Recap of AMA with Emin Gün Sirer

On the 2nd of July 2021 @ 18:00 UTC, An AMA session with Emin Gün Sirer was held in Hillrise Group. Below we present to you an excerpt from AMA with questions and answers. It was wonderful and very informative, Enjoy reading :)

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Hi everyone!

Ray Reijnders | Hillrise Group

Hi Gun, it’s great to have you here today! Very much looking forward to learning more about how Avalanche is moving ahead at full steam.

Can you please kick the AMA off with an introduction for yourself and Avalanche?

Rowan | Hillrise Group

Hi Gun, it’s an honor to have you here with us, we’re really excited to have this AMA with you and talk about your progress with Avalanche

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

[In reply to Ray Reijnders]

I’m the CEO of Ava Labs, a professor at Cornell University in computer science, and a co-director of the main blockchain research institute called IC3, aka Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts.

I’ve been in crypto since 2002. So that predates Bitcoin by a bunch of years. I built the first currency based on proof of work mining, called Karma, and published it in 2003 (though Satoshi’s invention added a significant improvement to Karma by folding in the consensus protocol into the proof of work, and he designed his system to replace fiat whereas Karma was intended mainly as a virtual currency for use in peer to peer applications).

After that, I worked on decentralization of consensus protocols, invented something called vaults, found the biggest weakness in Bitcoin and other PoW currencies, built the fastest Layer 2 solution to date, called out some of the attack vectors that The DAO hacker used, and generally worked hard to educate the public and policymakers about blockchain technologies.

Most recently, I’ve been working on the Avalanche systems.

Rowan | Hillrise Group

[In reply to Emin Gün Sirer]

Thanks for the strong intro Gün, I’m curious, can you easily explain this biggest weakness you’ve found in Bitcoin and likewise systems?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Sure. Back in 2013, Prof. Ittay Eyal and I looked carefully into Bitcoin’s consensus protocol, and discovered that some key properties that everyone took for granted were simply not true. Specifically, if a miner were to NOT do what Satoshi said, but follow a slightly different strategy when announcing blocks, he could force the other miners to waste their effort on solving stale block puzzles. This would then eventually confer a potentially significant advantage to the attacker, for instance, with 49% of the hash power, he can collect close to 100% of the rewards!

This strategy is called “selfish mining,” and it invalidated some of the folk theorems that everyone including Satoshi believed about the protocol.

We provided a fix for selfish mining attacks launched by small miners, but the problem is not fixable when launched by big miners. So we all have to be diligent to make sure that miners do not exceed the 33% threshold when selfish mining attacks become dangerous.

[ Question from Manh Dong]

Hi, I read in the news recently that Avalabs expands the team quickly recently, what are the foci of new manpower?

Rowan | Hillrise Group

This question also ties into a question we had…

Avalanche Network, Avalanche labs, Avalanche-X, open-source, a multinational team. You’re creating a very elaborate ecosystem. Can you give us a glimpse of your organizational structure(s) and how it all operates? Who is involved? — And how is it evolving?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

[In reply to Rowan]

Ava Labs has grown immensely from the start of the pandemic, expanding to about 120 employees. That’s certainly posed challenges to getting everyone on-boarded and familiar with the team, but in that same time period we have accomplished amazing feats and industry firsts with our own resources and Avalanche community.

I’m the CEO of Ava Labs, the company that did the bulk of the initial software development. There is an independent foundation, Avalanche Foundation out of Singapore, whose mission is to help expand the ecosystem.

Within Ava Labs, we have a very large engineering team, located half in the US (in NYC, SF Bay Area, Miami, Boston, etc) and around the globe in London, Berlin, Czechia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and of course China. We follow practices that are kind of different from other software firms like Google/Microsoft/Facebook — namely, we believe in a “superprogrammer” model, centered around making programming leads as productive as possible. That involves a closeknit team structure, where a few very talented engineers do the heavy lifting and others support them. And a team member that is supporting a superprogrammer on one team might very well be the superprogrammer on another. This approach to software development is specific to Ava Labs — other companies follow a strategy that is structured around getting plodding productivity out of more mediocre builders, whereas we have the benefit of having some of the best
engineering talent in the space, and our processes are centered around making them as super productive.

Ray Reijnders | Hillrise Group

To build on what Enebula mentions,We’re noticing specific grant opportunities opening up in the direction of DEXs, Lending, Stablecoin, Synthetics/Derivatives, and Volatility Indexes. Some of these areas already have activity (DEX — Pangolin, stablecoin — FRAX, TrueUSD).

Are you satisfied with the received interest and development around your accelerator program Avalanche-X?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Yes! And also, never fully satisfied with the pace of development and research! :-)

That is to say, we have a thriving community, and yet we could always use more. Avalanche at the moment is a connoiseurs’ system, and it is in its early days. We welcome any and every new person who wants to help develop the most cutting edge technological solutions.

Enebula (community member)

Hi sir, I wanted to ask about the Avalabs grants program. Are grants something that are still being reviewed? If so, can you give advice as to how we could prepare for this process and what are some factors that you use to decide on candidates?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Yes, the grants program is still active, and we are also building an ecosystem fund with substantial resources to help projects launch on Avalanche.

When selecting projects, the things I personally look for (I can’t speak for others on the selection committee, I can only share my values) are:

-the innovation behind the idea
- the value brought to the community
- whether the project is driven by a community-first ethos, as opposed to a profits-first approach
- the genuineness and commitment of the team
- and a certain engineering coolness factor that is hard to characterize

Manh Dong (community member)

One more question: in the expansion of Avalanche ecosystem, do you expect more major projects operating in Avalanches would be the big one migrating from other chains (like Aave recently moved from ERC to Polygon), or major projects would mostly be started in Avalanche itself?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Great question. We need and want both!!!

For better or for worse, there is already a lot of value created on other chains, and that value is trapped behind high fees, slow interaction times and bad user experiences. We want that to migrate to Avalanche where it can flow and trade fast and smoothly, using the best blockchain tech available. So for that, we are pursuing close partnerships with existing projects. Expect these to come on board in the short term.

And in the long term, I’m very excited about the teams that are originating new systems, assets, and value on top of Avalanche.

Rowan | Hillrise Group

[In reply to Emin Gün Sirer]

One important feature of Avalanche is that it allows for decoupling of the application layer from the consensus layer. This enables great flexibility in setting up fitting custom perimeters for Dapps on Avalanche — with very high throughput performance and low latency.

Given Avalanche has EVM implemented in its primary network, with backward compatibility with Ethereum Dapps, how has the migration of ETH Dapps to Avalanche progressed so far? Are you seeing traction in projects moving from ETH to Avalanche for its benefits?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

Indeed, we pioneered the idea of a fully decentralized, EVM-compatible chain. Others have come after us, and done the cheap trick of jettisoning the “decentralized” part to capture some value. So some of the attention in DeFi has shifted to systems that lack this crucial property of decentralization. At the same time, our bridge technology has been expensive to use, which has been an issue.

We are currently working on both incentive programs for value to migrate, and on a novel trustless bridge technology that is super cheap to use, such that both of these issues are addressed. The new bridge we plan to roll out has the property that it is super easy to use and as cheap as a single ETH transaction. And I’m excited about the things to come after that.

Midget Gems (community member)

Hi all, I would be very interested to hear Emin’s thoughts on regulation in the crypto space and how Avalanche could potentially deal with the changing space we operate in now and into the future across all jurisdictions

P.s. watching Emin’s videos and educational tweets really inspired me to improve my own education on crypto in general. Thank you it’s great to see people talk about things they are clearly passionate about.

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

First of all, thank you for the kind words! Great to hear that my years of tweeting had a positive impact, besides the number of trolls I had to deal with :-).

As for regulation, my personal wish is that it be performed as lightly as possible. There is so much innovation happening in this space that we would not want regulation to interfere. I’ve expressed this behind the scenes to many regulators, and told them that regulators who try to ban new unbannable permissionless tech will look silly through the lens of history. And at least in the west, they have been pretty good about light regulation, though there is much more to wish for.

But regulation is eventually coming whether we want to, or not. And in this regard, we will start to see that systems that have only a single rule set for the entire world are at a disadvantage when it comes to accommodating legal constraints. Luckily, Avalanche has the notion of “subnets” which can enforce different rule sets, catering to different legal jurisdictions, making it possible for enterprises and insitutions to offer compliant assets.

Midget Gems (community member)

Thank you for the response, I’m glad you are advising the regulators :) keep up the awesome work you are doing.

Manh Dong (community member)

There were some days that the total fees in AVAX surpassed fees in ETH transactions. Does it signify that Avalanche transactions would eventually become also expensive, esp. when in the future AVAX price would increase?

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

I’m very proud that AVAX has had very high fees burned in total. (Note that all fees are burned in AVAX, for the benefit of all — they do not go to some environment destroying miner. This is something ETH is still working on). While the total was high, each individual transaction fee was incredibly low, at around a few dollars at its maximum, when the equivalent numbers in ETH were around $50 or more. That’s exactly how you want it! Cheap fees, lots of transactions, altogether making the coins more scarce.

In the future, as AVAX usage goes even higher, I expect this trend to continue. The thing that drives the fee burn is a simple process that takes a second to explain. AMMs like Pangolin and Uniswap require constant update of their prices. So the chain is constantly filled by arbitrageurs to equalize the price in every offered pair. If the underlying chain is of limited capacity, like ETH1, then the arb traffic implied by crypto price volatility is more than what the chain can handle. So that turns ETH1 into a chain for bots that compete with each other to make money, driving the fees up like a hockey stick, and pricing normal humans out. This is the dynamic that makes ETH unusable on highly volatile days. But if your chain has substantially more throughput, such that you can handle this traffic, plus the human-induced traffic, then you need not leave the low portion of the curve and have the fees climb up like a hockey stick.

In short, high capacity chains have great potential to keep fees low. Of course, at some point, every chain will reach its capacity. At that point, Avalanche has the subnet concept that can help shed off load and bring the fees back down again. So I’m very optimistic about our fees going forward, even under very high loads

Prodigy (community member)

How well have central banks understood the innovation that avalanche is

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

We’ve been in contact with several central banks, have briefed many dozens of central bankers, and they certainly understand the technological innovation and the importance of being able to control the full life cycles of assets created on blockchains. We’re spending substantial effort on this front, and they understand the value of Avalanche’s flexible infrastructure and subnets. That is all I can say for now 🤐😀

Manh Dong (community member)

If there is still time for more questions, I would ask whether future wallet dApps could handle the “complexity” of 3 chains inside Avalanche. It’s not that complicated, but for users who are new to the 3-chain concept of Avalanche, that is one annoying thing that deteriorates their experience.

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

The current wallet is indeed a bit heavy on the tech side and exposes too much complexity. Expect this to be fixed in Wallet v2, slated for this fall! No one should have to know the differences between any subnets, and in fact, ideally, people should be able to interact with smart contracts without understanding anything at all about blockchains!

Ray Reijnders | Hillrise Group

Hey guys, just a heads-up that we’ll be wrapping up in a little bit🙏

Rowan | Hillrise Group

It’s been really great, with all the in depth interaction with Gün here.

Emin Gün Sirer | Avalanche

[In reply to Ray &Rowan]

Thank you Rowan & Ray! Sorry I was a bit too verbose at times, but I hope people enjoyed the detailed and honest answers!

Ray Reijnders | Hillrise Group

Thank you very much for your time today!

Manh Dong (community member)

[In reply to Emin Gün Sirer]

Great, thanks for your answers. Wish the project develops and be adopted well!

Ray Reijnders | Hillrise Group

This message concludes our AMA

We thank Gun for his time today and for being open to this unique dialogue with the community.

To everyone who joined us, thank you for being here… we host these events for you, the community.

Thank you!

Connect with Avalanche
https://t.me/avalancheavax
https://community.avax.network/
https://twitter.com/avalancheavax
https://chat.avax.network/

About Avalanche

Avalanche is an open-source platform for launching decentralized applications and enterprise blockchain deployments in one interoperable, highly scalable ecosystem. Avalanche is the first decentralized smart contracts platform built for the scale of global finance, with near-instant transaction finality. Ethereum developers can quickly build on Avalanche as Solidity works out-of-the-box.

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