Most people would not contest that Bitcoin’s whitepaper was the technical start of cryptocurrency and the revolution that the community knows today.
However, that is not the only time that the concept of digitizing currency around the world. David Chaum holds a special place in this industry, because he does not quite fit with the teen developers or the young CEOs of new companies.
Instead, he is responsible for the creation of DigiChain in 1989, which was a precursor to the system we know today.
Chaum is quite an icon amongst the cryptocurrency community, establishing an electronic money system over a decade before Bitcoin was introduced to the public. Chaum spoke with The Block, commenting that he was “clearly way ahead of anyone else doing it.”
When Chaum originally introduced his idea for a digital bearer instrument (DBI), consumers had the option of transferring virtual assets without having to reveal their true identity. This concept is much like a digital version of spending cash, with no name attached.
Since DigiCash was introduced before the success of the internet, it did not gain the momentum that it could’ve. However, Chaum has decided to cash in with a project that he believes can compete against Bitcoin named Elixxir, which will be a DBI-based blockchain.
He expressed regret that he had not gotten involved with cryptocurrency earlier in the game but expressed that:
“we built Elixxir privately and then only started talking about it once it was really working.”
Describing the new blockchain, he said that Elixxir is “WeChat with blockchain inside,” adding that he was inspired by the social media app. The platform also offers secure Dapps over normal apps, ensuring that these applications remain private. Chaum believes that others in the cryptocurrency space have essentially missed the mark here.
Chaum stated that crypto adoption requires a messaging system with payment processing power, which is why “all the major messaging platforms are fanatically trying to integrate payments.
However, Elixxir is not just about one or two of these functions, and heavily rests on its ability to maintain privacy. He compares the problem in the market with the recent concerns with metadata involving Facebook. He added that he believes it has “struck a nerve with the general public.”
So far, the blockchain has not launched, and it does not look like Chaum is in much of a hurry to even establish a timeline beyond the BetaNet. However, the platform aims to offer faster and less energy-consuming transactions, treating nodes equally while moving away from the competition of a mining system.
Chaum called the functioning of this blockchain platform “a superior way” to do all the things a platform should, including “consensus, [and] integration of messaging and payments.” He believes that the way that companies are not using DBI-based solutions is a “step backwards,” in reference to privacy and the claim to ownership over information.
It is worth noting how much weight Chaum’s statements should carry. Academics managed to find his 1982 dissertation at Berkeley that was eerily similar to the Bitcoin whitepaper by Satoshi Nakamoto, which wasn’t written until 2009. Though unpublished, the only concept not included in the 1982 thesis that was in the Bitcoin whitepaper was proof of work.
Even though Chaum himself is public about his work on DigiCash and DBIs, he believes that the mystery surrounding Satoshi should stay that way. No one know the true identity of this individual after over a decade, but Chaum noted that “it’s all about telling a good story.” He called Satoshi “part of the story,” adding that the introduction of the Bitcoin community was because of the whitepaper.
Right now, there is plenty of work to be done in the crypto industry, which means that there is clearly more to the story. He believes that the vision of Satoshi has yet to be realized, and Bitcoin is evolving into a “store of value” now.
Even though Satoshi’s real name could realistically stay hidden forever, having Chaum to interview and learn from is a prize of its own. The Block describes the experience with Chaum as “a rarity among interviewees,” adding that he precedes his replies with “long, pensive pauses,” and that he is willing to admit if he doesn’t feel like he has the understanding to answer something.
Chaum even explained that his participation in the crypto space has to do with “pure altruism,” and appears to remain on the outskirts of the industry, simply because he prefers that way.
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