same thing applies whether you're talking about Google or Facebook or any other issuer. The advantage of this is that it makes a parent something which is implicit in all the other systems that exist today. What's implicit in these systems that exist today is that that issuer is always 100 percent trustworthy under every potential scenario. That's not true, it cannot be true, okay? So what the credentials make clear is that you as a verifier are making an explicit trust assumption by your policy. Your policy is that you trust that issuer to have made those claims. Now the reason this is valuable is that maybe you actually for those particular claims have a whole collection of potential issuers that you could trust and maybe you trust these ones today and not these others today, right? When someone says 'well but how do I know which issuer to trust?' Well, which one's been hacked recently? It's your policy that determines which ones you trust today and maybe what you don't know for any of them on any given day. So you have three or four, let's say you have five, okay? And you just take majority rule, whatever the majority rule claim is, okay? Because you don't know which ones might have been hacked or compromised in some way. So that's verifiable credentials, okay? It separates the part that we can prove cryptographically, which is that you know x identity issued these particular claims, and the part that is always a human piece and that is do you trust them to have made those claims, right? An issuer can claim that the sky is purple and the grass is pink, okay? That's fine, that's allowed in a verifiable credential. It's just do you trust them to have made those claims? Now the decentralized identifiers came about because when we looked at the IDs you notice I mentioned an issuer ID and a subject ID. We were trying to figure out what what should go there and in particular for the subject identifier we thought 'well what are we going to do? What are we going to allow? Well, we should allow email addresses, right? Yeah that sounds good. Well, do you allow Facebook accounts, do you have Google accounts?' Then we thought 'you know what? Maybe we should just make it a url and say you know, you can trust urls, right?' Well, the urls depend on the domain name system and if you're certain companies in certain countries, you might find that you don't control that identifier in that country and in fact not only do you not control it, but they can replace it to be anything they want it to be, right? This is important and we realized no one controls their own identifiers today, right? Not only can someone take, administratively take an identifier away from you if their Google or Facebook or the domain name system but they can actually replace it with someone else without your permission at any time, okay? Well luckily, when we were realizing we had this issue, blockchain technology existed and we thought'you know what, maybe we can actually create identifiers that are anchored on a blockchain.' Now what does anchored mean? All anchored means is that essentially the existence of that identifier is in some way tied to a particular blockchain that is not controlled by any one centralized entity, okay? So now you can have identifier that you can say that you own, we actually don't use the word own anymore because that has problems, we say you control that identifier because you are the one who has the keys necessary to prove the creation of that identifier. And, as long as you don't give away those keys, no one else can go in and have that identifier mean or point to something else and that's where the notion of a decentralized identifier came from. And so when we take that back to the example you're giving just now in terms of where you've got the issuer of the credential and I guess, the triangle of trust so to speak, how does that differ then from the model where you've got Google issuing like some identifier and you then switch to a decentralized version of it and how that would affect the end user? While there are a number of ways I could answer that question, I think one notion that we talked about quite often was the idea that you could bring your own identifier. So instead of Google being the issuer of the identifier, you can get that identifier using any provider that Google would accept, okay? So the question now is 'which decentralized identifiers formats would Google accept?' I shouldn't say format, I'm trying to avoid describing DID methods, okay? But essentially, the DID method is the particular form of that identifier and which blockchain it's anchored on and how that anchoring is done, okay? So the key here is, I mean, obviously if Google- just use them as an example - refuse to accept any DID method other than their own, then it doesn't actually change anything for you practically speaking, okay? But, we're already beginning to see a number of DID methods that are being accepted by other verifiers essentially and by other issuers. So, the idea would be that, I don't want to use necessarily Google or Facebook as the example but, if I wanted to get a digital version of my school grade record of my university or my degree proof that I had a PHD, then what I would do is I would go to my institution, usually the registrar's office which is the one that actually gives you stamped print copies today, what I would do is, they would say 'we accept these DID methods, DIDs that use these DID methods'. I would go and get an identifier using one of those DID methods, I would come to my registrar's office then and I would use whatever identity verification system they used today without showing my driver's license or whatever. They would say 'okay, we trust that it's you' and then I would do a process where I use my secret key for that identifier so it's clear that I'm the one who controls that identifier in proving that I'm the subject. Basically, I control this identifier which they use as the subject in what they issue now. So they issue a credential that this subject has this particular degree or had these grades and then they give me that credential and now I hold that in my digital wallet and I can hand that to anyone else and they can go and verify that. So for example, an employer, right? So, I go to get a job. They want to know that I have this degree. So, I hand them that credential and I prove that I am the controller of that subject identifier and they can go and find the public ID of that issuer and so then all the pieces have been connected. Yeah, I think when you sort of break it down and explain it, it's just such a logical obvious place that we need to get to with respect to the decentralized identifiers and it's no doubt more quite complex as well because there's so many identity systems that are already in use between whether it's governments across organizations and so on and so it's going to be a long-term migration. But, I think I've certainly not met anyone who doesn't appreciate the potential there of decentralized identities. The main thing, the main advantage is, something that I haven't talked about, that when you actually get into using this, that you realize is that these are simple components that can be chained and the value is in the chaining, right? So there's an issuer and I'm a subject and so on, but but the point is that it allows you to only require the minimum amount of information necessary for a transaction to occur because you can trust that the cryptography was right all the way along for everything else. So if I'm an individual, let's say I'm a realtor, and I want to go see a house that's being constructed that I might want to sell, right? I can prove that I have taken a safety training course to the contractor who is on the site, who is not allowed to let anyone on the site who has not taken a safety class, okay? And I can do that without ever showing my driver's license with my picture, with whatever, they don't even need to know that I'm a realtor, they just need to know that I have that safety certification training. And it turns out that this approach allows for this minimalist you know, only giving the least amount of information necessary in order to accomplish the transaction and so that's what enables the privacy. It doesn't require it, it doesn't enforce it, but it does enable it because we do not require big comprehensive storing of databases about you for everything that you try to do. Yeah, yeah and of course, that data, there's not really anything to be hacked then as well and stolen and you know, identities be compromised. So, just moving away from identity because I'm sure we could keep going on about this, I mean, it's such an awesome space! But we've talked about DeFi too, and standards, but what are the other areas of blockchain if any, that really appeal to you or you're very keenly following? I think DID and DeFi are massive in itself so I get it if that's kind of enough! Yeah, those are pretty massive! I don't know that there's any particular area other than, you know, if you if you just call DeFi an area then that encompasses an enormous amount, okay? So I don't know that there is any particular use case that I care about more than any other. If you look at supply chain whether you're using VCs and DIDs for that or whether you're using direct blockchain solutions those are definitely going to be an advantage, I think. I just like seeing this usage - how do I put it? - I just want to encourage people to think about the trust piece, right? We are so used to requiring a third-party human whenever two humans who don't know each other want to get something done, right? That's the way every transaction works today between you and someone else that you don't know and I think that that can be disrupted absolutely everywhere. I don't think we have seen yet today the applications that are really going to be dramatically life-changing. I think there is a whole world of transactions in the medical space, for example, that can take advantage of again VCs and DIDs for the identity stuff or can take advantage of trust assumptions that there are today that I haven't seen anyone really touch on, they haven't even heard, they haven't even begun yet, and I think it's because there is just this assumption that a human being must always be the one to provide this trusted piece of information between two other human beings in a transaction. I think that we're eventually going to get away from that. I think the world will realize that we can trust a computer to ensure that this human did this thing and this other human did this other thing that's necessary in order for that transaction to occur and once we, really, once the world has really grasped that properly it would be possible for me to go and pick up a prescription at a pharmacy or have it mailed to me without having the pharmacy have to deal necessarily directly with an insurance company or directly with my doctor even, right? The pharmacy doesn't need to know which doctor prescribed it. The pharmacy doesn't need to know which insurance company is paying for it, okay? That's not required today. These are all things that I think are going to be a real shock to people when we've finally gotten to where that's not required in order for a transaction to occur. Yeah, and as you say, these key building blocks that need to be in place before that, one is the addressing this on route to DeFi but also when DID technology is readily available. It's like that's kind of the base layer that provides the foundations for all these incredible innovations to really kick off I guess. Yeah, and the DeFi, I just, you know, how do you explain to somebody right? The returns that you can get and how easy it is to just get micro loans, right? We actually had a DeFi webinar, excuse me, DeFi workshop that we did because we're going to be starting up the DeFi interest group at the EEA and one of the things that came up was this notion of just micro loans, right? You know, I go to Starbucks and I realize 'oh my gosh I don't, you know for whatever reason, I need 50 cents more in order to do this transaction because like my pay check hasn't arrived yet' and yeah why is it difficult? I should be able to just get a micro loan for 50 cents that's going to be paid back automatically tomorrow when my pay check comes in and it shouldn't cost me a ridiculous fortune to do it, right? It should be trivially simple and so cheap that I don't even notice that it's happened, right? These are the kinds of things that are really going to change everything in the world when they become commonplace and they're not yet. Yeah, absolutely! It's exciting when you frame it this way that we're still so early on the curve of where it can take us. We really are. Yeah, and the same thing for my money, right? I should be able to lend that easily. I should have rules for like how my money is lent out and it shouldn't just be one bank account. It should be that it automatically moves to where it gets me the best return with the level of risk that I'm comfortable with. We're so far from that but that will really be a different world when we're there. Yeah, yeah it's very exciting times and just wonderful that it's a great world to be a part of as well. Yeah so, I think just in terms of rounding up the conversation here today, sorry to finish with one question and that is what's the best bit of advice you've ever received? I've received lots of good advice from people over the years. I think the the one that is most valuable to me today is to remember that everyone wants to be the hero of their own story and that's important because I think if more people realize that, then it would cut down on the arrogance factor. We all are experts at something. We all have something to contribute in the world and I think the more that we can each help recognize what others in the world have to contribute and enable that, the more we're going to get towards that utopian future sci-fi world that I described where human beings can spend their time contributing what they contribute best without worrying about how they're going to be taken care of. So, let's see how we can enable that. Look at DeFi that's out there today, right? A lot of the use cases are enabling people to do things and to get credit for them whether it's NFTs, anything else. This is allow someone who has produced something, whatever it is, to get a value assigned to it and paid for it, I think is incredible. But that begins with recognizing that we each have something to contribute in the world and we want to be recognized for it so begin there and then you'll find the opportunities. And too, just for technologists as well, I think you say that and it makes me think 'well, getting more technologists involved in standards' because all too often, businesses see the business people as the people providing the value but when you get technologists help creating these standards that can then reinforce the business, there's this really nice kind of loop that can happen that you've spoken about to here, so yeah, it certainly ties in nicely with that. Absolutely, engineers can create wonderfully valuable standards when they start working together as a team. Yeah, awesome! Well so, Dan, just if people want to I guess, engage with you or just keep up to date with what you're working on, what's the best way to do it? Is it by getting involved in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance or are there social media outlets that you use? What's your call to action? Yeah, I've been on and off on social media and right now, I'm off mostly. So you know, I have Twitter accounts, the best way to find me is through Linkedin. I'm not hard to find, but then if you want to communicate with me just Daniel.email@example.com is probably the best way today. Then just reach out to me, I'm happy to talk with you. I've got a Calendly link also daniel c burnett b-u-r-n-e-t-t, we can provide it I'm sure when you wrap this up. I'm always happy for people to schedule a time with me and to chat. Cool, awesome! Well Dan, it's been an absolute pleasure hosting you and look forward to catching up again soon. Yeah, thank you so much, it's been great. Cheers!