Magical Crypto Conference Highlights, Day 1: Lightning & Big Brother

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The first day of Magical Crypto Conference had a lot of highlights ranging from great announcements and great talks, to borderline bizarre displays of eccentricity. When was the last time anyone went to a Bitcoin event and saw a real bull next to the entrance? Or when did any conference organizer create a custom arcade machine that runs an original video game for which you pay with Lightning instead of quarters? Even Riccardo “Fluffy Pony” Spagni has showed up with a remote-controlled quasi-robotic body (described by Max Keiser as “screen on wheels”) with whom you can interact through a tablet. When was the last time an event host, co-founder and sponsor has pulled off such a strange antic?

Well, when you have immutable Bitcoin-centric discussions and accomplished developers and industry leaders attend a conference which revolves around a meme-able My Little Pony-esque characters and their YouTube show, then you know you should be expecting peculiar phenomena. First of all, it’s worth noting that the first animated cartoon short of Magical Crypto Friends has finally premiered during the event’s kickoff presentation, and it pretty much aligns with the toxicity and Blockstream spy-ness of the regular show.

Secondly, the crowd has received many exclusive announcements which include a Lightning-oriented October conference taking place in Berlin, a partnership between the Blockstream Satellite system and GoTenna’s TX Tenna, and a HTC phone which runs a full Bitcoin node. News about a Lamborghini give-away (which might turn out to become Justin Sun-esque) and a live Magical Crypto episode have also emerged, so stay tuned for a more in-depth coverage.

Magical Crypto Conference Highlight #1: The first Magical Crypto Friends cartoon

Titled “Fake Panda”, the 3-minute clip revolves around a theme of identity theft, megalomania, and possibly fraud. It’s basically about a kangaroo who walks into the Magical Crypto Friends’ house and pretends to be Whale Panda while freeloading on food. After the anthropomorphic friends agree that the impersonator is a fraud, they kick him out – but not before they find out that they’re speaking to a “mathematician, cryptographer, computer scientist, proctologist, and lawyer” who has more food than their entire country, drives a rented Lamborghini, and threatens to release research papers.

The script is witty, the animation is on par with the Magical Crypto intro, and the kangaroo is a character to contrast the otherwise innocent protagonists. However, the audio quality is inconsistent between MCF members, and you can actually tell which ones of them are into audio gears (cough cough, Fluffy Pony cough cough) and which ones most likely used a built-in microphone which pops (cough cough, Satoshi Lite).

Nonetheless, it’s great to finally see this long-time promise being delivered, and it’s always nice to hear more of the satirical work of the four bitcoiners.

Magical Crypto Conference Highlight #2: The first Lightning-oriented conference happens this fall in Berlin

During the first post-intro panel, Elizabeth Stark has been absolutely ecstatic and delighted about everything about the Lightning Network. As the head of Lightning Labs, she’s living the dream of every company creator and software developer: real steady adoption. The LN queen has taken her time to talk about all the lApps (Lightning Apps) that currently enrich the ecosystem with unique and inventive functions.

From ordering pizzas to feeding chicken and paying for the pages of a fiction book, Ms. Stark has mentioned lots of great projects and their applications. She even recommended the website LND work as a way of earning satoshis on the second layer scaling solution, so that participants all over the world can onboard the movement without worrying about financial discrepancies in terms of buying power.

However, Elizabeth Stark has also made an exclusive announcement regarding the first big Lightning Newtork conference. It will take place in Berlin later this year between October 19th and the 20th, and will create an assembly of developers, designers, Lightning companies, and users. As pointed out by co-panelist Stacy Herbert, the number of LN channels is astounding, and there are currently 1057 BTC supporting the recklessness of early adopters. Therefore, a conference dedicated to these enthusiasts is nothing short of exciting.

Magical Crypto Conference Highlight #3: HTC’s Phil Chen announces Bitcoin full node phone

Running a full node has become an essential component of Bitcoin’s decentralization model, and definitely a prerequisite of financial sovereignty. Given this demand for nodes, the high price of several retail solutions, and the rather unfriendly interface of Bitcoin Core, there is a lot of room for tech companies to step in and build great and affordable user experiences.

Phil Chen has made a presentation in which the leitmotif is owning your own keys: from the very first Android smartphone which the company released in 2008 and all the way to their current Exodus line-up, there has always been a strong emphasis on open source software. The first major announcement made by Mr. Chen is about the Zion hardware wallet vault technology, and how the code is going to get released for developers worldwide.

Furthermore, a new entry-level phone called HTC Exodus 1S is going to get launched in the third quarter of 2019. Both the S and the previous model will receive a significant software update which enables users to store the entire BTC blockchain and validate their own transactions.

“The whole Bitcoin blockchain will be on an SD card, you’ll be able to validate transactions, relay transactions when your phone is plugged in. Of course, there are more requirements regarding bandwitdh and power, and we will release more details during Q3” – Phil Chen

MCF Conference Highlight #4: Lightning Network’s present and future

While discussing the present and future of Lightning in a joint panel, Lisa Neigut, Alex Bosworth, and Will O’Beirne have put a really strong emphasis on the microtransaction potential of the network. At the same time, they debated on the cypherpunk ethos and what it really means to enable financial privacy.

Nonetheless, the strongest statement came from Ms. Neigut, as she called for the end of the ad-based revenue system which is often untransparent, dishonest, and inconvenient to the end user. Since a currency of the internet exists and is decentralized enough, while a second layer which enables instant transactions is truly blossoming, it makes a lot of sense for Lightning microtransactions to empower both users and content creators. Instead of paying for obsolete subscriptions or watching undesired ads on the considerations of a mutual compromise, now the consumers possess the power of paying small monetary amounts that should cover production costs in a fair way.

Alex Bosworth’s website Y’alls is a perfect example of this revenue model, and it’s likely that we’ll see more of this approach as the technology gets adopted at a larger scale and matures in terms of development. It will definitely be interesting to see to which extent the prophecy of Lisa Neigut gets fulfilled.

MCF Conference Highlight #5: Bitcoin without internet panel, as GoTenna partners with Blockstream for satellite communication

When you put together Proof of Work inventor Adam Back, computer scientist Rodolfo Novak, GoTenna mesh researcher Richard Myers, then have academic and engineer Elaine Ou moderate the panel, you’re guaranteed to have insightful discussions. And when the topic of choice revolves around Bitcoin’s survival outside the global network of computers where it has been given birth, then you better pay close attention and make use of all of your technical knowledge of blockchains and radio communications.

Though the individual presentations of the panelists have been impressive and reflected the staggering amount of time they spent doing empirical research, it wasn’t until they got together that it became truly magical. First of all, something newsworthy happened when Richard Myers started promoting the TxTenna project, which is meant to combat censorship through a system of GoTenna devices that get connected to the Blockstream Satellite. Just in case it wasn’t obvious, this is a partnership between the two entities, and it’s meant to produce yet another way of circumventing internet limitations. In relation to this collaboration, Adam Back has stated “I particularly like the way they integrated the Blockstream Satellite API”, thus prompting to

Secondly, it’s worth noting that the discussions aren’t simply based on hypotheses of governments shutting down the internet and are actually rooted in experiences observed throughout time in authoritarian states. Sure, the idea of doing commerce from your cabin in the woods with a mesh sounds like one of the only applications for offline Bitcoin transactions, yet there is no way to predict how Orwellian our future becomes and we currently have cases where the internet is heavily filtered and the financial sovereignty of citizens is almost impossible.

This segment is definitely a must-watch, as the questions of panel moderator Elaine Ou are direct, brutal, and somewhat challenging even for the knowledgeable panelists. It isn’t simply a matter of cool tech, but something that can change the lives of millions and may maintain the democratic framework in the face of a growing digital authoritarianism.

Magical Crypto Conference Highlight #6: Bitcoin vs Big Brother by Alex Gladstein

Human Rights Foundation CSO Alex Gladstein has really stolen the show with his presentation, and the fact that he was placed after the panel on Bitcoin without internet has only strengthened the message. From China’s social score system and all the way to the abusive data collection by tech companies, everything felt comprehensive, relevant, and rooted in real-world issues.

When Bitcoin was finally introduced as an alternative to all the censorship and digital oppression, it was like putting the smile on Gioconda’s face. It all came together really nicely, and it painted Satoshi’s invention in a positive way which transcends all the “currency for terrorists, tax evaders, and drug dealers” narrative that some politicians and media channels like to present.

Alex Gladstein’s presentation was also the least technical one in terms of engineering knowledge required to understand the topic at stake. Everyone and their mother should be able to easily digest the information and understand how their choices as consumers influence the dynamics of the internet business, how their governments might be purchasing surveillance technology from China, and why Bitcoin is very relevant in this debate. While it’s legitimate to blame the US government for irresponsibly printing money and devaluing their currency, this situation is sometimes the most convenient among other evils which deprive individuals of their human rights and liberties.

Magical Crypto Conference Highlight #7: The live MCF episode

A year ago, the four anthropomorphic animals have tried to do their seventh episode live at Consensus. They were given a small dark room, the sound setting was terrible, and the end result was disappointing for everyone trying to watch the livestream. Twelve episodes later, the quartet is able to do a proper show with a larger live audience, and great quality for both audio and video.

The only missing factor is Fluffy Pony’s physical absence, as he was replaced by a tablet on a tripod with remote-controlled wheels. It felt a lot like S16 E12 of South Park, “A Nightmare on FaceTime“, where Stan Marsh couldn’t go trick or treating with his friends on Halloween night and had to make use of an iPad to collect candy.

This nineteenth episode also marked the launch of a Magical Crypto Friends-themed puzzle mobile game for kids, and the website. Samson Mow took advantage of the opportunity to “shill” the space strategy video game on which his company Pixelmatic is working with developers from Age of Empires and Homeworld.

In terms of actual discussions, the topics revolved around the Binance hack and all the blockchain reorg mania that their CEO had started, and Bitcoin attack vectors. At one point, Whale Panda tried to shift attention towards negative tweets about the conference, but thankfully the episode moved on to questions from the audience.

Participants inquired about the reasons behind the ongoing price pump (and the best reply involved the actual bull which the organizers brought for entertainment and barbecue), the potential interactions between Blockstream’s Liquid sidechain and the Lightning Network, Litecoin’s development, blockchain gaming, cross-chain atomic swaps for Monero, Hodlonaut’s disappearance, Litecoin’s use case, fears about Bitcoin’s exuberance, predictions on upcoming US regulations, NANO, methodology for BTC price estimation in relation to development, and the Flood XMR paper. For more details, you may watch the full episode:


Image: South Park Studios


Read more:

  • Uncensorable news: How the Blockstream Satellite became an uncensorable source of information
  • Preview: Magical Crypto Conference 2019
  • Magical Crypto Conference makes Blockchain Week great again

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