SKALE Asynchronous Interviews — #1 Konstantin Kladko
Hello all, and welcome to the SKALE Asynchronous Interview Series!
At SKALE, we talk to a lot of thought leaders in blockchain and wanted to explore a way to share some of our learnings with the community. This series focuses on providing quality information relating to both blockchain / decentralization as well as those personalities who are moving the space forward. The content is designed to be fun, informative, and to give you a peek into where thought leaders see this industry going.
Going with the theme of SKALE Consensus, we do these in a distributed asynchronous fashion; i.e., I ask a few written questions remotely over a shared doc, the interviewee answers, and then I ask a few more (we have no shortage of consensus jokes and puns at SKALE).
Without further adieu, I present to your our first Interviewee — SKALE’s CTO and my co-founder, Konstantin Kladko.
Konstantin, or ‘Stan’, as we call him, has been working in cryptography in one way or another for almost 20 years. After receiving his PhD in Physics from the Max Planck Institute, he held Physics research positions at both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford. Shortly thereafter, he started a CS Masters at Stanford and became an early member on the Java Virtual Machine and Compiler team at Sun Microsystems.
Then he joined Dan Boneh at a startup, Ingrian Networks before eventually starting a crypto lab where he was one of the top cryptography contractors for the US government for seven years. He did crypto certs for the NSA and other organizations on over 400 codebases at the many of top Silicon Valley companies. He then founded two Venture backed startups before SKALE Labs.
J: Stan — You’ve been working in cryptography since 2001. How did you first get into the space?
S: I signed up for a course in cryptography from Prof. Dan Boneh at Stanford, and fell in love with the subject. I ended up getting an A+ in the course. I then found out that Dan founded a startup, Ingrian Networks, and joined this startup as a very early employee. We ended up pivoting from web encryption to database encryption, and I ended up designing the core of what is now known as Safenet DataSecure server. Many years after the product is now the world leading product for database encryption.
J: What initially got you excited about Math when you were a kid?
My dad had a collection of Arthur Conan Doyle books about Sherlock Holmes, I read them when I was 6 years old. One of them was the “The valley of fear”, where Sherlock Holmes receives an encrypted message and needs to break the cipher. Reading it got me so excited, that I got a piece of paper and encrypted a message myself, using the technique described in the book, by replacing letters with other letters. Many years after, I still remember this day.
J: As an experienced entrepreneur and technologist, what was it about Ethereum and the decentralization that got you excited and inspired you to commit yourself to this space?
S: I have realized in the past that technology companies typically innovate during the first several years of their existence and then, once the brand is built and the user base is established, turn into rent-collecting shops and stop innovating. I have realized that smart contracts provide a rent-free way to innovate, where developers are paid to initially create the network, but once the network is up and running the middle-man fee is zero. A vision of self-sustaining open source and rent-free economy world is something that inspires me to work in this space.
J: Why do you like asynchronous consensus protocols?
S: Asynchronous consensus protocols are protocols in which any server can crash and come back after a day or a week. I’d recommend reading Christian Cachin and Marko Vucolic’s paper, “Blockchain Protocols in the Wild” which provides an introduction into synchronous and asynchronous protocols https://arxiv.org/abs/1707.01873
J: What will the future state of crypto be in 10 years?
S: I think crypto needs its “iPhone moment”. A killer application which after everyone will start using crypto. My feeling is that it will be in games, since games were the first thing to happen pretty much on any platform, be it PCs, smartphones, or social networks. People will learn and adopt to crypto through gaming. This will probably happen sometime in 2019. After a critical mass of people learn about crypto through games, people will start translating crypto skills learned in the game worlds to into the real world and create fee-less decentralized versions of shared economy companies — decentralized Uber, decentralized Airbnb, decentralized TaskRabbit etc.
In parallel to that, messengers will add crypto functionality. WeChat messenger is incredibly successful in China for payments. Although WeChat is not based on blockchain, building something like WeChat on a planet-wide scale does require decentralization, since having governments to agree on a centralized solution is hardly feasible. Telegram is working on integrating crypto into Telegram messenger. Also Facebook is rumored to have a secret blockchain project. Samsung announced that it will include crypto into the Galaxy S10 phone.
I think the year of 2020 may be an inflection point for crypto payments.
10 years from now you will not be working for a company. Instead, you will be freely joining and leaving decentralized economic networks and earning your living by doing work on these networks. Establishment of these economic networks that will transforming the world’s economy is the ultimate endplay for crypto.
J: Thanks Stan! Ok, that’s a wrap!
Please stay tuned to the channel as we will be publishing more interviews with industry thought leaders. We’ll also soon be releasing a detailed post on SKALE Consensus and a crypto math primer on Threshold Signatures.