The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency — Nick Szabo (#244)

identity-protecting silhouette of Nick Szabo before a window, backlit

“Trusted third parties are security holes.”

– Nick Szabo

Nick Szabo (@NickSzabo4) is a polymath. The breadth and depth of his interests and knowledge are truly astounding.

He’s a computer scientist, legal scholar, and cryptographer best known for his pioneering research in digital contracts and cryptocurrency.

The phrase and concept of “smart contracts” were developed by Nick with the goal of bringing what he calls the “highly evolved” practices of contract law and practice for the design of electronic commerce protocols between strangers on the Internet. Nick also designed Bit Gold, which many consider the precursor to Bitcoin.

This wide-ranging conversation is co-hosted by Naval Ravikant, a mutual friend and one of the most successful investors in Silicon Valley, who also happens to be one of Nick’s biggest admirers.

We cover a lot, including:

  • What is Bitcoin, what are cryptocurrencies, and what problem do they solve?
  • What is “social scalability?”
  • What is Ethereum and what makes it unique? Strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will smart contracts actually get adopted or go mainstream?
  • What are ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)?
  • Blockchain governance — is there any existential risk?
  • “Wet” versus “dry” code
  • Pascal’s scams
  • Quantum thought
  • What fields will you be working on in the future?


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#244: The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency -- Nick Szabo

Want to hear another podcast featuring Naval Ravikant?  — Listen to this prior conversation. In this episode, we discuss the habits and behaviors of highly successful and happy people (stream below or right-click here to download):

#97: The Evolutionary Angel, Naval Ravikant

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Nick Szabo:

Unenumerated | Twitter

  • Connect with Naval Ravikant:

AngelList | Startup Boy Blog | Twitter

Show Notes

  • Introductions and the story of how Nick and Naval met. [08:05]
  • What is cryptocurrency? [10:47]
  • Where did Nick’s interest in cryptocurrencies begin? [11:48]
  • What is cryptography? [12:56]
  • What are the benefits of cryptocurrency? [15:44]
  • Why is cryptocurrency important to Nick? [17:13]
  • What is a blockchain? [17:43]
  • A brief history of currency. [18:51]
  • What makes money — including cryptocurrency — valuable? [23:59]
  • “Bitcoin is almost to computers what quantum mechanics is to physics — it throws a lot of people in the field off.” [26:53]
  • What is a smart contract? [30:45]
  • “Wet” versus “dry” code. [31:44]
  • The vending machine as the primordial smart contract. [33:36]
  • A situation where someone might want to use a multi-signature (multisig) transaction. [35:57]
  • What are ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)? [41:56]
  • On the inevitable bubbles that show up in any prediction market. [43:00]
  • Most common cryptocurrency misconceptions. [45:40]
  • What makes Bitcoin unique? [49:50]
  • What was the innovation of BitGold? [51:20]
  • What is proof of work, and how is it used in Bitcoin mining? [53:42]
  • Computational inefficiency and social scalability. [1:00:04]
  • Would it be possible for a government to regulate cryptocurrencies out of existence? [1:05:02]
  • What is the incentive for a financial center like New York to be supportive (or cast a blind eye) to cryptocurrency development? [1:08:28]
  • Is Bitcoin inversely correlated to any particular asset classes? [1:10:13]
  • How do people accidentally lose their Bitcoins? [1:10:35]
  • What is Ethereum, and what are the pros and cons compared to Bitcoin? [1:12:53]
  • A cultural disconnect between the traditional financial world and the cryptocurrency community. [1:17:28]
  • What are the most valuable components of the traditional finance world? [1:19:05]
  • What reliable sources might someone from the traditional finance world consult if they wanted to learn more about cryptocurrencies? [1:20:40]
  • What will it take for the more widespread use of Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) among everyday consumers? [1:23:05]
  • What are the common characteristics of charlatans who scam the system? [1:28:54]
  • How is “fork” used in the context of cryptocurrencies? [1:31:13]
  • What problems do users of cryptocurrency most commonly encounter when dealing with the traditional banking infrastructure? [1:37:00]
  • How does “unenumerated” tie into the Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution? [1:46:23]
  • What is quantum thought? [1:49:24]
  • How has Nick trained himself to practice quantum thought? [1:50:52]
  • What are Pascal’s scams and how do they relate to Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan? [1:54:54]
  • For which emergencies or possible future events (e.g. “The Singularity”) should we be prepared? [1:58:06]
  • Does Nick worry about anything in particular that most people seem to ignore? [2:00:55]
  • How current technologies are trying to overcome the potential for privacy leaks in transactions. [2:03:29]
  • What makes certain cryptocurrencies appreciate in value over others? [2:04:50]
  • Why Singularity and Simulation hypotheses are mutually exclusive. [2:12:31]
  • How does Naval minimize his mental surface activity in order to better focus on current endeavors? [2:14:40]
  • Why future generations will probably handle social media better than we do today. [2:17:08]
  • Favorite books? [2:20:42]
  • What high school class would Nick teach? [2:22:41]
  • What does Nick plan on writing about in the near future? [2:24:42]
  • What would Nick’s billboard say? [2:26:47]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:27:15]

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107 Replies to “The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency — Nick Szabo (#244)”

      1. Legacy Feedburner issue. Should be fixed within hours. Thanks for the patience!

  1. Tim, thank you for this. I’ve been a big believer in cryptos for a while and seeing this material coming from sources such as yourself can really help open more public eyes as to what it’s all about. Now is tomorrow is now..


  2. So many of us learn/retain information through reading versus hearing. Any chance your podcasts will have transcripts soon?

  3. Very glad to see this discussion on here! I’ve been posting various places about how cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies can fix the economics of content creators like you, Tim.

    For example, for as much value as I’ve gotten from you in the past 10 years, you’ve gotten mayb e $4 from me in book royalties. You’re doing fine, since you have millions of fans, but the threshold for making money off of content is very high, and creates some strange incentives.

    You should look into STEEM, and a community such as Steemit. Imagine if every time you upvoted, commented, or created content, it was mining cryptocurrency. Also, imagine if your biggest fans could get cryptocurrency rewards for promoting your work. That’s essentially STEEM. It’s very cool (There’s a discussion with the Steemit CEO on my own podcast that you can check out if interested. The show is called “Love Your Work.”)

    1. I totally agree with David Kadavy, Steem has been one of the best things that I came across in the cyptocurrency world

      the community is just amazing!

      1. Great suggestion but I think this is messy. Tim already has a loyal following who trust him and purchase anything he puts out. STEEM requires time to master and might not be worth it for someone who already has so much clout.

    2. It’s really the perfect way for people to understand criptos… Using it in a product! Go Tim Go… Go BlockChain and Criptos GOOOOOOOO

  4. Thank you for this episode! One of my favs, loved the talk on Pascal scams quite a golden nugget.

    I agree with Naval

    PLEASE have an episode with Taleb!!!

  5. 🙂 progress through not thinking. true, except it doesn’t vanish, it becomes algebra. and more susceptible to automation.

  6. So looking forward to listening to this podcast but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available yet on Stitcher. Any updates on when it will?

    Thank you for sharing this type of content and insights with us! 🙂

  7. Really looking forward to this one as I just made the the jump into cryptocurrency (as my first ever investment!).

    However It hasn’t appeared on overcast yet?

  8. Unable to play the episode. Tried multiple options provided help what am I don’t wrong. Have not had an issue before.

  9. I’m confused about something mentioned in the podcast. Nick and Naval seemed to suggest that there was a limit on the number of transactions per block (apparently a hotly debated topic). From what I understand of the blockchain, each block only has the root of a Merkle tree in it and so there theoretically could be any number of transactions in the block. Where does the limitation come from?

  10. Good episode, and good info. And yet, incomplete. Dash solved the blockchain size problem in one day. Dash pro-actively solved the slow transaction problem by having incentivised masternodes to produce a huge and robust infrastructure of more than 4,400 active nodes. AND designing and implementing Instant send. Sent in a few seconds, not minutes or hours or days. You should have a conversation with Amanda B. Johnson to fill in these gaps in your knowledge base.

  11. 2017 is a yearlong “media fast” for me, but I listened to my first podcast this year in case there were any thoughts on cryptocurrencies which might change my investment practices. Thankfully, there wasn’t, but I learned a ton.

    Great episode. Thank you all!


    Some questions/topics I’d love to see discussed among you three in the future (if you’ve written about these, feel free to respond with a link to your thoughts):

    – I’d like to hear you all talk even more more about what factors influence the price of a cryptocurrency. If you’re willing to go more into detail, I’d love to hear thoughts on price vs. difficulty, and maybe even efficiency from a mining perspective, etc. (The relationship between price and mining difficulty seems like it’s fascinating.)

    – I was recently tempted to build an ethereum mining rig (I decided against it to focus on the website more) based on this fact: mining uses photons from the sun (through fossil fuels or solar, it doesn’t matter) to produce electricity to process computations to earn a cryptocurrency “commission” which can then be exchanged for actual food or products. That’s mind-blowing, and I’d love to hear you three talk about it.

    – Getting more philosophical… Mr. Ravikant and Mr. Szabo both take the perspective that the idea of AGI/ASI stepping on us (humans) like a bug is a “pascal scam.” (Wow: thanks for a different perspective!) Okay, fine. But assume for this question that AGI/ASI is indeed going to exist at some point in the future: could the blockchain (or similar technology) be a sort of arrow-of-time or sense of memory into the past (far more accurate than our own biological memories) for this “being” ? Would love to hear/read thoughts.

    – Could the blockchain somehow be used for, say, password/identity storage (like LastPass?)? I don’t really even understand my own question here…

    – What happens if tomorrow or next week, on a whim, President Trump decided

    – that the U.S. government is going full force into backing a cryptocurrency like bitcoin? or,

    – that trading in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is illegal? (obviously Congress would do its thing here, but what if the executive branch tried?)

    – How might you speculate as to where the NSA could be with its technology of a) breaking encryption or b) a potential ability to alter the blockchain or current block? (Considering that, historically, the NSA is years ahead of anything we already publicly have.)

    Lots of reading ahead from this episode. Wowsers.

    Anyway, thanks again. Well worth breaking a media fast for this episode.

    [Moderator: disclaimer removed]

    1. Some of the main factors that influence the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies include:

      * Market supply and demand

      * Total amount of Bitcoins and Bitcoin holders

      * News in mass media

      * Technical issues

      * Political and economic events worldwide

      * High volatility

      Tim released this episode during a bullish market as a bubble was growing. The last couple days, we’ve seen a few of these factors in action. Specifically technical issues (scalability of Ethereum, a possible Bitcoin fork/split) and news in mass media (both highlighting the bubble and these technical issues).

  12. Tim…..

    As always thanks for the awesome podcast!! I’ve read a few articles recently about cryptocurrency, which just confused me more. This podcast was very helpful and definitely helped in breaking it down into simpler terms. I have been interested in investing without buying the actual “coins”. The only investment option I’ve come across is the investment trust GBTC, which has skyrocketed in the last month. I didn’t hear any mentioned, but wondered if you know of any other options?

    Thanks again!!!

  13. Hi Tim:

    Big fan of all of your stuff…own every book and am starting to listen to your podcasts now too!

    I’ve obviously seen a few of your Facebook Live sessions as well. I happen to work for one of Facebook’s Live Technology Partners, BumeBox, and we have a tool that influencers and celebrities use on Facebook to curate comments during very high-volume events. Our ‘Live Prompter’ makes it much easier to find higher quality and more relevant comments from amongst the thousands (many of which are low quality and even spam). Some of our partners include U.S. Soccer, MLS, Univision, MTV, Mariah Carey, San Jose Sharks, CBS, WWE, UFC, and more.

    Live Prompter is completely subsidized by Facebook, so its free for you to use and will honestly just improve the quality of your Live sessions.

    I dont mean to spam you here, but just am trying everything I can to get in touch. Feel free to email me if interested in learning more.


  14. For some reason this is still not coming up on Pocket Casts (andorid). I’ve never had this issue before, I even unsubscribed and subscribed again. Any idea why this may be? Excited for this episode.

  15. Great podcast Tim. I listen to a lot of your stuff and this was the best. This is going to be a huge space – please give us more crypto information!

  16. Great interview, I just wish Naval would have let Nick answer the questions you originally pointed directly to Nick. While Naval is brilliant, it’s apparent he knows this and has a limited ability to let others speak. Understandable if he was sharing the stage with someone of lesser knowledge or intellect, but the title of your Podcast was about Nick. I was so excited to see you landed this interview given Nick’s background. I’ve been fascinated by him since I read Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper. While I understand the logic of bringing in Naval to co-host, it really turned into a Naval interview, not a Nick interview, and I was left longing for more. A follow-up podcast with Nick would be greatly appreciated if the the crypto space holds your curiosity and you feel more comfortable going one on one with him. If not, consider bringing on Andreas Antonopolis to co-host. I originally thought this is who you were going to bring on when you asked subscribers for questions. I think he’d be worthy of his own podcast and help further educate the audience on the origins and future of this important technology.

  17. This podcast was AWESOME! I listened to every minute (some podcasts I skip around a bit) and listened again to some of the higher level concepts. Cryptocurrency makes way more sense now! Hugely informative, thank you Tim!

  18. Are the audio products available in a format that Hard of Hearing folks can access? Captions or the script would be wonderful. Thanks, Norman

  19. Great interview. Good mix of theory and practice on cryptocurrency as well as other thought provoking ideas and concepts.

  20. I was excited to hear that you were putting on this podcast with Nick and the questions were great. If I had to adjust something, it would be nice if Tim reigned in Naval on some the conversation, Naval tends to go on and on and sometimes off topic to always make some sort of point rather than being informative. Personally, I felt like his parts were a bit of a drag and Nick isn’t nearly as active on social media as Naval so it would have been great to hear more of him speaking.

    1. This was effectively an interview of Naval Ravikant. He answered half or more of the questions himself. Did much more talking than Szabo.

      1. I have the feeling that Tim did a lot of editing, and probably removed some sections of Nick’s comments that were just too technical. Nick assumed a lot of knowledge that non-tech people would not understand, and Naval possibly even recorded explainers after the show that were then inserted.

        Tim, and I way off?

  21. Absolutely amazing podcast, answered so many questions I’ve had! Thanks so much Tim!

    I had a question I don’t think was talked about that I would love to know about, and hopefully the guys on the podcast will be willing to answer when they get a chance.

    My question is, now that the worlds largest banks are finally jumping on board, and are in fact creating their very own cryptocurrencies, how will this effect other currencies like bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin etc.? Negatively or in a positive way? Could the worlds largest players entering the game be the beginning of a new world of cryptocurrency that’s now regulated, thus defeating the purpose? Could you see the largest banks getting together with the government to make their currency the new world currency, and making all others illegal and/or highly less valuable?? I really hope not, but this is where my mind immediately goes when I think of the 900 pound gorilla entering the room.

    Anyone with knowledge on this, please feel free to chime in!


    1. Singapore is working on a tokenized currency based on the Ethereum platform. Other countries doing something like this makes a lot more sense than building their own currency from scratch. Using Ethereum as a common protocol allows for much easier interoperability between currencies.

  22. One of the best explanations of the phenomenon to date. PhDs talking about relying on machines and maths. Note to self: stay away from it or find a way to short the entire system for when it eventually goes [Moderator: word removed.] up.

    1. Funny, thats what people were saying 10-15 years ago when you could buy Bitcoin for a few cents. As far as shorting digital commodities, i suppose one would load up on physical ones.

      With the world demanding everything with ever increasing speed, and simplicity, I don’t really see this going away, excepting some improbable future as showcased in movies such as after the fall of New York, or Transcendence, where the internet and/or inter-connectivity no longer exists.

      Perhaps a better plan would be to start mining, and buying on a monthly auto buy basis using dollar cost averaging? My 2¢

  23. Wonderful episode Tim.

    Subjects like these really need your editorial take on them and the presence of Naval was much needed to ask some good questions.

    I love when you do those episodes where you treat very narrow subjects in a such deep way. And from what I’m seeing here, it sparks interesting interactions and cool discussion among us, your listeners.

    Thank you and more of this please.

  24. Really great episode. So much good info. Almost crashed my bike as I was concentrating so hard – which may also explain why I’m not a multi-tasking tech billionaire yet…

    Also sounds like you might find the book Post-Capitalism by Paul Mason interesting. It’s nothing to do with cryptocurrency but I found it an interesting primer on ‘fiat money’, global economies and the like.

    Keep it up.

  25. If you want to do an integrative health episode and need a chiropractor to talk to, I’d love to share what I know. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dorian Yates mentioned chiropractic in your interviews so your fans might be interested. A major meta-review of chiropractic RCTs was published in JAMA a couple of weeks ago that found chiropractic to be safe and effective.

  26. Hey Tim, extremely interesting talk.

    I know you are celebrating round birthday next month and I would send you a book-gift if it is possible. I believe you will love the book and will be able to experience it deeply. It’s not written by me or anything like that, it’s a writer that actually could write and invoke extremely deep feelings about nature of humanity. Part of review: >>This book is simply amazing. As Monty Python might say, “…and now for something completely different…” […] It seems as if there is a “Yes, yes. We just saw 20k people who are on their way to be slaughtered — but what can I trade you for that onion?”

    I am aware that you are very busy and IIRC staring at the hell’s gate right now, but I’d love to gift you this book. The problem is there is no ebook version of it, so I would need to send physical copy somewhere. I do not mean your home address, rather some address you can safely give to a stranger on internet.

    I would great mean deal to me, as you had and have profound impact on my life, not only on quite vain “productivity” level, but more so on philosophical/moral level.

  27. I thought this episode was incredible. Thanks so much for putting these incredible thinkers on our collective radar.

  28. I was disappointed with this episode. Today, with cryptocurrencies and blockchains, we are where we were in 1996 with the internet—early adopters recognize that we’re witnessing the birth of something world-changing, and the mind boggles at the use cases and opportunities that exist on this landscape.

    On this platform (Tim’s podcast), the guests had a rare opportunity to advance a general understanding of these things to such a broad audience, but in my opinion they came up short.

    For example, I don’t believe someone unfamiliar with Bitcoin before the interview, would be in much of a position to understand or explain it afterwards. The rambling conversation was just too logically disorganized, chose unfortunate analogies (“fly in the amber”?) and included too many technical details that, again in my opinion, only serve to dilute understanding of the core concepts that are important for the masses to get. I think Wences Casares of Xapo did a much better job in his The New Gold Standard talk a while back, that’s available on YouTube.

    When the question of what are some real world blockchain use cases beyond money, I was hoping the already-being-experimented-with use case of land-property ownership registry would be mentioned. Blockchain based registries will prevent what’s happened in so many countries around the world, in which wars and political turmoil have resulted in property being stolen along with any paperwork that establishes ties to the original owners.

    Another interesting example is the new Prism exchange from Erik Voorhees, which allows investment in a broad cryptocurrency portfolio, without actually having to buy any currency except Ethereum (through a smart contract). Today it’s portfolios of cryptocurrencies, but it’s not difficult to imagine portfolios of all addressable asset classes, secured on the blockchain and available to anyone in the world, regardless of the borders in which they live.

    Anyway, I hope you continue interviewing people working and innovating in this field.

    1. I completely disagree. I had little to no knowledge nor interest in Bitcoin before this podcast. It came up in my feed and I clicked on it, thinking I would be easily annoyed or bored and ready to move on to something else.

      Instead, I found it fascinating and am recommending it to others. Perhaps someone else explained it better but it captured my novice interest.

      I can agree that it was rambling but it’s 3 people sharing their thoughts and opinions, not a script.

    2. I think the interview format works for some guests that are amazing story tellers and likely writers themselves (Jerzy, Sebastian Junger) but for others it sometimes is a bit of random chat over beers where the signal to noise ratio isn’t the greatest, think of a talk-show host where they don’t know their guest too well, this is where Tim has an advantage. But for example, I got a ton more out of Casey Neistat’s TEDx video where he describes his life – because that is what Casey is great at, putting a ton of information, and a story, into a short bit of time. But the disadvantage to that style is you miss out on some of the nuggets, the little slip-ups if you will, where you uncover the real theme or direction of a guest, or just their amazingness. For me, this was the part about Ayn Rand and Nick’s uptopian / dystopian dreams. In this way, the interview was excellent and highly revealing, IMO. So this kind of anarchy is what is driving this effort. Ok, cool. But what they aren’t seeing in this happy path is the negative side, i.e. (IMO) the rise of ransomware and the Dark Web, all made possible by bitcoin. I saw a really good talk in 2013 by Jason Thomas (see LegalTech 2014 opening keynote on YouTube) Yes, kicking myself I didn’t buy bitcoin back then, I think in the talk, Jason actually sends someone bitcoin to illustrate a point, like this has made Frictionless Commerce for the drug industry all the more better.

  29. What was the coin mentioned towards the end after the 2 hr mark? I want to say I heard Falcoin? But I’m really not sure. I’ve tried to look it up but don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

  30. Hey Tim,

    Just wanted to drop a quick comment and say I appreciate your method of questioning in these podcasts. I think you do a great job of pulling out the “meat” from people’s answers, and I feel that my own way of asking questions has improved just by listening to the way you go about it.

    Thanks for all you do!

  31. Great episode, but I think “quiet master” refers to the fact Nick didn’t get to speak much? I like Naval a lot, but I was hoping to hear more from Nick, especially on his philosophy (freedom, privacy, voluntary exchange) and how technology can make it happen on a large scale in near future. I hope there will be another episode.

    Plus I absolutely agree about getting Nasim Taleb as podcast guest!

  32. I have listened to Tim for the last 5 years now and I always wanted to understand BitCoin and how it worked and I can say this is the smartest, easiest and most profound podcast on BitCoin and CryptoCurrency. Merci TIM !

    Phil From Montreal

  33. If there was a transcript I’d search ‘hippy’, where Naval mentioned his early concerns about the massive amount of energy used in mining. Did he finish that thought? Can anyone share a link to info on bitcoin, etc. energy consumption?

  34. SOOO, I’ll ask the important question that no one is asking… what are you investment ratios in crypto’s, huh Tim? 50:30:10 in BTC:Eth:Litecoin? 70:30 in bit and eth?

    GUIDE US 🙂

    Or maybe you’re not invested in at all.


  35. My favorite lesson from this episode was Nick speaking of ancient cultures who used “durable” currencies. What does that mean?

    Jeff Koons holds the world record for, “most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction” for “Balloon Dog (Orange)” that sold for $58,400,000 (why do I get some weird satisfaction from typing out all of those numbers?). The 12 foot tall, steel and orange chrome sculpture won’t require much maintenance to stay gorgeous, but Jackson Pollock’s $200,000,000+ paintings will rot and fall apart without continued care. Which is more durable?

    Aside from physical degradation, could anything cause either piece of art to decrease in value? Is art durable currency?

    My “muse” from the 4HWW evolved from $45 to $125 art and continues to sell out, even at $245+ consistently selling, for one pottery coffee mug. All evidence points to this art only appreciating in value over time.

    “Wow! Everything I touch turns to gold!” That little, red, pitchfork man on my should seems like a pesky, little liar.

    Does anyone know of examples where art, especially famous art, depreciated in value over time?

    Three years ago, I was ready to sell a gorgeous, big jar for under a thousand bucks because I needed cash. People gravitated towards it far more than other jars. It almost sold three times and I’m thankful it didn’t. Today, letting that jar leave my possession for less than 20 grand seems like it could be a big mistake.

  36. Funderbeam, out of Estonia, is a great example of combinding fundraising, trading and storing your finaicial assets on a blockchain.

  37. To start with I like to thanks for another great podcast.

    I just like to share with you that the Norweigan finace webpage today had an article about the first ATM for Bitcoins in Norway, max 5000nok~500$. A part in the development of products for next level with user focus.


  38. if you have a lot of money piled up and are happy to throw it away, then consider investing in a crypto currency for example Ethereum.

    the code and implementation for crypto currencies have not been designed with security in mind. They are an absolute joke and a mess from a security perspective. The debarcle with people being able to exploit the contract for Etheruem – because the code was the contract, and the code was poorly written – and cash out all the investors value was but one example of this. (The ability of the team to void the original contract and start afresh, is an example of how your money is not safe That was fraud.. Can you imagine that happening in any other financial arena???)

    So, under all the hype and noise and sillicon valley fireworks,and white yuppies with no artistic taste gushing ‘we are the future’ is an utterly unstable poorly conceived security disaster. With massive amounts of money involved. You should know this. Any genuine security professional taking the merest glance at the code will tell you this. It is not the sort of thing people are willing to hear.

    1. The following is a comment a few days ago, on an esteemed security blog, by a highly respected professional in infosec:

      ‘Some months ago I was approached by a group who had developed a blockchain currency, that was supported and already in limited use by a rather big japanese bank. They wanted me to took at their stuff and to examine its safety and security and to make suggestions on how to repair any eventual weaknesses.

      Result: After a relatively brief look I declined and told them that their whole design (and implementation) is so f*cked up that a detailed examination, let alone “minor repairs” didn’t make any sense.From what I’ve seen since then they’re doing well and are on their way to become a regional standard.Thanks, no more questions.’

      1. Not all alt coins are secure. It would be more pertinent to this podcast to reference security issues associated with the major cryptos BTC, ETH, and LTC.

  39. Loved the podcast and the potential for blockchain. Also as a fan of analogies I like the amber analogy. My one negative remark would be that I agree with some of the other comments that it would have been nice to have Nick do more answering than Naval since he was the “headliner”. That aside I have two questions for your guests, firstly, if I heard correctly there is an upper limit to the number of bitcoin that can be mined. If this is the case once that number is reached won’t the system collapse since the miners get paid in new bitcoin? If the miners aren’t being paid, who is going to keep updating the blocks? Instead of laying down amber, wouldn’t a better analogy be musical chairs?

    The second question is when are you going to get Bruce Schneier on your podcast, I would love to get his take on the security of blockchain (among other topics.

    Thanks for finding interesting speakers.

    1. Bruce would be great, and so would Mikko Hypponen (@mikko) to explain some of the downsides to the digital currency. In fact, would be fun to have a bit of a round-table sometime, many of these conversations are so rah-rah and that’s great, but would be killer to have some good arguments going on too. For example, thought Nick or someone trivialized Turing’s work “just brute force”, nonsense. For starters, it’s not like Turing had an array of Nvidia GPUs sitting around did he? Or maybe they were dumbing it down a bit for the audience, but that is a rather basic misunderstanding, surely these guys know of the weaknesses of PRNGs etc? I fully admit I don’t have near the level of understanding of cryptography they do, though I use it of course, and have worked with a few experts, so perhaps I mistook their words.

  40. Thank you Tim, Naval, Nick – I learnt so much here. In particular, valuing the reminder and nice articulation of what money is and what currency is.

  41. Would like a follow up convo on this regarding the August 1st BTC segwit switch. Any thoughts from you Tim/Naval/Nick ?

  42. 1:08:40 – 1:10:13 “Just like the internet took out Hollywood with Netflix.”

    I am the, self-proclaimed, number one skeptic, but Naval Ravikant is a mastermind!

    An absolute gem of an episode! Thank you, Tim. The best 10 hours I have spent in quite some time. Yes, that’s 4 times through!

    Investing into a novel idea can seem daunting. I implore everyone to do their research and to be leery of the youtubers and twitter-ers (?) involved incryptocurrency promotion. Investing long term in projects that solve problems and are scale-able are the keys to success. Leave the emotion and ego at the door!

    [Moderator: link and additional text removed.]

    Cheers guys!

  43. Such an informational and definitive guide to Crypto and the Bitcoin space. Loved the episode Tim. Please keep doing more cryptocurrency related episodes. Maybe invite the Coinbase founder or one of the top developers?

  44. Can anyone recommend and good books (kindle or audible) on cryptocurrency, bitcoin, blockchain, etc or any recommended authors? Other than Naval and Nick of course. Thanks. One of my top 3 TF podcasts! And I’ve listened to about 90% of all these over the past few years.

    1. Best websites I’ve found covering free comprehensive education articles and latest news and events:




      For books, the “For Dummies” are great intros and how to get started with Blockchain as well as BitCoin

  45. Hey,

    I’m Zach from France and I just wanted to say thank you ! The 4 hour work week and Tools and Titans changed my life

    Thank you very much

  46. Money is only paper (or numbers in a spreadsheet), like Monopoly money. There’s nothing else. Instead of a game board where you roll the dice and collect $200 every time you pass GO, it’s the American economy, with US citizens and corporations, working and producing in exchange for money. Like in Monopoly, money is created for this specific game only. You can’t come and play with a different type of money that comes from another game. It would be cheating if someone tries to pay its rent or taxes with some other game’s money. The same is true for the US Dollar. The US Government will only accept US Dollars when you pay your taxes. That is the only reason the US Dollar has any value. You can’t pay your taxes with anything else. And God knows you have to pay your taxes. Everything else in the economy (domestic or international) follows. The Government can print as much as it wants and will never run out of money. But every one else (person or company) must balance their budget.

  47. Bitcoin transactions are not tied to any personal information which allows users to protect their privacy. However, since all Bitcoin transactions are public knowledge and permanently on the blockchain, other users can see the activity associated to a particular wallet address—hence not being 100% anonymous. It is highly recommended to only use Bitcoin addresses once to avoid your identity being revealed either through a specific purchase or other means. [Moderator: website link removed.]

  48. 2 Clarifications and 1 question:

    Your guests are brilliant. Maybe too brilliant – not sure they know what we don’t know. I have two obvious things to share that did not come out in the interview:

    1. A key distinction and attraction of Bitcoin is that unlike state sponsored fiat currencies, it is a scarce resource and guaranteed to stay that way (mathematically capped at 21M – and as they point out, that is a theoretical cap that will never be reached as lost Bitcoin is lost forever).

    2. The reference to DRY and WET code derives from the software programming dictum: Don’t Repeat Yourself. DRY is a programming principle that speaks to efficiency, ease of maintenance, and the value of standardizing that which can be codified without any loss of meaning or utility. WET refers to anything that isn’t DRY. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Lots of things don’t lend themselves to an algorithm.

    MY QUESTION (s):

    • If the leger is held on thousands of blockchain computers all over the world, how can it also be anonymous? Isn’t their some type of identification (minimally an IP address) to say that this person over here gave a coin to that person over there?

    • Is the security only related to the improbability of 50% +1 computer confirming a transaction? Can the leger ever be interrogated to resolve a dispute – if so who rules?

    • Is there a published list of the Blockchain nodes? Hate to be paranoid, but wouldn’t it be disconcerting to see that 60% of the nodes were in China. Who regulates this?

  49. I apologize if this is already answered, and truly I haven’t taken the opportunity to search the site or listen to this particular podcast yet. Although I am a fan of the podcast and have listened to most episodes prior to a year ago. My question is to Tim, and or the collective- are you diversified into cryptocurrencies, and if so what exchange do you find most beneficial. I would like to get into lesser known selections other than bitcoin due to my current limited disposable investment cap into this area.

  50. My favorite quote or lesson from this episode is the advice given to people who might not have access to the right kind of people to surround themselves with: “read” and “choose your reading sources very wisely”. Great advice!!

    1. I love read your blog I almost visit every week and read your informative articles from your website. I’m interested in BTC and other crypto I have invested some amount In them.

  51. Brilliant podcast guys, thank you very much.

    A friend of mine introduced me to bitcoin back in 2013, if only I had taken the time to look into it then. It still feels like the golden era for cryptocurrencies though so better now than in another five years time…

    For some reason it makes me think of the pink sheet stocks on “Wolf of Wall Street”.

    Thanks again.

  52. Thanks for the awesome topics. Generally, people need to be aware of such technical terms before they decide to invest or participate in mining of any cryptocurrency. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know much about ICO yet I had already began mining webchain coin a few weeks ago! Hehehe, Sounds interesting! Luckily enough it didn’t have an ICO

  53. “Gold Bits Coin is a coin used to make payments for online shopping and at merchants for goods and services. GBC is the Modern Day Gold of this industry”

  54. I was really into crypto a couple of years ago, and sort of got burned out on it… but in 2020, getting back in, buying, and hodling more BTC, ETH, and a couple others… This is a great episode to revisit and get back in gear.

    1. Just getting into it myself. What’s your take on the length left of the current market? Some say trends just like 2017/2018 but others say this one has more legs in it….

  55. Hi Tim,

    Can you bring Nick back on for a coronavirus edition episode? I think Andreas Antonopoulos is also an excellent educator when it comes to distributed systems and blockchain and I think you’ll really like him as a guest.


    1. I just got around to listening to this, and I personally think it was very well done and just knowing that Nick Szabo exists led me to his interesting writings which opens up a new world.

  56. Who is the guest here?

    One comment or question and Naval interrupted, launching into his love of hearing his own lengthy opinion / answer. He also repeatedly interrupted Nick’s answer after a sentence or two, to once again show his expertise.

    Not very humble, Naval, nor polite. This would have been a much better interview with Naval out of the conversation entirely.

    And I’m a Naval fan! Just very disappointed at not hearing more of what Nick Szabo had to say. What a wasted episode and opportunity.

  57. If we continue to talk about bitcoin and keep investing then we just celebrate the future success. Thanks for sharing.

  58. This fascinating blog post featuring Nick Szabo’s insights has sparked my curiosity and enthusiasm, igniting my interest in exploring a blockchain developer course to delve deeper into the world of decentralized technologies.