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Matt Odell and Alex Gladstein: Swan Signal Live E13

Posted 6/15/20 by Brady Swenson

Episode 13 was broad­cast on June 3rd, 2020 at block height 632,901. It features Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Founda­tion, Matt Odell, cohost of Rabbit Hole Recap on the Tales from the Crypt podcast, and Yan Pritzker, Swan co-founder and CTO. Swan Head of Educa­tion Brady Swenson hosted the podcast.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the midst of civil unrest, Alex and Matt discuss surveil­lance, privacy, Bitcoin as a toolkit for change, and the prospect of the govern­ment crack­down on Bitcoiners.

Subscribe to the Swan Signal YouTube channel and Swan Signal podcast.

Transcript

Brady Swenson:

Welcome to the Swan Signal Podcast, a produc­tion of Swan Bitcoin. The best way to accumu­late bitcoin using automatic recur­ring buys at swanbitcoin.com. I’m Brady, head of educa­tion at Swan and every week we invite two bitcoiners to join us for a discus­sion hosted by myself and variously joined by Swan founder, Cory Klipp­sten, or co-founder Yan Pritzker. Sometimes creative director, Jason Don, aka Brekkie Von Bitcoin join us for the discus­sion.

Brady Swenson:

It’s a unique format in the bitcoin content space, to pair a bitcoiners who have never or are rarely seen or heard from together. It makes for some great discus­sions. This one is no excep­tion. We broad­cast these live and then we publish the audio here on this feed. We call these sessions Swan Signal Live. Be sure to follow @SwanBitcoin on Twitter so you can tune in whenever you can, live. We also broad­cast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch, but if you can’t do it live, you’ll be able to catch all the Swan Signal Live conver­sa­tions on this podcast.

Brady Swenson:

This week, we are joined by Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Founda­tion, and Matt Odell, co-host of Rabbit Hole Recap on the Tales from there Crypt podcast. In this episode we’re also joined by Swan cofounder, Yan Pritzker. It’s a fantastic conver­sa­tion. World class, I think. Glad you found your way here. Hope you enjoy.

Brady Swenson:

Here at block number 632,901, you can join us on the Swan Signal chatroom and follow along. Ask questions of our guest today. t.me/swansignal. Broad­cast is also avail­able on YouTube, YouTube.com/c/swansignal. Got a brand new gorgeous looking page. New art from our designer, Jörn Röder. I’m watching on the YouTube chat as well, so you can ask questions there. If you’re already over there, please subscribe. Like the video now to help us get it out there. These live sessions are also published in audio at swansignalpodcast.com.

Brady Swenson:

All right, in any case, let’s get going here. Thanks for joining us today for the discus­sion. We have two great guests. Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer of the Human Rights Founda­tion and the Oslo Freedom Forum. Alex, welcome man. Thanks for joining.

Alex Gladstein:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Brady Swenson:

All right. And we’ve got Matt Odell, cohost Tales from the Crypts. Matt is the first Swan Signal Live repeat guest. He was on with John Carvalho back a few episodes ago. So welcome back, Matt.

Matt Odell:

Oh shit. I didn’t realize that. Awesome. Let’s go.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. Let’s do this. Okay. Let’s start. I mean obviously the topic at hand here and why we wanted to bring both of you guys in for this partic­ular week, the protests, riots, civil unrest all around America. It’s spreading to all around the world now. From a human rights lens, Alex, can you talk us through the present situa­tion we find ourselves in?

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I mean, look. As an American just to talk about that for a second, obviously Ameri­cans are very upset about the govern­ment and about the police in partic­ular. And about the system at large. I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. There’s 40 plus million unemployed as a result of govern­ment policies and corpo­rate misman­age­ment and bad decision making. There are a lot of people out there who are peace­fully protesting. I would say virtu­ally most, almost every­body is out there with a legit­i­mate griev­ance of one kind or another. And in the same way that you had in Hong Kong where you had a lot of people, millions of people protesting for their rights and freedoms because they were upset at the estab­lish­ment, what ends up happening is that a subset of those people are violent and they loot stuff and then that becomes kind of the way that the estab­lish­ment tries to paint the protests.

Alex Gladstein:

They say, “Oh, these are just a bunch of bad people who are up to no good and they’re breaking shit and there­fore they’re all not legit­i­mate.” And this is just, I see this around the world in every dicta­tor­ship which is why it’s really weird to happen in the United States. But look, at the end of the day these people have real griev­ances. They’re pissed off at the economic system. They’re pissed off at the polit­ical system. They’re pissed off at the police system. And they want to see some change. That’s very different though from what’s happening in Hong Kong and other countries. And it’s actually kind of beautiful to see America rise up and for there to be peaceful protests in like hundreds of cities, because that can’t happen in China or in Russia or in Saudi Arabia or Cuba or many countries around the world.

Alex Gladstein:

So, while we still have our freedoms, we should exercise them and it’s impor­tant for people to know when they go out and protest that they should do certain things so they’re not spied on and so that they aren’t micro tracked. Et cetera. I’m sure Matt can speak to more of that. But it’s inter­esting now we talk about the technology of protests as well becomes more impor­tant. And folks in Hong Kong have already been … they’re way ahead of this, of us on this and that’s one reason they wore a lot of masks in the last year was because they didn’t want to be seen by facial recog­ni­tion.

Alex Gladstein:

So I think there’s legit­i­mate griev­ances around the world against a system that is rigged and people are protesting in different ways.

Brady Swenson:

Matt, man, it’s crazy times. I know you’re riding it out. Got out of the city for this reason. Not just for the pandemic, but also for the civil unrest that you feared might come about. Here it is. How are you feeling and what are you seeing out there?

Matt Odell:

Well, I mean Alex says it better than I can ever say it. He’s really eloquent with the way he describes these movements. I think that people … Like George Floyd’s murder was absolutely the spark that set this all off and it was horrible. Completely horrible. And repre­sen­ta­tive of all the injus­tice that we see on a day-to-day basis in this country and across the world. But to me, just to echo was Alex said, I mean to me this feels global. This feels long overdue. It feels like … we saw all these protests around the world. All these different countries before anything really happened in America. And then you had the coron­avirus response where it strongly favored the elite rich class in how it was handled. And you had the working class out of jobs, scared, not allowed to work. The benefits that came to them were minimal in compar­ison to what happened with the wealthier class.

Matt Odell:

They saw the stock market going back up and all of that. Three months of lockdown in some of these states. So then you mix all that together and it was a powder keg. So I think you look at this unrest and you have to ask yourself … and you have an admin­is­tra­tion that is instead of going the empathy route, they’re going the complete opposite. They’re going the author­i­tarian route. They’re going, “We are going to crush you. We’re going to bring in the military. We’re going to do all this different stuff.” Which just elevates it all. Honestly, you ask yourself, I ask myself what stops, what deesca­lates the situa­tion?

Matt Odell:

And there’s no simple thing you can point to. There’s no … I mean they can start with arresting the other three officers that were involved in George Floyd’s murder which they haven’t done yet but that doesn’t stop it. And I feel like it’s way bigger than that. It’s people have had enough. They’re helpless. They feel helpless. They feel power­less. They have nothing to lose. People have nothing to lose and this is the result.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. Actually, I think I totally agree with that. And I think that the situa­tion we’re in right now is not new and there’s always been police brutality. I mean, remember Rodney King. Some of us are old enough to remember that. The Rodney King beatings and the violence and the violent protests that happened after­wards. I mean, this stuff is old. It’s become more and more in the limelight because of social media, and that’s a good thing. I think it’s helping expose the author­i­tar­i­anism that does go down in this country. And I think that we’ve had an escala­tion in like the police themselves, right? They went from like dudes walking around with batons to guys in full body armor with assault rifles. That’s an escala­tion of and milita­riza­tion of police that is very hard to roll back.

Yan Pritzker:

It’s not about they can prose­cute this one cop or these three cops or they can even prose­cute 100 cops. It’s not going to change that the funda­mental nature of the police has changed over the last several decades. And how do we even claw our way out of there? Because we’re really just headed towards some serious author­i­tar­i­anism. And I know in China, I mean I’ve seen some videos of like how China handled the virus, for example. They’ve got guys walking around with guns. They’ve got infrared cameras scanning for people’s temper­a­tures. You could easily go that route and technology is pushing us that way. It’s not clear how do we claw ourselves out of that. The TSA is not going to get repealed anymore. It’s here to stay. Milita­rized police is kind of here to stay. How do we get out of that mess is very unclear to me.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. I was just going to ask about that. I mean, we as bitcoiners under­stand that money has been really impor­tant to creating the environ­ment in which we find ourselves. This powder keg as Matt put it. How do we talk about bitcoin in this time to help people under­stand that money and central banking has helped create this inequality and the situa­tion we find ourselves in now? Alex.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I like to think of it at the part of the anti-author­i­tarian toolkit. So, the first thing to mention is just that the camera is so powerful. I mean, the reason why you have millions of people on the streets, it’s not like they were fine two weeks. They’ve been upset and this has just trans­lated their anger into action by seeing the brutal murder of George Floyd, right? Taken by a camera phone, right? So the camera phone is a weapon in many ways and it’s a way where we can spy on our rulers and we can spy on the police.

Alex Gladstein:

And we need to take advan­tage of that and I think it’s great that cameras are now in the … cameras with phones are now super cheap and they’re in the hands of almost every­body. And as long as we don’t have … we all under­stand we’re being watched. That’s one thing. But the censor­ship piece is almost the more impor­tant piece. In China, such an incident would be … they have the algorithms and the surveil­lance machinery tied together with censor­ship machinery in a way where like if someone takes a photo of something, it can quickly get kind of just like erased from public memory.

Alex Gladstein:

It’s not perfect, but they do a pretty good job of it. That doesn’t happen in America. Like we’re all talking about. Twitter is open season where like late night televi­sion and public televi­sion. Every­thing is just about George Floyd right now which is the way it should be, right? So the camera is a weapon, right, in the anti-author­i­tarian toolkit. So is encrypted messaging. I mean, it’s super impor­tant that we can now send private messages to each other. Sure. The author­i­ties can see the metadata on something like Signal. They can’t read what we’re saying unless their phones have been compro­mised.

Alex Gladstein:

Things like Tor, VPN. And then I think bitcoin is like in that toolkit. It’s a very impor­tant piece of that toolkit. I don’t think people have quite grasped how impor­tant it is to that toolkit for a little while. Gener­ally, like in the public. But to have money that we can transact with each other in a way that’s sover­eign and private, relatively private, increas­ingly private, is a big deal I would say.

Brady Swenson:

No doubt. No doubt. Matt, how do we talk about bitcoin right now? We have sort of the spotlight on us or at least, I think we will increas­ingly so in this moment that bitcoin was designed for. How do we help get the message out that the money is a big part of this problem?

Matt Odell:

I think we need to be very careful with … People are hurting right now. People are really hurting. They’re on the streets fighting for their rights. Fighting to be heard. And we need to be very careful about … I’ve seen a lot of takes, for instance, on Twitter that are … they’re out of touch. No one wants to read bitcoin fixes this right now. I under­stand the nuanced argument. Money is at the root … we have this corrupt system. It’s all there. But you have to be consci­en­tious of the situa­tion that people are in. And I would go on the opposite side, too. Like no one wants to hear from someone who is leaving in the boonies who left the city and is like, “Burn it all down.” Fuck you, as well. You can’t be out of touch here. And money is a long-term play, right? Fixing the money is a long-term play.

Matt Odell:

It’s not something that’s going to heal these wounds today. So, it is one aspect of what we really need to see which is reform on a global level. We need to see … we have watched, partially led by America, over the last 40 years, inequality hit levels that it hasn’t been at since the Great Depres­sion. Since the Roaring 20s. And we need to be … and it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not going to happen overnight. And hopefully bitcoin is that opt-out mecha­nism that will allow us to do it without trying to play this rigged game. But I just … for me, person­ally, I, when all this was going, when this whole weekend started to unfold and stuff, I took a step back from Twitter. I took a step back. I spent time with my family and my friends. And I just tried to hold on to what’s really impor­tant.

Matt Odell:

Like life is short. What’s really impor­tant? We don’t need all this number go up, bitcoin fixes this. All this shit right now. At least in America. If you’re a European bitcoiner or something like that, feel free to continue shit posting. But I just … it just seems really out of touch. You got to be careful about it. That’s all I’m saying.

Yan Pritzker:

And I think that … Yeah. I think you made a very good comment about this is a long-term play. I always like to say not bitcoin fixes this but bitcoin could have prevented this. I have my own history when I left Soviet Union with my parents that we were not allowed to keep our money. So bitcoin obviously couldn’t fix our situa­tion retroac­tively, but it could have poten­tially prevented it if it had existed 25 years prior. So while bitcoin can’t fix any of this, you can’t bandaid bitcoin over every­thing burning down and all that but you can start to intro­duce it to people as a preven­tion mecha­nism in times of … I agree. We shouldn’t be out there during the doom and gloom and saying, “Yeah. Every­thing is burning. Buy a bitcoin.” That’s not right.

Yan Pritzker:

But we should be talking about bitcoin as something that you should be starting to look at because this stuff does happen, right? And it’s happening in America. A lot of people have said, “Okay. This can’t happen. We’re not going to be author­i­tarian in America. America is land of liberty.” I don’t know how true that is anymore and for how much longer. I mean, Alex said, “We’re being watched.” We should assume we’re being watched. That’s what we live like in the Soviet Union. We knew we were being watched. We knew all letters were being censored and people knew this and then they just lived their lives and they just said, “Okay. Yeah. We know we’re being watched. Let’s just be careful.” But that’s not a good way to live.

Yan Pritzker:

We need to kind of start talking about all these pieces of the toolkit that help us break out of that rather than saying, “Yeah. This is what it is.” And recog­nize this is a long-term endeavor and it’s not going to happen overnight.

Matt Odell:

Yeah. I mean I think we’re about to enter a period here where educa­tion and aware­ness will be sorely needed. I think a lot of people are waking up to the fact that we can’t just blindly trust our leader­ship and the systems that we rely on on a daily basis. And I think a lot of people are going to wake up on the privacy side as well, just in general. Not even bitcoin related. Just encrypted messages. Location tracking. All of this stuff. If the govern­ment, which I expect them to, starts flexing their domestic surveil­lance capabil­i­ties, people are going to have their eyes wide open. For now, it’s not very useful. But over the next couple months, next year, next five years, using that experi­ence, using what people have learned from all of this to bring them to the next level, to help increase our censor­ship resis­tance as a society, I think is super impor­tant.

Alex Gladstein:

Just to under­line or qualify what I said earlier. bitcoin as a tool is precisely that. It’s a tool that people can use to achieve change. At least that’s the way I like to look at it in one way. There’s many ways to look at it. But you have many different protest movements out there which are trying to change the society on specific matters. In the United States right now there are a lot of people angry for different things, but the specific matter is police brutality, quali­fied immunity. Making sure that police officers can’t kill especially people in the black commu­nity with total impunity like they can now. That’s like the very specific thing that we’re dealing with.

Alex Gladstein:

In Hong Kong it’s very different. They don’t want their city turning into a Chinese city. They want to see Hong Kong courts and laws preside over Beijing’s courts and laws, right? So in Sudan, we’re in the one year anniver­sary of a movement that brought down a brutal dictator who ruled Sudan for decades. And there are still people who are upset because a lot of people in his regime went unpun­ished, right? So regard­less of where you are in New York City, in Khartoum, in Hong Kong, there are different reasons why people are upset. But in order to protest, you need a toolkit. You need to under­stand how to protest effec­tively and I think that over time, we’ll get a greater under­standing of why encrypted messaging and why maybe not just bringing your phone with you without tweaking it slightly, for example, is a good idea. Maybe like why you should be more private on the Internet. Things like that.

Alex Gladstein:

At the same time, I think you’re going to see hopefully an increased aware­ness of why certain finan­cial trans­ac­tions you’re going to want to keep private. And we saw this last summer in Hong Kong where citizens lined up in huge queues to buy subway tickets with cash with masks on so that no one could know that they were going to go protest, right? So in an urban environ­ment to protest, you need to use public trans­porta­tion and you don’t want to get spied on. If they had used their tradi­tional Octopus card, right, a lot of them would have had their location history of where they got off at a partic­ular protest point linked to their identity and there­fore, a lot of people were going to get fired or punished at school for students.

Alex Gladstein:

So they were smart and they had lined up in queues and wore masks and used cash to buy these transit cards which allowed them to exercise their rights and keep their govern­ment account­able. Well, in 20 years they won’t have paper money. There won’t be any cash probably. As much as I love cash, it won’t exist. So, bitcoin is going to be an increas­ingly impor­tant tool in that tool set. But again, I think it’s impor­tant to view as a tool that people can use in whatever struggle their fighting would be the way I’d like to look at it.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I also think of it as a tool for escaping that environ­ment, right? I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why people can’t escape a country and not just finan­cial, but a lot of times it does come down to the finan­cial aspect where if you leave, you won’t be able to keep your wealth because of capital controls. Or in order to leave you need to bribe somebody and you can’t bribe them in local currency because nobody wants it because it’s broken. Those kind of situa­tions is where bitcoin can be a tool for actually exporting people out of a country that’s so broken that it’s no longer fixable.

Yan Pritzker:

And by draining that country of human capital, that’s how we actually defeat that author­i­tar­i­anism or dicta­tor­ship that might be going on there is by actually letting people escape. That’s something that people can’t do a lot of times in the world because they don’t have money that they’re free with. And as Alex said, and I totally agree with, money is going to be entirely digital, whether it’s this gener­a­tion or the next one. It’s going to happen. And at that point, it’s good bye to any kind of finan­cial freedom. So it will become, bitcoin will become a very impor­tant part of that toolkit. And it will be too late if you have to get bitcoin at a time where every­thing is already locked down. Exchanges are completely illegal in your country.

Yan Pritzker:

All that kind of thing. You need to be getting it while it’s still not on anybody’s radar. So, it is an impor­tant preven­ta­tive part of that toolkit for the future.

Brady Swenson:

Absolutely. Yeah. We got a lot into privacy there. A lot was mentioned on privacy. I wanted to dive in and discuss that in a bit more detail. And Matt, I’ll start with you. What privacy attack vectors are you most worried about in this partic­ular situa­tion?

Matt Odell:

And just to … this is also tangen­tial with this. Just to add to what was just said is it’s not only getting bitcoin or learning about privacy. It’s learning how to use it properly while you still have the ability to learn it properly. When it’s the heat of the moment, when you absolutely need something, it’s way more diffi­cult to actually educate yourself on proper usage and best practices. I mean, if we were talking about right now in this protests, I mean right now they’re flying DEA border patrol planes. Both little planes and drones that are taking images that are basically … they are these mobile stingray devices. I think they call them dirtboxes when they’re on a plane. But the idea is that it’s a fake cell tower, so it can lock into cell signals. So even if you have location services off on your phone, they can still figure out where people are and who’s partic­i­pating in the protest based off of their phone signal.

Matt Odell:

So best practice is just not to have your phone on you. So it’s going to be really … and most people aren’t. And it’s kind of goes back and forth because you really want to see footage out there. More account­ability in general. We want to see more account­ability in general, both for rioters and for police brutality. And so you want the cameras out there. But most people’s cameras are their phones. So they do have this … you should be on airplane mode. The other thing is we see tons of … I mean, this is the first real American crisis for me where 99% of my infor­ma­tion is coming in through social media. It’s not coming in through profes­sional photog­ra­phers. It’s coming in through people’s cellphone cameras. Periscope and uploaded after the fact and whatnot.

Matt Odell:

And you see tons of people’s faces and all this different infor­ma­tion and that infor­ma­tion, once you post it on the Internet, Barbra Streisand learned this, once you post it on the Internet, it’s there forever. If they come down, if the U.S. govern­ment comes down hard here, they’re going to have so much infor­ma­tion at their disposal to hit people after the fact. So we got location. We have just general social media unaware­ness. People posting on social media, “I’m going to this protest at this time. I’m going to this, that.” Pictures. Tons and tons of pictures that they’re uploading.

Matt Odell:

And then last but not least is the commu­ni­ca­tion side of things. Hopefully more people will be using Signal now. Which is pretty secure. It doesn’t have any major vulner­a­bil­i­ties that we know about. So hopefully more people start using Signal. And I think if you’re sending plain text messages or if your Telegram messages are plain text, Insta­gram DMs, Twitter DMs, you’re coordi­nating through those kind of things, you’re going to get screwed. It’s more likely than not you’ll get screwed.

Matt Odell:

It’s a really, really messy situa­tion. The light at the end of the tunnel here is … the I have nothing to hide crowd is about to realize that they had a lot to hide. They’re about to realize the impor­tance. When you need it, no one needs to explain to you why privacy is impor­tant. You immedi­ately realize. And when you need bitcoin, no one needs to explain it to you. They just say, “How do I use it? How do I get some?” There’s no expla­na­tion required. The expla­na­tion comes down to, what are the best practices? How do I use this?

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I think there’s a … I want to say two things in the area of being realistic and being hopefully. Being realistic, the differ­ence in a lot of ways between a society like China’s and a society like the United States, both have a lot of surveil­lance, but one has a lot more censor­ship, right? So, it remains to be seen how effec­tive we can be fighting surveil­lance. I think there are things that people like Matt are doing. Creating guides to help people evade surveil­lance and use open source software to even have a phone that’s harder to track, harder to pin to your identity. You can use bitcoin in a way that makes it harder that pins your identity.

Alex Gladstein:

You can use encrypted messaging in a way that’s harder to pins your identity. But a lot of that takes inten­tion­ally. And yeah. It will be great if a subset of the popula­tion can get there. That’s the goal. That’s what we want, what we need. But to be realistic, the real differ­ence is in censor­ship. And like again, in China, the George Floyd doesn’t cause a massive country­wide reaction in the same way as it does here. And even when you have a moment like in China with Dr. Li Wenliang who was a martyr who tried to blow the whistle on COVID in China and was detained and sanctioned instead, people in China did creatively learn about that and find ways to express themselves.

Alex Gladstein:

But they couldn’t go out in the streets and protest, right? So to be realistic, I think we need to be a little hopeful and under­stand that we still have oppor­tu­ni­ties that a lot of people elsewhere in other societies don’t and we need to exercise these rights. And it’s actually just again it’s amazing to see millions of people out on the streets in rejec­tion of an obviously corrupt and unfair police system. And in rejec­tion of a current admin­is­tra­tion that seems to care less, right? That wants to have a photo op and is willing to tear-gas people to get them out of the way so they can have a photo op.

Alex Gladstein:

Like people are going to be angry about this. And you’re probably going to see some change which again, is different from a closed society. In Minneapolis, in the State of Minnesota, the State of Minnesota is now opening an inves­ti­ga­tion into the police depart­ment. That’s not happening in China, right? So hopefully you’re going to see cops arrested. You’ve seen several arrested already. You’re going to see more. Like that’s what we need to push for. And we have the tools to do that and people are brave and they’re out, and they’re pushing.

Alex Gladstein:

And we can push our country in a certain direc­tion, but we have to under­stand that in other societies, that’s not how it works and they don’t have the same rights as we do and they’re kind of stuck. So that’s why the open source tech is so impor­tant is regard­less of what the Chinese govern­ment does, they can’t really keep their people off bitcoin long-term. Regard­less of how oppres­sive they are. It’s just too much. You can keep your people off of sharing the events that will happen 31 years ago tomorrow of Tiananmen Square because why would people risk every­thing to start talking to their friends about Tiananmen? It’s not worth it. But if you’re sitting there in China and your standards of living are going down over the next decade slowly and you’ve seen this other asset that you heard people talk about which is going up, you’re going to risk for that, right?

Alex Gladstein:

So I do think at the end of the day the open source permis­sion­less border­less nature of bitcoin will create problems for even the most intense police states around the world.

Brady Swenson:

Yan, you want to comment on privacy? Advice for people? Thoughts on how impor­tant it is especially right now to fight for even just some basic privacy.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I mean I don’t think I can say anything better than that. I will defer to him on that. I will say and I will comment again on coming from, again I was an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. And it was known that all letters coming out of the Soviet Union, this is before e‑mail obviously, but all letters were read. Okay? So we had to send letters to America to try to get somebody to basically volun­teer to sponsor us to get us immigrated. We had to write coded letters to people in order to give them private infor­ma­tion.

Yan Pritzker:

So I agree with Alex. We’re in a society which is way different. And that’s great. America is way different than China. It’s way different than the former Soviet Union. We do have liberty in a sense. I think we’re pushing, the society is morphing in poten­tially bad ways but we still have the option and the ability to change it. And I agree with Matt. Privacy isn’t impor­tant until it is. And I’m lazy, right? I don’t always use my VPN. I don’t always CoinJoin, right? I don’t do these things because I am privi­leged. I live in the suburbs of Chicago. Nobody’s rioting here. I’m not worried about the govern­ment is really coming to take away my money. And I recog­nize that I live in a luxurious and privi­leged circum­stance which is not the case for a lot of people across the world as well as in some places in America.

Yan Pritzker

So I agree. You have to start learning about the stuff before it becomes relevant. Before it becomes a matter of actually impor­tance. So you have to learn about hygiene and keeping yourself private and secure as much as you can. It is very diffi­cult in a world of social media to resist posting pictures and then forget­ting that you posted a picture of yourself at some location. Now with AI, we can tell where it is. It’s very easy. It’s definitely an issue. So keep vigilant.

Brady Swenson:

I got a question from the chat. Again that’s t.me/swansignal. You can hop in there. Ask questions. We got a conver­sa­tion going. This is from Mbit in the chat. Matt, we’ll start with you on this one too. What advice would you guys give to bitcoin compa­nies trying to balance maximizing customer privacy, staying compliant with local regula­tions, user experi­ence? Of course this is in the shadow of the BlockFi hack last week.

Matt Odell:

And then there’s also the one in Canada. The Coinsquare one recently. Look, first of all, I would never run a business that needed to deal with the fiat banking system and all the regula­tions-

Brady Swenson:

It sucks.

Matt Odell :

… that come along with it.

Brady Swenson:

It sucks.

Matt Odell:

That is inten­tional. That is … so I do feel for people that are trying to do their best while staying compliant. I think it’s rather simple. You need to, first of all, you need to make it a fucking priority. Your users privacy. You’re the custo­dian of your users privacy. They are trusting you with intimate, private details that you are being forced to collect. So first of all, you should take as little infor­ma­tion as absolutely required of you. The second thing is, you should fight for user privacy on the regula­tory front. If regula­tors are pushing and saying, “We should be flagging coinjoins. You shouldn’t be doing that”, and stuff, you’re making money. You’re making money off your customers. Put some of that money towards lobbying. Towards trying to make those rules not as overbearing as they are becoming.

Matt Odell:

The third thing is, like actually value that infor­ma­tion. Because it is valuable. Your marketing personnel, your sales­people should not have access to these intimate details. One of the things that’s lost in the BlockFi thing is yes, it’s an absolutely joke that their sales­person was using SMS two-factor which is pretty much everyone agrees is an insecure method for securing impor­tant infor­ma­tion. But the real question is, why did he have access to that infor­ma­tion in the first place? Why is a customer BlockFi supposed to trust some random ass dude who is not a high ranking person at BlockFi with all of this intimate details blows my mind.

Matt Odell:

So, and if you don’t want to do it out of the goodness of your heart, that’s fine. But me and a lot of other people are going to flip shit if something happens. So just consider that. You’re just going to hurt your business, long-term.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I actually debated the founder of Elliptic a couple days ago. And I think for compa­nies in the space, they should reject this idea that they need to have chain analysis or they need to buy contracts with these chain analysis compa­nies. And if we get down this road … well, we’re not right now. But like in the future where some alphabet soup agency says, “No, you have to”, then take them to court. Let’s get this to the Supreme Court. Does a bitcoin company need to spy on its users and deanonymize them in order to function?

Alex Gladstein:

I’d like to see the Supreme Court actually look at that with regard to the first and fourth amend­ment. So don’t back down on this. And there’s a good chance that the right side of privacy and freedom actually wins out in the end. Given I think just our consti­tu­tion in the united States and the sympa­thies in many ways of the people who sit on the Supreme Court. The odds that something that is protec­tive of free speech and privacy may win out may surprise you. I mean, they may actually reject this idea that we need more surveil­lance. They’ve done it before. They’ve done it before. The EFF has sued the U.S. govern­ment and other organi­za­tions and people have sued the U.S. govern­ment. And their surveil­lance state has been beaten back in different areas.

Alex Gladstein:

It’s not always just this inexorable trend. Like people have had victo­ries. So if you’re a company, you should look into this and hire the right lawyers and fight back. That’s my advice to you and you’ll gain a lot of respect for doing so.

Brady Swenson):

Yan, you’re in the trenches on this, man, building products. A bitcoin company that deals with the legacy banking system and all the laws that come along with that here in the United States. Talk about your experi­ence and so on.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I mean, I agree that … So I wish I could not do this, right? But I also think it’s impor­tant to onboard bitcoiners. And so there’s a fine line between just not doing something because you never want to touch private infor­ma­tion, versus try and get people. Let’s remember what we’re doing here. We’re trying to get people off of that legacy system into a new one, right? In this new system, once they’re on bitcoin, they’re on bitcoin, okay? So as bitcoin evolves and becomes more private and all that kind of stuff, they’re getting the benefits of that. The on-ramps for the most part are highly regulated. Now, there are things like Bisq or whatever. There’s peer-to-peer exchanges which for the most privacy concerned people, they should be doing that kind of thing.

Yan Pritzker:

But unfor­tu­nately we have to collect customer infor­ma­tion. And I agree with Matt 100%. It shouldn’t be like every random Joe Shmoe in your company that touches it. It should be the minimum amount kept. For example, we collect social security numbers because we’re required to do so in order to open trust accounts, but we don’t store them. As soon as we open the trust account, we delete that infor­ma­tion. So, it’s best practice stuff, right? Don’t keep infor­ma­tion that if you have infor­ma­tion it will eventu­ally be released. And obviously don’t feed it into your marketing system. I mean, I don’t know why marketing system would need to have people’s addresses in it. But some of them do.

Yan Pritzker:

So, I agree with all of that and I also agree with Alex in the sense that we should be constantly fighting these regula­tions. Now, we are unfor­tu­nately too young and too small to do anything about it yet. But as we grow, I absolutely think that once we have the resources, that we would commit to such fights whenever possible. And there’s a lot of bad stuff in the finan­cial system that’s not even bitcoin related. Like the Bank Secrecy Act and all this other stuff. It’s been around for a long time and it’s highly entrenched. 

Alex Gladstein:

I guess what I was saying is the regula­tions are one thing. I mean, you got to abide by them. Or lobby to change them. But the idea that you need to hire a chain analysis company is not a law. 

Yan Pritzker:

And by the way, we don’t do any chain analysis.

Alex Gladstein:

Right.

Alex Gladstein:

And that’s awesome. But a lot of compa­nies have caved to this because of a slick presen­ta­tion that they saw. Some Power­Point that these guys gave. And these guys are now walking around saying that bitcoin’s success is because of them. It’s because of chain analysis. Total bullshit.

Yan Pritzker:

I mean, chain analysis is a very tempo­rary thing. I think as the CoinJoins and other types of technolo­gies like that evolve, chain analysis is going to become less and less usable and it will eventu­ally fall off.

Alex Gladstein:

But it’s dangerous because if you’re a big bank and in the next … like put Silver­gate to the side for a second. If you’re … but someone like them. Let’s say you’re the next Silver­gate or somebody five years down the road, and you want to get involved in this space, you’re going to get this presen­ta­tion by these guys and it’s going to be pretty compelling. Because unless you have the privacy argument and someone can explain to you why this is impor­tant, why wouldn’t you hire them? Great. It will just make us look safer. So this actually really needs to be discussed in those rooms, in those corpo­rate rooms, you know?

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah.

Alex Gladstein:

I mean, Matt, what are your … do you feel like that’s possible? Who can do that?

Matt Odell:

I think you’re a perfect candi­date for it, Alex.

Alex Gladstein:

Do they want to hire me?

Matt Odell:

The Elliptic debate isn’t out yet, right?

Alex Gladstein:

I think it … I have to check. Yeah. I mean, it was like live but I’ll see if they can have the video of it.

Matt Odell:

I’m looking forward to it.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. No. You should also just listen to … I think Peter McCor­mack did a good job in his inter­view with Levin, the guy from Chain­analysis. But it’s … Look, I agree with Yan. They’re sort of tempo­rary problem. Their business model is unique to this milieu of bitcoin as it is today. And in 10 years obviously it will be very different. But they’ll shift and pivot to something equally bad.

Matt Odell:

I mean, look. I want to hope. I want to hope that’s the case, that we make their business model outdated. I think that’s the way you fight these compa­nies, not with complaining and asking them to morally not do it. Because if they don’t do it, someone else will do it. But if you look at our society today, I mean, it is just corpo­rate surveil­lance all the way down. And that’s what we should call these chain analysis compa­nies. They’re surveil­lance compa­nies. They don’t just surveil the chain. They run nodes. They surveil people. They do all this other stuff as well that they combine all the data together. So they’re just surveil­lance compa­nies. In the adtech business, it’s just the surveil­lance compa­nies. That’s what they’re doing. Every charge you make on your credit card, every drive you take with your phone in the car. Every message you send in a platform that doesn’t protect metadata which is pretty much every platform. Like all of this is hoovered up and it’s part of the corpo­rate surveil­lance machine and it’s mixed in with govern­ment surveil­lance.

Matt Odell:

And these databases are all over the place. They’re secured horribly. Like completely insecurely. And they’re waiting to use them against their will and that’s how they make money. So, to expect them to go away anytime soon, I think, is extremely optimistic. We just … But I try to stay optimistic. So I think that we can make strides on a personal level to at least make it more expen­sive to do this kind of surveil­lance on a mass scale. If you’re a single person and you have a sophis­ti­cated actor, you will be owned. But hopefully not cheaply on a mass scale.

Alex Gladstein:

Here’s why bitcoin makes things different in two aspects. For years, HRF, we’ve been doing, the Human Rights Founda­tion has been doing campaigns against PR compa­nies that work for dicta­tors. And all we can really do is moralize. Because there’s always going to be people willing to do PR for dicta­tors. This is just the case, right? Or for surveil­lance compa­nies. Or for weapons industry or whatever. You can choose your partic­ular poison. But bitcoin is a little different because not only can we moralize and we need to do more of that and I’ll do what I can to do that, I think it’s impor­tant and sometimes it works, obviously. But we can also build technology that makes what they’re working on ineffec­tive. And obviously that’s the real hope here.

Alex Gladstein:

Along the same lines, I was in a conver­sa­tion earlier today where I was discussing with somebody in Germany and we were agreeing that most people don’t care about privacy right now, and maybe that never changes, right? And most people are willing to trade off their privacy for freedom and … rather, for conve­nience and comfort and speed and things like that. But the inter­esting thing about bitcoin is it’s like, and obviously I didn’t come up with this. Someone else did. I can’t remember. But it’s like a privacy wolf in sheep’s clothing, right? Because all these people, govern­ments, corpo­ra­tions, investors, see bitcoin as a specu­la­tive shiny asset to invest in. They just want to make money. They don’t give a shit about privacy. But the more that they [The Paul Tudor Joneses].The more these people get involved and I think increas­ingly over the next decade they will. And again, they don’t even care.

Alex Gladstein:

They probably don’t even have exposure to real bitcoin. They probably just have some security, right? But they don’t care. They’re just trying to make money. But the funny thing is their greed strengthens our ability to use this really inter­esting tool. So I’m a little optimistic because I think things are slightly different with bitcoin because there’s this kind of extra angle whereby it doesn’t matter if you don’t care about privacy. You’re not going to want bitcoin for privacy or for cypher­punk reasons unless you’re Matt Odell, right? You’re going to want it because you’re going to want to get rich. Okay?

Alex Gladstein:

But we’re going to take that greed and we’re going to turn it into strength which is not really something you can do with very many other things. So it’s going to be inter­esting to watch.

Brady Swenson:

Let’s turn back to the situa­tion here in the United States and dive into a question that I am person­ally curious about. Let’s kind of game out where we think the admin­is­tra­tion, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is sort of headed. What moves do you think they’re preparing for? I know that we have a recent execu­tive direc­tive. Execu­tive Direc­tive 51. It was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007. And it allows for the execu­tive office to declare a catastrophic emergency, which they define as any incident regard­less of location that results in extra­or­di­nary levels of mass casual­ties, damage or disrup­tion severely affecting the United States popula­tion, infra­struc­ture, environ­ment, economy or govern­ment functions. Do you think we’re headed for some kind of emergency decla­ra­tion like this that would expand greatly the execu­tive power?

Alex Gladstein:

I’ll just put it on the table that it may not be in a big press confer­ence. It may not be the presi­dent saying, “Oh, we’re under martial law”, or whatever. I think it’s going to be these things that are a little more secret, that we have to actually read about to under­stand. Like for example on Sunday, the Drug Enforce­ment Agency, the DEA, received approval for 14 days for two weeks to conduct covert surveil­lance and act as federal law enforce­ment with regard to protests around the nation. So obviously, this is a very specific agency that’s supposed to deal with arresting people for breaking the law with regard to drugs and all of a sudden they’ve been empow­ered to spy on people for a completely different topic which is like civil rights protests.

Alex Gladstein:

So I think you’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing. And that’s kind of what I would be worried about is the sort of metas­ta­sizing of these different agencies, and their employ­ment in fighting relatively peaceful protests around the nation. Whether it’s the National Guard or the DEA or whatever.

Matt Odell:

The short answer is yes. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah.

Matt Odell:

I try and maintain my optimism, but when people are scared, when there’s fear, it’s when it’s super easy to get things passed, when it’s super easy to escalate, their powers, their capabil­i­ties, their legal capabil­i­ties. We saw Trump basically strip the protec­tions of social media compa­nies, setting the gears up for censor­ship through basically liability, which should be very common for people in America to relate to. I mean, the way they enforce the lockdowns was basically … the corona lockdowns, they enforced it through liability. They weren’t … if you kept your store open and someone got hurt in that store, your insur­ance wasn’t going to cover shit. So, we saw that. No one really talks about it, right? Because every­thing else is going on. So no one really talks about it.

Matt Odell:

We see the DEA thing. They’re flying dirtboxes. That’s what we talked about earlier. These little planes with these fake cell towers on it to track American citizens and their location. We have National Guard on … and now we hear talks about military coming in. We have police officers with their body cameras off. We have their badge numbers covered.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I saw that. Yeah.

Matt Odell:

I just … the amount of power that a dedicated few individ­uals can take here is astounding. We need to be very careful and we need to be very vigilant, because this can get way worse really quickly. We need to be very, very careful.

Brady Swenson:

Do you think that or are you concerned about as the govern­ment sort of increas­ingly overreaches here, do you think that there might be a crack­down on bitcoin or bitcoiners since we’re sort of aligned with the ideas of freedom and separa­tion of money from state, et cetera?

Matt Odell:

Yes.

Yan Pritzker:

I think we’re pretty far down on their priority ladder, though. I mean, we’re not the ones on the street throwing rocks, gener­ally speaking. We’re kind of like we’re a problem, but we’re a quiet problem right now. And that’s a good thing. It lets bitcoin kind of develop an immune system slowly.

Alex Gladstein:

I mean, I think there’s two outcomes ultimately. One is that govern­ments … yeah. They attack and try to kill the bitcoin ecosystem. Obviously, the Chinese govern­ment tried to do that in 2017. Didn’t really work out so well. But the equally likely or possibly even more likely outcome is that they try to stock­pile bitcoin. I mean, and they try to get more than in a rival­rous atmos­phere with other countries that are also looking at this. That just seems much more likely to me from a game theory perspec­tive. It’s not like Germany, Belarus and Lithuania are going to sit there and sit down with Putin and say, “Let’s figure out how to get rid of bitcoin.” No. Putin is going to be like, “Fuck you guys. I’m getting some.” And then Germany is going to be like, “Oh, shit. We have to get some.”

Alex Gladstein:

Like that seems much more likely to me in a rival­rous world than this outcome of like govern­ments uniting to destroy it. I mean, as you were saying guys, they have bigger fish to fry to begin with.

Matt Odell:

They could do both, though.

Alex Gladstein:

They could do both, like with gold, right? They’ve tried to limit what citizens can do with gold while stock­piling for themselves. But that’s going to be a lot harder with bitcoin.

Matt Odell:

We’re like … in the worst case scenario, we’re like two steps away from that happening to bitcoin in America. I mean, I don’t support Antifa, but they were labeled a terrorist organi­za­tion this week. A bunch of American-

Alex Gladstein:

Totally ridicu­lous.

Matt Odell:

… citizens were labeled a terrorist organi­za­tion. They now all of a sudden have no rights. You know there’s definitely insane surveil­lance going on with them. There’s a bunch of retroac­tive stuff that people might have commu­ni­ca­tions with them and stuff like that where they’re going to get wrapped up into this. We saw celebri­ties doing like bailouts and stuff and they publicly supported certain elements of that movement in the past. It should be inter­esting to see how that gets affected. So then with that, you ban their use of PayPal. You ban their use of banks. You ban their use of all this stuff. bitcoin all of a sudden, when there’s no other option, bitcoin is the option, right? And then all of a sudden, bitcoin becomes a target, right? bitcoin becomes the thing.

Matt Odell:

And they say, “You need to buy through KYC. You can’t self-custody. You have to report every single bitcoin you own. Every single UTXO. Every single address, you have to report it. Other­wise you’re breaking the law.” Similar to what we see with guns where you have to get your guns licensed. You have to be on a list. All these other stuff. One of the things that people don’t realize is this whole KYC versus non-KYC thing in the bitcoiner commu­nity, you see it all the time in the gun commu­nity. Someone buys a gun, and then in the comments under­neath it’s like, “Oh, did you buy that at a store? Ah, you’re not really a gun owner. You bought that with KYC.”

Matt Odell:

So we can be a hair’s throw. I really hope that’s not the case. They, for the most part, have been distracted. For the most part, America has been decently good about this. But we don’t have a good track record with finan­cial privacy. And we have a presi­dent who shoots from the hip. So, I’m concerned. I’d be lying if I said I was not concerned.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. Well, China would be the canary in the coal mine for other societies, right? Like the world’s biggest police state has, let’s put it this way, de facto bitcoin is definitely not illegal. From what I under­stand, it’s legally protected property, and you can’t do certain things with it. You’re not really supposed to be exchanging it via RMB if you’re a bank or a company. There’s different restric­tions. But it is very widespread there and increas­ingly so. And you look at the volume on some of these exchanges like Quobi or whatever. It’s totally nuts. I mean, we’re talking billions of dollars a day from retail customers and individ­uals, and then you have all this OTC action. Like I don’t know. I just … I’m with you, Matt. I’m worried about it. We should definitely be vigilant.

Alex Gladstein:

But I just think it’s going to be hard, no matter how sophis­ti­cated the police state is to root this thing out simply because of the fact that it’s not just like a Wikipedia page on the Internet. It’s like an asset that you can own and can become more valuable. So I do think it’ll be a lot tougher for govern­ments to get rid of.

Brady Swenson:

I think the game theory is also-

Matt Odell:

There’s crimi­nal­iza­tion of the user base is different than enforce­ment, you know?

Alex Gladstein:

Right.

Matt Odell:

If you push people into the shadows, you make them have to watch their back, you stifle the innova­tion of compa­nies like Swan and stuff like that, that’s more of what I’m saying. I don’t think that there’s the capability to go in and first of all pull bitcoin for people who are self-custody and try and block trans­ac­tions and attack the network and stuff. I don’t think they have the will to do it. They might have the capability, but I don’t think they would actually go that far. But they could easily crimi­nalize like self-usage of bitcoin. Just like the act of using it just makes you … you have to be careful, and it makes you kind of a criminal.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. But I think there’s a … I mean, there’s a first amend­ment issue here which is what happened, if you guys remember. The PGP situa­tion where strong crypto was illegal to export, and then they printed it into a book. Right? This is the same thing with bitcoin. I mean, a bitcoin trans­ac­tion can be a text message. It could be a bunch of emojis. It could be printed into a book. So now you go to the Supreme Court with that and now you really … what is the differ­ence between me sending a bitcoin trans­ac­tion versus a message? I think-

Alex Gladstein:

I agree. And I think we are well setup for these alphabet soup agencies to try and do stuff and then people sue them and then the Supreme Court possibly having a favor­able outcome. That’s all I gotta say.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I think there is a chance of that. And also, I think the game theory is not in their favor for trying to do any kind of ban. Because if they do go ahead and ban it and crimi­nalize it, and then it’s not dead. It’s not going to die. I mean, it’s obviously not going to die. So what have they shown is that they’re just ineffec­tive. And they’ve shown this with the drug war and look what’s happening with that. Right? I mean, they’re easing up. Right? Marijuana is becoming legal­ized all across the nation. And why is that? It’s because they’re kind of giving up. And they’re kind of like it’s not an effec­tive war. We fought it for too long. Now, could that last for 25 years with bitcoin? It could.

Yan Pritzker:

But it’s going to be a very ineffec­tive war if they couldn’t fight—

Alex Gladstein:

Well also Yan, if the govern­ment started being restric­tive here, you guys … I mean, not like you’d want to. But you’d have the option to. Go to Israel or Taiwan or Malta or any of these other places.

Yan Pritzker:

Right. There’s juris­dic­tional arbitrage and—

Alex Gladstein:

Those countries are going to be like, “Hell yeah. We’ll take the entre­pre­neurs in the capital.”

Yan Pritzker:

Of course.

Alex Gladstein:

And it’s not going to be this world where all 180 countries or whatever one day decide we’re all going to crimi­nalize citizen use of bitcoin without KYC. That’s not happening. So we’ll have to see how it goes. But definitely we got to be vigilant.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I mean, we should have to make like the incen­tive struc­tures and what you said, right? It’s more profitable to acquire some of it than to try to crimi­nalize it. As long as we keep going in that direc­tion, I think we will be heading in the right direc­tion.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. Absolutely. This is a tangen­tial question from the Telegram chatroom post by Alice the Cross, Marty and Matt’s nemesis. So what do you guys think would have to happen in the United States for some sort of right to finan­cial privacy? Like a law that would give the right to finan­cial privacy to citizens? Does the legal principle eventu­ally follow from the technical reality, making it easier to transact privately? Alex, do you want to start?

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. And I think coin center does a good job explaining this. But we already have the right. It’s already in our Bill of Rights. It’s like the first amend­ment and the fourth amend­ment. So that’s all I got to say about that.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. But there’s stuff like the Bank Secrecy Act and things like that, that have been upheld and are forcing the collec­tion of all this private info. And so there is surveil­lance that’s in viola­tion of our right against the unrea­son­able search and seizure. It’s happening. So it’s like those two things are conflicting.

Alex Gladstein:

But I will actually say that’s impor­tant. So, the Bank Secrecy Act was designed with like a lower bound limit like below $10,000 or whatever. We don’t have to declare or whatever. And that’s actually really impor­tant because if you want to fight a Big Brother-esque surveil­lance state, what they want to do is they want to under­stand all your micro­trans­ac­tions. I mean, if you buy a house that doesn’t really help Big Brother. What they want to do is know where you’re going all day and what you’re doing and what you’re buying. They want to develop a pattern of your daily life so that they can engineer you, right?

Alex Gladstein:

So actually, as bad as the legacy laws are, if they can be roughly mapped like for bitcoin, for example, this wouldn’t be the worst case outcome if only bitcoin trans­ac­tions above a certain amount you had to divulge some sort of KYC, that would not be the worst outcome in the world. It would not. As long as it’s like we have a very healthy … anything you could conceiv­ably buy in your daily life, like medical proce­dure. A book. A service. Whatever. If you didn’t have to divulge for that but only for really large items, I could live with that. I feel like it’s sort of compro­mise.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. But it’s very hard to do something like that with bitcoin. I think you’d have to go all in or all out.

Alex Gladstein:

Well, you need the lawyers and lobby­ists to point out that why change the rules for just a new kind of money? Like we should use the same legal … I mean, we have this legal and moral prece­dent that cash is totally fine to use for stuff up to a certain amount. So we just need them to really … and groups like Coin Center to keep doing what they’re doing and pushing this idea that that’s an American value. We should be able to buy and sell and transact below a certain amount privately. And let’s keep it like that. There’s no reason to change the decades old tradi­tions we have here in America just because money is changing would be the hope, right?

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. But I mean I think as we’ve gone to a digital society and digitized all of our payment methods, we’ve kind of implic­itly opted into surveil­lance, even though … Like Apple and PayPal and whatever, these are not govern­ment entities. But they’re obviously keeping records and every trans­ac­tion. If the govern­ment asks them, they’re going to divulge it. So it’s like-

Alex Gladstein:

Well, but this is like what you just pointed out with PGP. If they go down that road and they say, “Screw it. We don’t care about the legal and more prece­dent. We’re going to change it anyway”, well the PGP people were like, “No, you’re not. I’m still going to commu­ni­cate with that person privately.” So there’s an additional … with this open source encrypted technology, there’s like an additional barrier for author­i­ties. They can’t just scrap tradi­tion. If they tried to, they will have to fight and it’s going to be really hard for them to do so. So there’s like … this is like an additional protec­tion for citizens, basically.

Brady Swenson:

Matt, you have any thoughts you want to share on that? Yeah. Go ahead.

Matt Odell:

I don’t have that much faith in our insti­tu­tions, but I’ll be hopeful with you. Hopefully we get something like the de facto with cash. But I do see cash slowly slipping away. And you know, this subject, I find myself self-censoring myself on the subject all the time because I’m scared of the reper­cus­sions and I’m not proud of that, but that says a lot about this country. And it’s not great in terms of finan­cial privacy. It’s not great. Cash is great. But my peers, no one uses cash anymore. It’s like almost de facto crimi­nal­ized because you use it. It’s like why? Why are you using it? Why aren’t you using Venmo or whatever? Why aren’t you using credit card?

Brady Swenson:

Cash is an app now.

Matt Odell:

—the podcast disclo­sure.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. No. We kind of lost this threat a little bit with what’s now happening. But during the sort of COVID stimulus discus­sions like let’s say a month ago, there’s a lot of the steam growing and I think a lot of people pushing these ideas that I’m about to mention may be in like a Biden cabinet, actually. Or they may have a lot of influ­ence in let’s say a Biden admin­is­tra­tion which could easily happen. They’re pushing for basically … this is like a lot of these MMT folks are pushing for something that I don’t neces­sarily think would be worse than the existing system which is that you basically have like a saving account with the Fed and a checking account with the Treasury, and that your stimulus would come to you immedi­ately. And that you’d have like a slightly more private digital CBDC checking account to spend stuff on. And while I think that that’s still problem­atic for obvious privacy reasons and things like that, it’s probably better than what we have now where it takes weeks to get a stimulus check, right?

Alex Gladstein:

So this is what all these central banks want to do on some level is they want to digitalize this ridicu­lous process. And the Chinese are going to be probably the first to do it. And of course it’s going to come with horrible viola­tions of our civil liber­ties which is why bitcoin is impor­tant. But it is going to be easier for them to conduct these big opera­tions. Like it’ll be easy for the Chinese govern­ment if they have DCEP to just put a stimulus in the pockets of a partic­ular industry to quell protests or whatever.

Yan Pritzker:

It’s going to be the UBI that digitizes all the money, right? Because they’re going to say, “You want your stimulus check? That’s fine. Just go here to this website and sign up.”

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. People would be like, “Fuck yeah!”

Yan Pritzker:

Now your money is digital. Every­body’s going to opt into immedi­ately.

Alex Gladstein:

So I think we’ve lost that conver­sa­tion a little bit given the more urgent nature of what’s happening now. But over the next couple years, I think you’re going to see a real push for this. Especially as the populist backlash against the way that the bailouts currently work which are fucked, obviously. But it may gain a lot of support and sympathy from a lot of different people. And we have to be aware of the second order effects of this.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. And you know, you can’t use digital payment systems to buy cannabis here in Illinois, and it’s legal. It’s state legal, right? You can’t use Apple Pay. Can’t use credit cards as far as I know. So the question is, once every­thing does go digital, what other things are then labeled as non-savory, can’t use your digital money on this, hope you still have some green­backs from back in the day because other­wise, sorry. Because that’s the thing that I’m worried about is cannabis is obviously like okay, it’s a luxury good. It’s a medicine for some people. That’s the kind of thing where you let the govern­ments just decide what you can and cannot buy, you’re headed down a very bad road.

Matt Odell:

And it’s not just the govern­ment, right? Because you buy the wrong thing, your health insur­ance goes up in price. You buy the wrong thing, you’re not able to get that mortgage you want to get. It’s a very slippery slope.

Brady Swenson:

So in this time right now, this is kind of maybe some advice for people navigating the situa­tion that we’re in right now. The pandemic. The civil unrest. It’s hard to find infor­ma­tion that you can trust. I think we all have to make decisions about who to trust online. It’s not really kind of handed down to us as it used to be 50, 60 years ago where we had like a few white men telling us what to … the arbiters of truth in newsroom all over the country.

Brady Swenson:

What infor­ma­tion sources are you guys trusting right now? Alex?

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I mean, you have to … I think as Matt is saying, we’re getting most of our infor­ma­tion from social media, at least people in our gener­a­tion. And you know what? That’s really helpful. Because it allows us to relatively quickly sift through a lot of different perspec­tives. And it helps us hone our ability to see what’s pretty legit and what’s not. But yeah. I mean, I think when we’re trying to do sense making now, we just want to … like for me, I would want to look at a variety of the different sort of more respected insti­tu­tions to see what they’re saying. And then kind of look at what their critics are saying and then try to make out what the truth is on my own.

Alex Gladstein:

It’s for certain things, it’s highly unlikely that people, reporters at The New York Times or Wall Street Journal will lie, because they’ll get fired. Like if there’s fact checking. So there’s a process. Now, you could point out the whole WMDs in Iraq thing which is very legit­i­mate and that’s why you need to have a critical mind. But gener­ally speaking for like day-to-day fact type stuff, if you’re looking at the center left and center right magazines and newspa­pers of authority, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. And then you just got to do your own sense making there.

Matt Odell:

As many sources as possible.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I mean, the more the merrier. And from different countries too. You want the East Asian perspec­tive. The European perspec­tive. The American perspec­tive. Et cetera.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I think the more primary sources. I agree. Social media, I almost entirely stopped reading any kind of official publi­ca­tions. I occasion­ally will look at Google News as just a glance of every­thing that’s going on. But Twitter and primary sources and being able to see and verify for yourself is impor­tant. It’s also very diffi­cult, right? You see 20,000 videos of these protests and from one angle the cops are shooting the guy. The other angle the guy is being a dick. It’s really hard to say who is right. And it takes time to sort through that. And so maybe there will be stuff in the future that helps you aggre­gate that infor­ma­tion for yourself. And look at that.

Alex Gladstein:

Right now, the presi­dent released a state­ment saying that they didn’t tear-gas anybody. It’s like clearly that’s not true, and we can all see that, right?

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. That’s the thing is like I think the idea of these state­ments and the official media reports which are then totally discred­ited by first­hand source footage is really powerful. And I think that we’ll see more. I’m hoping we see more platforms that actually aggre­gate. And I don’t know how I feel about the whole fact checking thing on Twitter, but I like the idea of combining here’s an official story, or here’s a story from a mainstream source. Here’s 10 other viewpoints on that same story. So you can see for yourself, you know?

Alex Gladstein:

Well, it’s fine for now maybe. But then think about what’s going to happen when Fortune or The New York Times has a story about bitcoin that’s obviously wrong. And they don’t have-

Yan Pritzker:

—all the time.

Alex Gladstein:

… the fact check. And then Matt, poor Matt over here has got his TFTC and he’s getting labeled. You know?

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah.

Alex Gladstein:

So that’s when we’re going to be pissed, right?

Matt Odell:

Well, before they added the safe places to Twitter, we can just ratio them for the fact check. And now they can block the replies out.

Alex Gladstein:

Right.

Matt Odell:

It’s like it was built into Twitter. I think person­ally, and I’ve never got to … I wasn’t part of the Jack inter­view when we had him on Tales from the Crypt, and I know he doesn’t really have that much power on Twitter anymore, but I think all these social media compa­nies, like the mistake they made was ever trying to get involved in the content. It should just be a dumb pipe. It should just come through chrono­log­i­cally. Get rid of … no algorithm. Because the algorithm makes them liable for it as well, about the different engage­ment. How it’s all coming. And if you give tools to the user, let them moderate it themselves. Let them mute. Let them block. Let them subscribe to moder­a­tion lists. You could have The Red Cross can do one. You know? Black Lives Matter can do one. All different. And you can subscribe to all the different lists you want to subscribe to. Do it all yourself. If there’s any illegal content, the police can just good old fashioned police work.

Matt Odell:

And end of story. And I think short of that which is obviously not the way we’re going, and now with these legal protec­tions removed so they’re going to get the shit sued out of them, so they’re going to start censoring even worse than ever before. We’re already starting to see it escalate on Twitter where they’re cutting way more accounts. And I think it’s because their lawyers are like, “Uh-oh. Whatever Trump did there is going to be a lot worse for us.” Is we’re going to need to see platforms where people can’t control them. They can’t censor by design. And that’s like the only way forward. But it’s a long way off. We’re not there yet.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. I think you made a very apt … by the way, we have IRC. IRC, I don’t even know if it censorable. It’s pretty central­ized. I grew up on IRC. I haven’t been back in years, unfor­tu­nately. Just too busy. But I grew up on IRC and it was great because anybody can say whatever the hell they want. Nothing was … I mean, individual channels had their own moder­a­tors that were just people who wanted to have that channel. You don’t like it, go somewhere else. I think we’re going to see that model come back, especially if Twitter becomes more censor­ship oriented. And I agree with you, that you should never have gotten into this game, but also their incen­tives are misaligned, because the algorithm is what drives engage­ment and engage­ment is what drives customers to click on ads. And so if you’re a platform that has to make money, then you have to have an algorithm.

Alex Gladstein:

I think we’re probably—

Yan Pritzker

We should also have a paid model. But …

Alex Gladstein:

We’ll probably look back right now and say that this was kind of a golden age for Twitter. And maybe they can preserve as much of it as possible, but it just seems like it’s going to be so daunting. But it works pretty well right now. I mean, it’s certainly not perfect, but it is just incred­ible how easy it is to quickly figure out what’s going on. And you know, rather than watching cable news, I can just have people just cut up all the best parts for me to watch. And I don’t have to even ask them to do it.

Yan Pritzker:

But you don’t know if they have applied their own bias to those cuts…

.

Alex Gladstein:

Yes. But it’s easy for me to figure that out because I can look at other people’s reactions, right?

Yan Pritzker:

Right. Right.

Alex Gladstein:

So with the right sense making, Twitter is a really powerful tool right now. And just be careful before you share anything. If you see a photo of a protest and it seems … you start to develop like a gut feeling about some of these photos … and then I’ve been doing this for years because … Whether it’s the issue with the FARC in Colombia or Pales­tinians and Israelis, or in Hong Kong, there’s always like people saying, “Oh, one side is biased”, or whatever. So, I’m always looking very carefully at these stories and these photos. And usually when I have like a hunch about it and I dig in, yeah, there was something wrong with it, right? So, just be a little careful about sharing images and photos and stuff without kind of trying to prove it yourself, you know?

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. My gut feeling is like, if I feel really outraged by something and I want to share it, then I look at that very closely because it’s usually the things that trigger a very strong emotional response are the ones that are designed to do so. And are in some way misrep­re­sen­ta­tions of the truth. Like the other day I saw that picture of a cop that looked like he was pointing his gun at a little girl. And Guy Swann retweeted and said, “Hey. Look at this. If you look at how this is shot, it looks like this is a very long lens. They’re off to the side. They’re not really … look where he’s looking.” And sure enough, it was totally not what it appeared on a first glance. And you got to be careful of that stuff.

Brady Swenson:

And then we throw in the deep fake technology.

Yan Pritzker:

Oh that’s going to be rough.

Brady Swenson:

That’s going to mess with everyone.

Yan Pritzker:

Yeah. Deep fakes are going to be rough.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah.

Matt Odell:

I’m looking forward to the first fake Rabbit Hole Recap that someone makes. We have so many voice samples. Just weeks and weeks of Rabbit Hole Recap.

Alex Gladstein:

Oh, that’ll be great.

Matt Odell:

I think the podcast will get hit first with the voice deep fakes.

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. But then it’s like we’re going to know it’s not either because you’re going to be like shilling Filecoin or something.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. That’s how we fight it, right? We build our reputa­tions and exactly. So people trust us. So all right guys. We’re out of time here. Really want to thank you guys for joining us. It was some great takes. Great infor­ma­tion sharing today. Any last thoughts or words that you want to share before we end the live stream?

Alex Gladstein:

Yeah. I got one. I know we’re all focused on the protests in the United States which is great and impor­tant. But tomorrow marks the 31st anniver­sary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China and HRF is doing like a 90 minute kind of live event that’s kind of looking back. And we’re going to have people who were there, eyewit­nesses. Plus survivors. Plus folks who are Hong Kongers to discuss this and put this in context. Because right this week the new author­i­ties in Hong Kong have basically said that they’re not allowed to do a vigil or a celebra­tion of Tiananmen or a memorial anymore for the first time in 30 years. So it’s illegal now. It used to be the biggest one in the world with millions of people and now the new author­i­ties in Hong Kong have said, “You’re not allowed to remember Tiananmen anymore.” So it’s very timely. And I know it’s not exactly probably what’s on every­body’s minds right now, but I think at the end of the day all these strug­gles are a little inter­con­nected and it would be good to take some time out of your day tomorrow to think about Tiananmen and what it meant.

Alex Gladstein:

So if you go to HRF.org there’s some info about that.

Matt Odell:

I just want to say that every­one’s just … be a good person but just don’t be an idiot. And just be kind. Just don’t be naïve about it either. Cheers.

Brady Swenson:

Thanks, guys. Appre­ciate it. You know, make sure you guys subscribe over at YouTube. You can subscribe to the podcast as well. If you missed the first half of this or whatever, joined us late, swansignalpodcast.com will have the whole audio file there. So yep. That’s it. Check out swanbitcoin.com Thanks, guys. Take care.

Yan Pritzker:

Thank you, guys.

Alex Gladstein:

Thanks, guys.

Alex Gladstein:

See you later.

Brady Swenson:

Thanks to Alex and Matt for joining us. Thanks to Yan as well. You can follow Alex @gladstein at G‑L-A-D-S-T-E-I‑N and Matt @matt_odell. M‑A-T‑T O‑D-E-L‑L. Under­score between them. And follow Yan @skwp, at S‑K-W‑P on Twitter. Fantastic conver­sa­tion. You’ll find the Human Rights Founda­tion, Alex’s organi­za­tion, online at HRF.org. And the Tales from the Crypt podcast at tftc.io. On behalf of the Swan team, thanks for joining us. We hope you enjoyed the episode and found it useful. Join us live next time. Jump into out Swan Signal Telegram chatroom. We have a lively crew in there that chat during our conver­sa­tion. You can ask questions of our guests. Find the chat at t.me/swansignal. Swan Signal is a produc­tion of Swan Bitcoin at swanbitcoin.com. The best way to buy bitcoin. Just three easy steps. One, auto fund USD from your bank account. Two, we automat­i­cally purchase the bitcoin for you. Three, you can set up automatic withdrawals to your own wallet. That is optional. But recom­mended.

Brady Swenson:

All at the lowest fees for recur­ring purchases in the industry. Up to 80% lower than Coinbase and up to 57% lower than Cash App for automatic recur­ring purchases. Check out Swan at swanbitcoin.com. You can follow us on Twitter @SwanBitcoin, and you can subscribe to this podcast if you’re not already at swansignalpodcast.com. That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for joining us.

Other Episodes

Episode 8 –Andy Edstrom and Ansel Linder

Episode 9 –Rockstar Devel­oper and Jeremy Rubin

Episode 10 – Bitcoin TINA and CK Snarks

Episode 11– Gigi and Knut Svanholm

Episode 12 –Adam Back and Preston Pysh

Episode 14 –Robert Breedlove and Tuur Demeester

Episode 15 –Isaiah Jackson and Max Keiser

Episode 16 –Gigi and Udi Wertheimer

Episode 17 –Aleks Svetski and Jimmy Song

Episode 18 –Stephan Livera and Marty Bent

Episode 19 –Mark Moss and Ben Prentice

Episode 20 –Samson Mow and Parker Lewis

Episode 21 — Lyn Alden and Parker Lewis

Links

Swan Bitcoin

Matt Odell

Rabbit Hole Recap Podcast

Matt Odell on Twitter

Matt’s personal website

Matt Odell on Telegram

Alex Gladstein

Alex Gladstein on Twitter

Alex Gladstein on Linkedin

Alex Gladstein on Singu­larity Univer­sity

This blog offers thoughts and opinions on Bitcoin from the Swan Bitcoin team and friends. Swan Bitcoin is the easiest way to buy Bitcoin using your bank account automatically every week, month, or paycheck, starting with as little as $10. Sign up or learn more here.

Brady Swenson

Brady is the Head of Education at Swan Bitcoin, the best place to buy Bitcoin with easy recurring purchases straight from your bank account. Brady also hosts Citizen Bitcoin, a podcast focused on documenting his journey learning Bitcoin, featuring some of the biggest names in the Bitcoin world.

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