Web3 Innovators

Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and Ben Edgington

October 20, 2021 Season 1 Episode 14
Web3 Innovators
Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and Ben Edgington
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Blockchain Innovators, Conor Svensson, founder and CEO of Web3 Labs, talks to Ben Edgington, Eth2 researcher and Product Owner Teku at ConsenSys.

Ben comes from a very technical background. He stated his career on super computers at Hitachi before being sucked into the world of blockchain when he joined ConsenSys in 2017.

Conor and Ben discuss Ethereum and its transition off of proof of work to proof of stake. Ben has been very involved in this and has seen firsthand how it has evolved over the past three years.

Ben is a well known figure in the Eth2 community and if you want to keep up to date with fast moving space we recommend you read What's new in Eth2.

You can watch this as a video on our YouTube channel here.

Hi it's Conor Svensson here, founder and CEO of  Web3 Labs. This is a conversation I had with Ben   Edgington ETH2 researcher and product owner for  Teku at ConsenSys. Ben comes from a very technical   background having started his career working on  supercomputers at Hitachi where he worked for two   decades before he got sucked into the blockchain  vortex and joined ConsenSys in 2017. In our   conversation we cover a lot of ground on Ethereum  and the transition off proof of work to proof of   stake which is something he's very involved in  and has seen firsthand how it's evolved during the   past three years. Ben's a very well-known figure  in the Eth2 community and if you have an interest   in keeping up with this fast moving space, I  highly recommend you check out his newsletter   'What's New in Eth2' which is available at  eth2.news. Thanks and I hope you enjoy the   conversation as much as I did. Hey Ben, it's  great to have you here. Conor, it's wonderful   to appear on your podcast. I've enjoyed listening  to a few episodes and yeah I'm amazed to be here.   Well, thank you. You've started to do a fair bit  of podcasting yourself as well in the last year I   guess? Yeah we had this thing going with CoinDesk  which was nice. We had about a nine month run but   then my co-host moved on from CoinDesk and we  didn't pick it up again. So if there's a podcast   slot open, I would gladly fill it! So it was a  good experience, I enjoyed doing that. I'll tell   you what though Conor, it's exhausting having to  have an opinion on every topic! I'm usually kind   of like 'yeah whatever' for most things but if  you've got to appear and talk about something, you   need an opinion. So I found that prepping for the  podcast week by week and trying to work out what I   really think about this was quite an interesting  process. Yeah, absolutely, and one thing though,   no doubt you do have a very significant opinion on  or at least awareness of is the Eth2 ecosystem but   rewinding before that, you were at Hitachi for  just shy of 20 years until roughly four, well just   four years ago. What was it that made you jump  from that world into blockchain? Because you've   gone really, really deep in terms of what you've  been doing and we'll of course get on to that   in a bit more detail shortly but you worked  in this very large corporate for so many years   there must have been something pretty exciting  that really sucked you in? Yeah, right down the   rabbit hole now! So I started my time at Hitachi  doing very technical things. I spent about eight   years working on super computers doing very low  level optimizations as well as parallelization of   code and lots of kind of computer sciencey type  of things. I'd come out of academia to do that.   Hitachi pulled out of the supercomputer business  in Europe and I kind of fell into a generic   techy sort of role doing all sorts of  things like data center infrastructure   and cooling. I worked on IPV6 routers for a while,  biometrics stuff, a bunch of fintech security,   just loads of random things and you know, as is  the way, sort of drifted into management and then   ended up sort of moderately senior. So my job  title was Head of Engineering for one division   of Hitachi Europe and we were mostly doing fintech  stuff, so mostly working with banks in the City of   London and across Europe, biometrics and other  security software. Yeah, it was a kind of quiet   life really, could quite happily have driven my  desk for another 10 years and retired, you know   retired well. Around the beginning of 2016,  all the sort of sales people were coming back   and reporting 'yeah, all our clients want to  talk about is something called blockchain,   can you find out what it is?' They were talking to  the banks and it was hot, hot, hot at that time.   So I did a bit of digging and came across Bitcoin,  I thought interesting, but not that interesting,   read up on Ethereum and was just blown away. This  captured me, it you know entranced me and I just   started spending evenings, weekends, every  spare hour just reading everything on Ethereum,   learning everything about Ethereum, hacking  around with smart contracts and just generally   learning, reading the yellow paper  and learning from the bottom up.   Eventually, I got the opportunity to make  that a full-time job. I realized I was bored   of management, it wasn't for me. What excited me  was doing the hands-on techy stuff and the day job   just didn't give me that that opportunity anymore.  Yeah, so four years ago, as you say, I joined   ConsenSys and no regrets. It's been an incredible  journey. And so much just happened in that time!   Going back to Ethereum specifically though,  what would you say was the thing that pulled   you in? Was it the technology or the community  or a combination of both because they were the   first second generation blockchain. But I think  from my own personal perspective, I've always saw   parallels with the Ethereum community is the  Linux community without the malevolent dictator,   but I'd love to hear your thoughts there. Yeah,  community is super important and I made my first   sort of tentative steps, a couple of PRs to the  Solidity compiler and they were so nice to me   and so welcoming that I immediately felt part  of that world and that was great. Technology   was fascinating, what I liked about  it was it was all about computing in a   resource-constrained environment, which is what  I've done on supercomputers. You don't think of   supercomputers as resource-constrained but it  is if you can speed up your code by 10% you can   save a couple of million dollars of hardware  and so there's a lot of pressure to make them   perform really fast. So all the same things about  memory constraints and micro optimizations were   happening on the EVM but you what really captured  me was the drama! I was getting interested in this   through the DAO hack thing, I mean the DAO  itself was fascinating and then the hack and   the adventure that that was and the drama  around it just kind of hooked me completely   and and dragged me in. So it's a combination of  all of that and it is a bit like living in a soap   opera sometimes but yeah it keeps me engaged, it's  great! Yeah, absolutely. I remember going along to   an Ethereum meetup back in Sydney, I think it  was a few weeks literally before like the DAO   hack happened, and the person there was talking  about how this incredible thing's been written,   it's so few lines of code and it's basically  like an automated investment vehicle and   we know what happened then! Yeah, I never invested  in the DAO basically because I didn't really get   it. I just like to understand what I'm getting  involved with. I don't like to ape into things,   to my detriment it turns out, but yeah I dodged a  bullet on that one. But, yeah it was fascinating.   Yeah, yeah and so certainly with the NFT market  now as well, that definitely doesn't make too much   sense there either in certain respects but there's  some people who really do get it out there. Yeah, I mean it's fascinating how it's all  evolved over the past four years. I reckon   that when I first got interested in Ethereum, you  could pretty much keep up with everything that was   happening by spending a couple of hours a day on  Reddit and then you were across almost everything   that was going on. Nowadays, it's impossible -  completely impossible - to keep up, there's DeFi,   there's NFTs, there's a whole host of stuff at  the protocol level which I try, that's my niche to   try and document some of that and never mind all  the other chains, the roll-ups, the side chains   and everything happening there and then you've got  the regulatory stuff and you know it just goes on   and on! So one of the things I've had to do over  the past few years rather rapidly is kind of close   down my areas of interest. I used to try and know  everything and now I know a lot about very little!   But that very little is very significant given  everything that's happening with Ethereum and   it's not really correct to call it the  transition to Eth2 so to speak, I guess   it's the whole merge as it's being referred  to. But, when you started at ConsenSys you were   within the protocols division and then, I think  it was roughly a year after you started there,   you began putting out 'What's New in Eth2'  which was like a newsletter and as you said,   there was so much information and it was so  hard to keep up with it all even back then   you just wanted to start sharing some of what  what was happening in the wider community. So   when did you start working on you know,  move across to Eth2 bits? It was obviously   before you started writing the newsletter.  Yeah, it's an interesting sort of history.   So I landed in PegaSys which is a protocol  engineering group of ConsenSys, it was quite   small at the time. I was about number 12 or 13  through the door, we're now 70 plus people. I   first started working on enterprise Ethereum stuff  because you know, with the corporate background   and the fintech clients that kind of made sense  but it just felt too much like doing what I was   doing before and it wasn't the passion that had  driven me in it which was much more about the   open permissionless mainnet world. So with the  permission of PegaSys, which was very generous,   I moved over to really to kind of pioneer PegaSys'  mainnet work there. At the time ConsenSys had   no relationship with the Ethereum Foundation  for historical reasons and somehow I found   myself on a call with Joe Lubin and Vitalik, I  think it might have been just the three of us   somewhere in January '17 or December '16 -  December '17 or January '18 somewhere around   there, and Vitalik was saying 'okay we need  some help, we need some protocol research'   and it just felt really right, really opportune.  So from then on I devoted myself to sort of   building PegaSys R+D, built it up from a couple  of people up to 20 plus now and a lot of that   work was around Ethereum protocol research,  mainnet stuff as well as some enterprise stuff.   So a year into that I did various workshops.  There was a workshop in Taipei on sharding,   which is great, and then we sort of scoped out  what Ethereum 2 would look like in July in Berlin   of 2018 and later that year, around September/  October time, I kicked off the project which   became known as Teku which is our Ethereum 2  client. It was a research project at that time,   we we didn't have a goal to make it a mainnet  production client. It was really part of our   being involved in Ethereum protocol research  and having a seat at the table. We're writing   the code so I managed to get a team together. Joe  was a great help in moving people around and that   worked out really well and we built this thing.  After about a year, so we're up to late 2019,   we sort of looked at what was there and thought  'actually this is okay, this has got promise, it's   more than a prototype or a research project, this  has got potential to become a mainnet client'.   So we have a decision-making process in PegaSys  called SPADE, I can't remember what it stands for,   but it involves a lot of consultation with  just about everybody. So we did an exercise,   Rob Dawson who's now CTO in ConsenSys led that  and we gave it the green light. We gave Teku,   it was called Artemis at the time - we had to  change that for the usual tedious reasons but   it's now Teku - and we transitioned that to  product development. So we're now a product   team and I'm product manager for Teku which is  a mainnet Eth2 client or Beacon train client   or ConsenSys client, whatever terminology you  prefer to use. In terms of like how the space   has evolved as well, certainly originally  with this whole migration with Ethereum   going from proof of work to proof of  stake it was viewed as being a number of   phases that need to happen with phase zero  being the Beacon chain launch which happened   last December and then this notion of sharding and  then the actual application level, the cut over   so to speak, but that's that's all got sort of  ripped up in the last 12 months and I presumably there's a lot of specifics into why that  happened that you could tell the listeners about?   Why there was such a sudden change there  and why we're in the trajectory we are now.   One of the things I enjoy doing is stepping back  a bit and sort of comparing the world I'm in now   with the world that I was in when I was working  for a massive Japanese multinational corporate   and the different ways in which things get done  and you know it actually accomplished a lot,   no criticism of the way they do things. But, how  things are done in Eth2 world or Ethereum world   is very different, very bottom-up, it is a lot of  cat herding. We have the Ethereum cat herders and   we're reliant a lot on people coming up with new  ideas, coming into the ecosystem bringing ideas,   taking leadership without necessarily  having leadership conferred on them   and there isn't a sort of hierarchical top-down  structure. Vitalik will come up with some ideas,   he'll throw them out there and then it's up  to people to pick them up or not pick them up   and and things like that. So it's  the cathedral and the bizarre model,   which I've written about a few times, this  is Eric Raymond's kind of classic essay   on open source development and we're fully  in the bazaar and it's noisy and it's chaotic   but yet somehow, really incredible work  emerges from it as it becomes ordered and   order emerges from chaos. So yeah, it's fair  to say that the next generation of Ethereum,   the future of Ethereum roadmap has had a  few pivots over the last couple of years.   Partly because new technologies  and new things come to light.   So two things which kind of deflected  us from the older road map, so we had a   phase zero, phase one, phase two road map where  we would deliver the Beacon chain, which we did,   and then we would deliver data sharding and  then we would deliver executable shards,   execution environments and after that we would  turn off proof of work and migrate Ethereum 1   over to Ethereum 2, a sort of multi-year project.  This got truncated so we delivered phase zero   and now we're doing proof of stake straight away,  this is the next thing we're doing and after that   we're doing data shards. Then we sort of basically  have delivered the roadmap. And a couple of things   changed that - one was the emergence of rollups  as a technology, layer 2 technology on Ethereum.   So they give us a lot of what executable shards  would have given us. They take out of the protocol   layer the management estate and the management  of execution. They just rely on the protocol for   data. So the on chain you have the data, off chain  you have the execution and the state management   and that solves a lot of problems for Ethereum.  We can store data on chain okay, especially   when we've got lots of shards. It was the state  management and the execution that were expensive.   So this roll-up ecosystem that's emerging makes  a lot of important parts somebody else's problem,   which is nice from a protocol developer's point of  view. We can simplify the base protocol and then   it facilitates an ecosystem where people  can run many, many experiments and have   you can have many different types of roll-ups  and some will succeed, some will fail   and you can try and iterate many different  solutions. Just stuff we cannot do at   the protocol, there we have to be really,  really conservative at the protocol level,   it's impossible to break anything - we mustn't do  it. So that's been a big breakthrough. The other   one was my colleague in ConsenSys R+D, Mikhail  Kalinin, just envisioned what we're calling   'The Merge' now, which is we take the Ethereum  proof of work engine so the Eth1 clients that   everyone's familiar with like Geth or Besu, and  we basically just turn off proof of work in them   and plug in proof of stake. We already have proof  of stake running in the form of the Beacon chain   and Mikhail envisaged a very straightforward  way to do this. So this has become the plan   and the pressures were on, right? I mean the  narrative around proof of work is getting   increasingly sort of toxic. This thing about NFTs  are destroying the planet and burning down the   rainforests and things. Yeah, it's about time  we deliver proof of stake, it's been too long.   Absolutely, and just to go into some more  details as well about those two specific areas,   like the roll-ups versus the shards for instance,  you have a number of different networks that have   been emerging, what's more broadly being described  as these layer two networks for Ethereum,   Polygon being the most popular one but there being  a number of others. In your minds and certainly   Vitalik mentioned this too I think, zero knowledge  roll-ups are the preferred technology for scaling   but is it fair to say they're not quite  at a point yet where they're readily   available and so hence a lot of the layer two  technologies that exist right now aren't quite   fulfilling that more utopian vision of where  it's going to get to but we're not too far off?   Yeah, I have a kind of layperson's knowledge of  this stuff because, as I mentioned earlier, I've   had to focus and roll ups are some of the things  which is sort of adjacent to what I focus on but   not core. Though I think I have some intuition for  how it goes and there are basically two paradigms.   One of which is called optimistic roll-ups.  They rely on something called fraud proofs to remain secure so anyone can challenge the  execution on the chain if the roll-up operator   does something which is incorrect then you can  challenge that with a fraud proof and there's   a sort of crypto economic mechanism to reward  correct fraud proofs and punish bad ones and   so on and punish bad operators. Zk rollups have  a sort of validity proof thing going on whereby   they post proofs to the chain that they acted  correctly and the proofs are very easy to verify.   This is a much smoother, a much more effective way  to operate. With the optimistic roll-ups there are   things like you can have a week-long withdrawal  delay, if you want to get your funds out,   your NFTs out to give people the opportunity to  generate the fraud proofs and make sure they can   get on chain without being censored whereas the zk  roll ups don't have this issue. As you alluded to,   this zero knowledge cryptography and it's  not the zk part that's actually used,   it's the succinct part of it but that's getting  a bit technical. This cryptography is very new.   It's really been built in the last couple  of years and is developing you know,   just super fast. There's this cambrian explosion  of different techniques to apply it. It's far from   being mature yet. The EVM, which is Ethereum's  Virtual Machine, the engine that runs stuff   is not designed to play nicely with zero  knowledge proofs and the SNARKs and the STARKs   which we have. So, if you want to compile your  Solidity program and run it on a zk roll up,   this has a lot of complexity and overhead behind  the scenes and people are working on that.   There are domain specific languages like Cairo and  Zinc, which allow you to write directly in kind of   zero knowledge specific languages. But this is all  so new Conor and is really rapidly evolving. It's   hard to know quite where we are or where we're  going to be in a year's time but from a technical   point of view, the zk stuff has the most promise,  it's the most scalable and it's the most efficient   of the technologies out there as far as I can  see. Then when we talk about the convergence with   the merge with the Eth1 and Eth2 clients, how will  that kind of pan out longer term because nearer   term you have your various different clients to  Teku and Besu say in ConsenSys. Is the case for   the proof of stake and proof of work  networks? (I'm trying to avoid using the Eth1   and Eth2!) You don't have to worry about that  with me Conor, I publish What's new in Eth2,   you know I own the website eth2.news, I mean you  know, I'm fighting to preserve this technology!   It's a terminology. Do you think that it will  make sense longer term the clients to merge   into one because coming at it from a very  simplistic and probably naive perspective,   ultimately it's like the consensus mechanism  that's being replaced with the merge,   is that too simplistic of a view of this or  do you think that's feasible longer term?   Yeah, it's definitely feasible. It's something  we're thinking about in PegaSys. So the   initial design is you can choose any of the  available Eth1 clients as in execution clients   so that might be Geth or Besu or Nethermind  or Erigon and you can pair it with any of the   available Eth2 clients or ConsenSys clients  which is Teku, Prysm or Lighthouse or Nimbus   currently, Lodestar is doing good and they can  combined act as the joint Ethereum 2 client.   So they're well encapsulated, we've defined  an API by which they speak to each other   but of course, you're getting two components from  different sources, they've got different stacks,   they've got different documentation, different  metrics, different logging, everything. So   we're in the happy position in ConsenSys of having  both an Eth1 and Eth2 client. We have Besu and   Teku, they're both Java, they're both Apache 2.0  and so we're exploring what it might look like to   not exactly unify, but perhaps bring them closer  together so that if you want to run an Ethereum   2 client or a future Ethereum client post merge,  you can just deploy this one thing and it's all   in one package with consistent documentation  and consistent metrics and it's all there. With Teku, our target users are primarily  institutional, the professionals,   the power users who are hosting thousands of  stakes. That's our sort of user persona as we   plan our product strategy and so thinking  through from their point of view, they can   dual source their stuff, they can take Geth and  Prysm and run them together but if it goes wrong,   then who do they go to? Who they shout  at? Who do they point the finger at?   This is always a classic issue in purchasing, you  know having accountability for the thing. So we're   thinking we might not get much technical advantage  from combining the two clients but there might be   a nice point where you've just got a  single source and so if it goes wrong,   you can just come to PegaSys, we'll fix it. You  don't have to worry about which bit's gone wrong   and stuff like that. So I think there's  not so much technical advantage but I think   there's some nice usability and marketing  advantages to sort of combining the two. So   we're definitely looking at it but it's not  going to be for a while. Yeah, absolutely. So   going a bit further into the whole topic of the  merge, you've just got back from Greece recently?   Oh yeah, you can tell by the tan! We spent  16 hours a day in a windowless basement   which was a shame (!) but yeah, we got  basically dev teams from most of the clients,   Eth1 and Eth2 side and from the Ethereum  Foundation and a couple of ConsenSys R+D teams.   We all got together in an undisclosed location  in Greece and spent the week basically   building a merged testnet. So what  this means is getting the Eth1 clients   represented there and Eth2 clients in all  the combinations I previously mentioned,   working on a single testnet and running Ethereum  on proof of stake or simulated proof of stake.   It's the first time we'd done anything quite at  that scale. We'd had a sort of hackathon earlier   in the year where we'd done an early version  of this but this was a huge leap forward and we   reckon we saved about three months of remote work  by getting together in one place and you know,   after two years of not leaving my house it was  kind of nice to get together with people again!   Yeah, I hadn't flown anywhere for two years,  which is unheard of in the last like 25 years, so   that was kind of weird. Yeah, yeah. So it  was a great success. We set some milestones,   you know, fairly easy ones. First milestone - pass  all the spec tests. Second milestone - run your   client with one other client, so if you're running  an Eth2 client run it with one of the Eth1 clients   and vice versa. Then milestone three is kind  of run combinations, so you've got multiple   clients on the same network. Then I can't remember  four, but five was run a test node with basically   all possible combinations and keep it running  for several days. So we did that and yeah,   it was great, a really good experience. Previously  of course, there's been times where client teams   got together but I think presumably it's the  scale of it this time around was different   because you had both Eth1 and Eth2 as well as some  researchers around it, correct me if i'm wrong   but previously it was more you'd have Eth2 focus  teams working together? Yeah, yeah these things   have been developed pretty much in parallel. So  the Beacon chain and these sort of Eth2 plans   have, until quite recently, been done quite  distant from the historic Ethereum network stuff   so until a couple of months ago, Ethereum 2 or  Ethereum on proof of stake just hadn't even been   discussed at the regular all core devs call and  we started this Beacon chain almost a year ago,   now running proof of stake and so on. But, it is  in parallel to the main Ethereum network and the   two sides - the traditional Ethereum 1 developers  and the Eth 2 people - really didn't have much   point point of contact. That's all changed and  this workshop we did was the sort of tangible, the   practical evidence of the change but we're also  getting the proof of stake, the merge, discussed   on recent all core devs calls and now everyone  has agreed from all the client teams, Eth1,   Eth2, this is the next thing we're doing. We're  not going to do any other upgrades to Ethereum   before we deliver this merge, this  proof-of-stake Ethereum. And in terms, of   course, the question that everyone's asking  is - when that's going to happen? Previously,   I think six months ago or so, the speculation was  towards year end this year maybe Q1 next year,   is there a feeling from the community on that  at the moment? Within this year was always over   optimistic. The timing is very slippery in this  space Conor and I'm very hesitant to say anything   definite just because nobody is in control of it,  right? If everything goes perfectly smoothly and   there are no hitches and all the governance is  happy and there's nobody in the community you   know, waving a red flag then maybe towards the  end of Q1, beginning of Q2 but realistically,   it never goes as smoothly as you hope and we are a  community of optimists, we wouldn't be doing this,   we wouldn't be aiming to change the world if we  weren't optimists.It sometimes kind of feeds over   into our timing estimates, so I'm hesitant to put  a definite date on it but I would be extremely   disappointed if we didn't deliver in 2022 and  I'd be a bit disappointed if we didn't deliver   in that first half of '22. So that's pretty much  as specific as I'm prepared to get. Yeah, yeah,   I know it's certainly exciting times, especially  seeing the two communities really working together   and like you say, there's not going to be any  other big changes until this happens. That's going   to incentivize a lot of people to make it happen  in as timely and but safe manner as possible.   So say if we catch up again a year  from now and the merge just happened,   what's next? What's going to be next for you?  Are you going to be deep looking at sharding or   are you going to be starting to switch your  focus somewhere else because you've been so   focused on this for so long now. Oh personally? I  mean, yeah the Eth2 effort rolls on. So there are   plans to do a post-merge cleanup which will enable  withdrawals. So currently you put down the stake,   you don't know when you're going to get  it back, nobody can actually take their   earnings out of the Beacon chain yet so we  need to enable that, that'll come a few months   after the merge. Then sharding is the next big  thing which gives massive scalability and then   there's a whole bunch of other exciting stuff  so you know there's a whole career to be had   being involved in that. We'll see how it  goes. I've got no particular expectation.   There's a certain amount of internal encouragement  within ConsenSys to sort of pick up again the   management/ corporate side of things. You  know, I've got 20 years of it under my belt   so getting involved in the more sort of  corporate level stuff especially as ConsenSys is   looking more like a traditional software  company, it is attracting some serious investment   and is becoming a big player. Honestly  speaking between you and me, I hope   nobody's listening (!), I'm not overly excited by  that. You know, lesson learned, the techy stuff   is where my heart is. So I'll probably  find something like that to to fill my time   but it's also like a, I think, a classic problem  in terms of as career technologists, so to speak,   with regards to being able to remain hands-on but  also grow within organizations. I think that you   almost see this classic thing where if someone  starts off as a developer, they become a mid   level developer, senior developer then maybe  a lead developer and then it's management and   management and management and management and if  you're very lucky, you end up in a place where   you have that and I remember working for  an investment bank a number of years ago,   we were in a fortunate position for a time where  we had managing directors who were still coding   but that was really an exception to the norm  and as you say though, there's so many people,   like yourself, like people who work in my company  as well, who really want to stay very hands-on but   you do feel a lot of the time that organizations  as they grow they often have that classic problem   where the opportunity to continue to be hands-on  and this isn't of course reflecting on ConsenSys,   but it's just more of an observation about  the technology industry more generally.   So I think it's really important that we can  find ways to champion people to have careers like   you're doing now, where you've come in and you've  got all of this significant experience but also   very significant breadth of technological  experience and you want to see people,   I think it's important for the technology  community to have more people to look up to   like that. Yeah, it's a classic dilemma isn't  it? You know, I don't have any great answers! I'm   very thankful for ConsenSys facilitating  me over the last few years. Largely, I've   carved out my own path and have been allowed  to do so which has been terrific. I think   in more traditional organizations you don't  necessarily get the opportunity to do that.   There's been a huge amount of support and I think  other people are finding that as well. We have a   lot a high degree of autonomy within the company  and yeah, I've learned to really value that.   Yeah, I don't have answers to the questions  of what do you do with elderly technologists! What I am convinced is that people are most  productive when they are excited about what   they work on and I tried to get excited about  management stuff, making power points and things,   but ultimately it didn't get me out of bed in the  morning whereas the things that I do now motivate   me enormously. Yeah and you can completely see  that when it's moving at such a rate as you've   mentioned earlier on. The whole ecosystem has  grown so much in the last while. On reflection   as well, do you think that what's happening right  now in terms of blockchain, if we're going back   probably the last five years of activity and we  know that the next five to ten it's going to be   equally as transformative, people certainly have  parallels with the growth of blockchain adoption,   it's growing at double the rate that the internet  grew at in terms of user adoption. Do you feel   that there were other moments in the last say  20/ 30 years where you think there's been other   pivotal technologies beyond the internet  and crypto and blockchain or do you think,   because I often hear people talk about how this is  like a once in a generation thing that's happening   right now? I'd love to hear what you think of that  statement. Yeah, it does feel like it doesn't it?   I mean, I sat on the sidelines during the dot-com  boom. I was working at Hitachi at the time and   my colleagues were all off going joining  crazy startups and having you know,   the time of their life and I was very risk averse  and watched it all all happen from the sidelines.   Part of my thinking was, when this blockchain  thing started to look like a paradigm shift,   I don't want to miss out again, this is my last  chance, I'm not going to sit and watch it all   happen. Nobody died during the dot-com boom,  everyone survived they might have had a wild   ride but everyone was fine, so risk is low - just  dive in. I don't know about other technologies AI,   machine learning, things like this are quietly  changing the world. The mobile devices, the whole   thing was inconceivable when I started my career,  that I could wander around with the world in my   hands, access to the world's information,  do video calls on my phone, you know just   astonishing and these kind of revolutions  are happening all the time around us. But   I don't know what it is about blockchain that  feels like a paradigm shift. This sort of web   3 narrative is really interesting. The internet  of value rather than the internet of information,   lots of memes around that. Yeah, it's going to be  really interesting to see how it shakes out and   in five years ten years time what impact will we  have actually made on the world. There's a lot   of noise and hype at the moment but seeing what  actually lands is going to be really interesting.   Yeah, absolutely. And just one other question  on that, if you weren't working in protocols,   which area do you think would interest you most  or captivate you most within blockchain stuff? So,   I initially interviewed for ConsenSys Diligence to  be a smart contract auditor. PegaSys grabbed me,   which was fine, and I don't know whether I  would have been a good auditor or not but   I do love that level of detail. So the way I  like to understand things and how I kind of   ended up doing what I'm doing now is,  I understand stuff from the bottom up.   I need to know about the bits and the bytes  about the machine code and the executions and   the packets on the wire and build up from there.  I'm not a person who can look at an app and then   dissect it and go down the stack and that's why I  have trouble with kind of modern computer science   where they graduate and they don't even know what  hexadecimal is and I'm like, really? So that lends   itself to the protocol work that I'm doing now  and also to the kind of smart contract auditing   side because it's very, very detailed. You really  have to know what's going on under the hood. You   can't make any assumptions. So I don't think I  would be a DeFi Degen or anNFT artist or any of   that, but that would have been a decent path as  well! You'd be one of the key people making sure   it all works and it's secure so it's certainly  a very, very important place in those worlds.   So if people want to connect with you and keep  up with what you're doing, of course, you've got   the Eth2 news but what's the best way  for people to reach out or find you?   Yeah, eth2.news, so I write every two weeks on  What's New in Eth2, that's the title. So it's just   a roundup of what's going on, fairly technical but  occasionally I let an opinion hang loose in there,   and I've been doing that for three years or so.  You can find me on Twitter, I am @benjaminion_xyz,   don't ask!, and yeah Twitter is a decent place  to contact me if anyone wants to get in touch.   Wonderful! Well Ben, it's been an absolute  pleasure to have you here today. I look forward   to catching up again soon. Yeah, great fun talking  Conor. I mean there's so much that we could cover   but appreciate it, thank you for considering me  an innovator, I'm proud to join the ranks of the   others that you've spoken to and humbled as well.  Yeah, good conversation, thank you. Thanks Ben.