After several years of interesting research in Artificial Intelligence, David Lio got into crypto-currencies late in the game (late 2013), left California and his work in AI, and set up a crypto-currency consultancy in New York.
In that time, he’s begun working with podcaster Adam Carolla and AuroraCoin’s pseudonymous creator Baldur Friggjar Óðinsson.
We reached out to Lio earlier this week.
CoinTelegraph: How did you get involved in the AuroraCoin project?
I identified AuroraCoin as an interesting project when it was announced on the BitcoinTalk.org
forums. As a scientist, I see AuroraCoin as an experiment in crypto-currency. Iceland is an island with a relatively small (~330,000) population that is both culturally homogeneous and geographically concentrated. Iceland is one of the most internet-connected countries in the world and also ranks 17th in the world by per-capita GDP (according to 2012 IMF numbers). All of this is not even to mention Iceland's storied history with currency turmoil, devaluation and control. Who in the world needs crypto-currency more than Icelander, and where could possibly be better to test and observe crypto-currency adoption?
I helped out where I could in the early days, attempting to compile a version of the code for Mac OSX, articulating and promoting the ideas of the project on the forums, and spreading the word at Bitcoin meetups in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I recently moved to New York and spoke about AuroraCoin at the CryptoCurrency Convention 2014
Early on, I realized that there would be a lot of business development and brand building work to be done, and that this work couldn't be done by Baldur, the pseudonymous creator and core developer. You can't attend conferences and conduct interviews while remaining anonymous for very long. I offered to help on this front, and I continue to regularly communicate with Baldur about opportunities for the project as they arise. In that vein, I run the AuroraCoin.com site while Baldur runs the official project
CT: What have you heard from Icelanders who have claimed their coins? Has AuroraCoin been measurably successful so far in introducing people to crypto-currencies?
DL: With a robust verification process for claiming each stake and a 10% claim rate, the project has already been immensely successful. If you can find a way to break the process, let me know and we'll talk about a bounty! No one has come forward so far, so presumably, each of these claims is valid and from a unique Icelander.
One in 10 Icelanders aren't just aware of crypto-currency; one in 10 own some. We see new businesses, charities, organizations and individuals coming into the crypto-currency economy in Iceland every day.
There is a strong and growing Facebook trading group (sort of an AuroraCoin Craigslist). There was a car bought and sold in AuroraCoin the other day
, and there is some crypto-currency related news in mainstream Icelandic media quite regularly these days.
If for no other reason, AuroraCoin has already been a success because it has introduced so many people to crypto-currency (more than 30,000 people). The larger cultural discussion it has ignited is also important. Most folks involved in Bitcoin today really only interact with other Bitcoiners online and at meetups or conferences. Imagine if your family, building, block, city and entire country were learning about this exciting new money technology along with you. I, for one, am certainly jealous.
CT: The exchange value and market cap of AuroaCoin quickly fell then began a steady decline after the Airdrop. What happened? Is this a concern for the AuroraCoin project?
DL: To be transparent, while I did mine AuroraCoin in the early days, I sold the few hundred coins I mined when I decided to contribute to the project on an ongoing basis (this was prior to the Airdrop). Also, now that the network is being checkpointed, my own hashing power is less necessary for securing the network. For one, I don't live in Iceland, so I would just be speculating if I continued to deal in the currency myself. As the great Jim Rogers always says, I don't think I'm smart enough to be a day-trader. Mostly though, I find the ideas behind the project compelling, and I want to prove to myself that there is merit in this grand experiment beyond another chance to make a buck/coin for myself.
What we're doing is but a small part of the greater crypto-economy. However, I also realize that when I go speak at a conference or announce one news item or another, there are often corresponding moves in the market (albeit generally small ones). It would be disingenuous of me to be trading on that basis, so I don't.
Someday, I would love to travel to Iceland and to conduct the whole trip entirely in AuroraCoin. Until such a time, and while I'm still working on the project, I will leave the speculation to others and the commerce to Icelanders, who seem quite keen to build a new crypto-economy for themselves.
That being said, let's take a look at the price decline of the currency following the Airdrop. I don't know what the right price is for auroracoins, and I don't think that any other single person does either. The market is evolving and deciding over time what auroracoins are worth. As more and more coins are claimed, they become more plentiful and less scarce. While the claiming of new coins does coincide with the entry of new participants to the marketplace, it seems only natural that there would be a resultant price decline.
As more infrastructure and services are developed for AuroraCoin and crypto-currency in general in Iceland, we may well see the price stabilize or climb. Time, and the market, will tell. In the meantime, I encourage Icelanders to convert part of their AuroraCoin claim into bitcoin so that they can participate in a more global crypto-economy than the fledgling AuroraCoin crypto-economy.
Interestingly, a lower price may actually be a good thing in the near term. One of the big hurdles for Bitcoin adoption is how harrowing it can be to experiment with something new when a single unit is worth hundreds of dollars.
CT: Can you tell us a bit about your work at CoinHeavy? How have clients responded after you helped them set up Bitcoin adoption?
DL: My first clients were precious metals merchants with physical storefronts and e-commerce presences. They were very excited to get involved with Bitcoin, seeing it as a natural extension of their existing businesses and a shared interest with their customers. Once the concept of crypto-currency has been introduced, lower (i.e. no) transaction fees, the impossibility of chargebacks and instant confirmation times are benefits that sell themselves. Most business owners I speak with see Bitcoin as a “when” rather than an “if.”
I generally tell folks that the best way to get involved with crypto-currency is by earning some, rather than just by purchasing some with fiat. This not only lowers the barrier to entry, it also helps to immunize people from the roller coaster feeling of riding the bitcoin price volatility waves. Find a way to earn some crypto-currency, and then experiment with it as its own experience; try not to stress out too much about day-to-day volatility. Eventually, the conversation will turn to how volatile fiat currency is against crypto-currency, not the other way around.
CT: You’re also helping Adam Carolla receive donations for his legal defense fund to fight patent trolls. What has that experience been like?
I'm a huge fan of Adam Carolla. I've got a copy of every classic Loveline
episode that exists, and I've listened to them all more than once. Most folks probably know Adam from when he created and co-hosted The Man Show
with Jimmy Kimmel. Adam also currently has a show on SpikeTV called To Catch A Contractor
— it's funny and worth a watch.
I called in to Adam's podcast
a few months ago and offered him his first bitcoin donation on air. The crew and producers were quite interested, and being the keen business people that they are they immediately recognized the value of crypto-currency and quickly developed a strategy that made sense for their business. I'm just happy to have helped bring them into the crypto-economy.
Adam got out of terrestrial radio in the very early days of podcasting and built, one episode at a time, one of the largest podcasting networks that presently exists. Having spent decades in the radio business, he was tired of program directors and regulators telling him what he could and could not say to his fellow human beings who wanted to hear him speak.
Adam has built something of value; he is employing a number of people at the Carolla Digital Podcasting Network. Unfortunately, healthy hosts attract parasites, and some patent trolls have decided to sue him over the very technology of podcasting itself. It is important to note that they are suing him not for saying anything in particular, but rather they are suing him for saying anything at all and then sharing his words on the internet. This is obviously preposterous, but unfortunately we live in a legal matrix where it is extremely expensive to fend off these sorts of attacks, however baseless they may be. I'm helping Adam accept Bitcoin subscriptions and donations both for his podcasting network and for his crowd-funded legal defense campaign.