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Digital Investor: Macroeconomics to the Micro Crypto Economy with Byron Gilliam

Originally aired on August 1, 2023

Nick Black hosted another episode of Crypto & Coffee, joined by regular co-host Brandon and special guest Byron Gilliam. The episode covered a range of crypto topics including AI news, Worldcoin, the Curve exploit, the Ripple ruling, and outlooks for the future of crypto.

Nick started by cautioning viewers to be vigilant about protecting their private keys, passphrases, and avoiding suspicious links, stating “everyone all the time is trying to steal your stuff.” He then introduced Byron Gilliam, recommending viewers follow his work, available on his newsletter at blockworks.co.

The hosts discussed recent AI developments, including Google upgrading its assistant with generative AI capabilities similar to ChatGPT, and reorganizing teams which may lead to layoffs. They also covered Palantir CEO Alex Karp advocating for AI weapons development, though had mixed opinions on autonomous weapons systems. On a lighter note, they talked about the rise of AI virtual influencers like Lil Miquela making millions through brand deals.

Shifting to crypto topics, Nick asked Byron for his thoughts on Worldcoin, the project trying to build a global digital ID system using retina scans. Byron was initially skeptical but now believes it could provide a decentralized solution for proving personhood, which he thinks will be necessary for things like universal basic income.

The conversation moved to the major Curve exploit over the weekend, where a bug in the protocol’s compiler code was targeted to steal over $500K in funds. Byron explained Curve’s importance in DeFi, and said this bug revealed risks in new smart contract languages that have not been thoroughly battle-tested.

Analyzing the latest Ripple ruling, Byron saw it as very positive for crypto generally, even though Ripple still may have to pay a large fine. He thinks the case getting kicked further down the road buys more time for legislative clarity. Nick explained the likely complex appeals process, agreeing the timeline benefits the industry.

In terms of crypto’s future, Byron said risk assets seem to be recovering but crypto may need a new narrative to rally again in a more sustained way. Brandon predicted gradually increasing adoption, while Nick expected more investment interest in the intersection of AI and crypto.

Should we trust AI news sources over human reporters?

  • Byron was unsure about AI news sources, preferring human-generated news
  • Nick proposed verifying AI news robustly to check for deepfakes
  • Brandon said many current followers could be bots already

What is the outlook for Worldcoin’s digital identification network?

  • Byron believes decentralized ID will be needed to prove personhood for things like UBI
  • Brandon thinks anonymity may still be preferred to providing full identity info
  • Nick noted Sam Altman has strong credentials so his initiative deserves consideration

How will the Curve exploit impact DeFi security perceptions?

  • Byron said Curve’s importance made the compiler bug reveal unforeseen risks
  • Brandon said the rewards still outweigh the risks in DeFi vs traditional finance
  • Nick compared it to a fault in a doorway – it jeopardizes faith in the whole building

How does the Ripple ruling open doors for crypto?

  • Byron saw it as very positive for the industry despite Ripple paying a fine
  • Brandon noted any positive crypto spin is a win
  • Nick explained the extended timeline benefits the industry

What consumer trends will drive crypto’s next cycle?

  • Byron said a new narrative is needed, not just linkage to macro markets
  • Brandon predicted gradually increasing mainstream adoption
  • Nick expects interest in the intersection of AI and crypto