Learn about his love for Algorithmic Music Compositions, why we’re still in the dark age of software development, and where blockchain will be in 10–20 years.
Music is arguably my other life — except that they do collide sometimes, namely in algorithmic compositions where I’ve written pieces using Java or Haskell code. I’ve played instruments my whole life (I started with the piano) and there are always more projects and bands than free time.
There’s a notion that software development and music go together often, and while I’m not sure that’s precisely true, I really appreciate the embrace of abstraction that you find in modern compositional techniques. For example, the use of set theory, and also in the ways that compositional techniques historically prefigure concepts in math such as inversion and retrograde (see Bach’s compositions).
I say “arguably” because while I do work with professional musicians, release albums, etc., I don’t come close to having music being my livelihood. In that sense, I’m all about tech.
What do you enjoy about the work you do?
I’m going to use this question to instead focus on one specific aspect of our work at Kadena, which is to make Formal Verification a useable technology for average developers and business professionals. The context is thatPact, our smart contract language, allows a developer to add statements that the computer will try to prove wrong. For example, “it’s impossible to spend a token twice,” or, “a person’s age can never decrease.”
I love to talk to non-technical people about this because they are often surprised to find out that programmers aren’t doing this already. “Wait, you mean the computer can’t tell you if you have bugs in your code? Isn’t the code for the computer in the first place?”
There really are some ways that we are still in the dark ages when it comes to how we build software, and we all really feel it. Whenever there is a big hack of user accounts at some company, or when a program we use every day stops working for some basic task.
Formal Verification has been around for decades but it is so hard to use that it only comes out for nuclear reactor control systems, chip design, or some other super-wizzy and safety-critical work. In the future, computers will find the bugs for us, and Pact’s Formal Verification system is a preview of that happy day, at least for software developers.
Why does blockchain matter?
For me, blockchain provides a way to solve fundamental problems in how we use technology to make things work better. Take smart contracts: the idea that you can power a business on a blockchain by capturing the essence of its workflows and transactions, without having to worry about system crashes and specialized software. It is just incredibly powerful to me.
Games have done this, where user mods turn into full-fledged online games. There’s no way a mod can crash the game itself. With blockchain, we take this idea to the very core of how we interact with each other as autonomous individuals, and the trust comes from the robustness of the platform itself. I’ve been building transactional computer systems for almost two decades, and the elegance of a blockchain solution is very compelling for me as both a user and a technology provider.
If the blockchain really is as revolutionary as the web, what will it mean for everyday consumers in a decade or two?
I think a lot of the pain points we experience today will largely disappear, at least as much as security is concerned. Blockchain, as long as we don’t let IBM or R3 define what blockchain means and stick to the Bitcoin/Ethereum definition, represents a huge leap forward in security. We can put these huge password breaches that plague us, with a new breach seemingly every week, behind us with secure wallets in our pockets that simply cannot be stolen (although they can be lost).
We can look forward to a world where the web is no longer driven by advertising and personal data mining, but instead by the intrinsic value of the things we do every day to naturally power the online economy. We all win with a true diversity of direct interaction business models in online form, finally powered by more than just clicks and views.