The Bitcoin Matrix Podcast #18 — Jimmy Song: The Bitcoin Professor
YouTube link to the episode: https://youtu.be/dh1Noe62OwU
Cedric Youngelman: A Bitcoin Core contributor! Jimmy Song caught the Bitcoin bug back in 2011, and has contributed to Bitcoin open source projects since 2013. He’s a contributor to various written publications, and has a popular Bitcoin blog. He’s’ the author of Programming Bitcoin, co-author of The Little Bitcoin Book, both seminal in very different ways. Host of the new wonderful podcast, Bitcoin Fixes This. Developer, entrepreneur, professor, and all around voice of reason, Jimmy Song, welcome to the Bitcoin Matrix Podcast, we’re so excited to have your here!
Jimmy Song: Thanks for having me! That was a very lovely introduction!
Cedric Youngelman: Yeah man! This is amazing! I’m really psyched to talk to you! You’re very influential on my understanding or coming to grips with Bitcoin. I was revisiting your work—because I’ve kept up with your stuff since 2017 for the most part, and there’s so much to cover — but when I was revisiting your work, there were a couple things that really stood out to me, maybe because of who I am? One, you’re an educator, and two you’re a goal-setter. You achieve goals. And you’ve contributed to Bitcoin Core. And I think about those three things, and we can go into why those things stick out to me. But my question to you is: Bitcoin changes you is an expression. You can’t change Bitcoin — it changes you! And I was thinking about that and it’s relation to you, and your work that you’ve put out. And when you speak, I kind of hear, like, Bitcoin Core! I kind of hear, like, the voice from the inside! It was even striking to me how you alliterate your articles! And your writing. And I wonder, how did Bitcoin change you, and do you think working on Bitcoin Core changed you differently than maybe people who learn about Bitcoin from a very different lens? Because I think, Well, maybe Bitcoin’s changing me from the outside in? But maybe Bitcoin changed you from the inside out? I’m not sure!
Jimmy Song [02:40]: That’s a really good question! I would say that Bitcoin has changed me in a lot of ways. But it’s part of I think just coming into maturity just as a man, and Bitcoin was a part of that process. I’m 44 years old, and when I started this journey I was 35 or something like that. You know, I have kids and everything, and part of coming to terms with having a family and trying to provide for my family and things like that brought certain questions to my mind, especially after 2008. About, How am I going to prep for their future? And things like that. Because it was clear to me after 2008 that this system was extremely fragile. And when I saw Bitcoin, when I found out about it, I think it really struck a chord with me in large part because of what I was looking for, which was a good place to park my money, actually! To invest and put something towards the future! And that sort of low time preference, long term time orientation kind of view, that’s what really struck me about Bitcoin, and that’s something that has been developed in me as a result of Bitcoin. Not the least of which is Bitcoin itself! I put out a Tweet the other day, I used to love shopping for bargains! I’d go all the websites for the bargain deals and I’d feel awesome when I’d get something like $100 less than what everyone else paid for it, or whatever. I mean I used to do like the crazy rebate games and stuff like that, I’d get things for free and sell them on Craigslist afterwards. Just all kinds of stupid crap like that! And realizing that most of that is stupid! Because in a sense, when you have Bitcoin, which stores value really well, you’re not going to go and buy needless crap, because if you just wait a little longer, you’re gonna get something much better! And you’re gonna get it for a much better price, because in terms of Bitcoin, those things are all going down in price. I would say the main way in which Bitcoin’s changed me is a part of coming into maturity, part of who I’m becoming, and that’s just having a lower time preference, thinking much more about the long term, and things like that.
Cedric Youngelman [05:23]: Do you think with your background as a programmer that you maybe looked at yourself a little more introspectively and were able to reprogram yourself very quickly? You know? There’s a big difference between, I’m not gonna go and buy that thing, but I want it! Versus, like, I no longer want that thing! Coming from more of a first principle, and inside out?
Jimmy Song: Yeah I would say that it’s a little bit of both. I learn to be pretty introspective as a programmer, you have to analyze things. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say this about being a programmer: it’s actually very emotional! Especially when a project you’ve been working on 24/7 for three months gets cut and then you have to come to terms with the fact that you worked on something that no one’s gonna use or whatever. Or you work on something and a lot more people like it, even though it took you five minutes. Like that was a critical thing for them, or something like that! There’s a lot of — that internal, emotional management aspect of it is something I did have at least a little bit of through my experience in programming. But I would be lying if I said that I had really good self-control at the same place I am now, nine years ago. That just wasn’t the case! The thing that changed with Bitcoin was that I started to recognize what it really meant to save. And what it really meant to be able to put off till later — you know, let some things go! Instead of wanting things Now now now. I’ve always sort of been a little bit that way anyway, with the exception of a few things, but this really encouraged it and put the better angel of my nature in charge, rather than the devil of wanting things now. And I would say that those two worked in sync and I’ve been able to save a lot more — recently — because of the things that developed as a result of being in Bitcoin.
Cedric Youngelman [08:05]: We’re around the same age, and I think that kind of gives us a similar — not a lot of similarities, I’m not Jimmy Song — but similar life trajectory in the sense that we came to Bitcoin a little older, and we had a career before we came to Bitcoin. And I wonder, were you always cool, calm and collected? I find Bitcoin gives me a lot of zen. I see you, I think of you as very zenful. Was it before or after Bitcoin? Were you always cool, calm and collected?
Jimmy Song: I would say not! Actually, my temper comes out sometimes! You could ask my kids or you could ask people on stream like I did last week on the election. There are times I just go off on people or whatever. But I would say that there is a sense in which I’ve learned to moderate some of my emotions. But that’s more a result of getting more attention on Twitter and so on, and less Bitcoin. That’s just something I learned as a result of — like, 2013, nobody knew who I was but I was on Twitter and I was Tweeting about Bitcoin. I’d get like 3 likes and people would argue with me and I would get really angry and say nasty things! All kinds of stuff like that! In a sense, going through those early was a real blessing because I learned to recognize, Okay, most people won’t change their mind on a public forum in any way, shape, or form. And second, you can let them win a little! It’s okay! If somebody gets the last word in, let them get that little win, and you’ll be — it’s not gonna hurt you any. You may think it does, but it doesn’t! Most people aren’t gonna see those comments, and the people that do are gonna think less of the people that made those comments than the response that you gave. I think that that definitely affected me more in that direction, although I don’t rule out the possibility that Bitcoin has had something to do with that aspect as well. Certainly, having to speak a lot and talk on podcasts and things like that, I think for me were a bigger influence.
Cedric Youngelman [10:40]: What about the change in direction of your career? Going from a coder/programmer to maybe something you’re more passionate about?
Jimmy Song: Yeah! That’s something that — now that I’m not beholden to a company — I really wish I did earlier! And it actually took me a while. I think it was middle of 2017 when I really decided, Okay, you know what? I’m gonna go off on my own instead of working for a company. Even the four years from 2013–2017 — I was working for Bitcoin companies — which is great, because I get to work on Bitcoin-related stuff, but it was not that satisfying because I wasn’t working on what I wanted to, and it took me a month and a half of just getting up the gumption to go do it, to go off on my own and say, Alright, you know what? I’m gonna give this thing a shot! And I might fall on my face, but I’ll always have a programming career to go back to! Might as well give it a shot! As soon as I started it — and I found some success doing that — I was just like, Why didn’t I do this ten years ago? Because I was just like — one of the things that I recognized was like, my opinions in large ways were beholden to my company! The company that I was working for! And in subtle ways, and in more overt ways, but my mind wasn’t my own when I was working for them! The golden handcuffs of salary, they consume your soul in some ways! And the ability to detach from that, to have my own voice and to say whatever the hell I feel like. You know, just have my own thing going — that was enormously freeing! And you’re probably right, that definitely had an effect on my perspective and maybe how I come across and things like that. You go to a conference and you listen to a speaker that’s shilling their latest altcoin or whatever, and then you hear somebody like Tone Vays speak, it’s a completely different experience, because one is obviously working for somebody, and they’re being sycophants to whoever is giving them the money. But when you tell the truth with the conviction of real belief, it makes a big difference! And it comes across a different way! You have a different impact on people, and I think maybe that’s the main thing that I’ve gotten out of going off on my own into this Bitcoin entrepreneur journey.
Cedric Youngelman [13:44]: Yeah. I really want to touch on this: middle of 2017 — my first question there is, How much do you think going from that beholden point where you work for someone else, to being your freer person. At that moment in time, does your voice get more clear and chiseled? Or are you literally just releasing thoughts that have been pent up? I think that there’s like a fork in the road that you almost can’t have certain thoughts until you’ve left those binds!
Jimmy Song: Well, that’s an excellent way to put it! It really was kind of like that! There’s like a barrier, you can’t express yourself fully because you’re tied in golden handcuffs or something. You don’t have that freedom of movement, the freedom of thought. And you could kind of see this in my writing too. In 2017 — the first half of 2017—I was trying to be conciliatory to all sides, trying to calm people down, try to thread the needle in between and say, Hey, you know what? I’m this neutral person and everything else. And you can see in the second half of 2017 I started getting my own voice and saying — instead of writing what people wanted to hear, I started writing what I really thought! And that made all of the difference! People want to think what it is that you think for the reasons that you think it, instead of whatever the company line may be, or whatever might make them feel better. As much as people like things that make them feel better, it doesn’t connect at a level that real truth does! So I think that was the main thing. It wasn’t a lot of pent up stuff. I think to a degree, a large part of my — it’s kind of like water that you’re swimming in, you don’t really recognize that your opinions are beheld that way, and that you’re being moderate because you’re put into a political position at your workplace that you didn’t sign up for but you nevertheless have to play. It wasn’t like that as it was like—being free from that — my mind could now go wherever it wanted! I have always thought of myself as somebody that sought truth, and that’s where it led me. That’s ultimately I think what led me to write a lot of those things that I did. It seemed to connect really well with Bitcoin Twitter and so on.
Cedric Youngelman [16:36]: Yeah. What do you think you would want for your children then? In terms of a career, a vocation. Is it like, you’re gonna hand them a couple Bitcoin and be like, Go do what you wanna do! Is it gonna be like, I’m gonna buy a car-wash and I’ll give you 10% equity and $60,000 a year to work there for me and work your way through the equity ladder? How do you instill that stuff to your kids?
Jimmy Song: That’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The best thing that I’ve come up with is just give them the tools to succeed, and then see what they want to do, and don’t let fear get in the way of their trying things. Because to me, the hardest hurdle to overcome—the month and a half where I was pondering whether or not I should go off on my own — it was getting over that fear! It kind of sounds silly right now that it took me a month and a half to get over that fear, but that’s what it took. Literally every night just thinking, Oh okay. If I do this, okay. And I made lists and said, Okay here are the pros, here are the cons, here is the worst case scenario, here’s blah blah blah. And ultimately — at some point you have to move! You have to do something! You have to take a step! After I took that step it was like, What the hell was I worried about? Navigating the free market and finding a product that other people will find interesting and will pay for isn’t this crazy difficult thing that they make it out to be! I’ve been absolutely shocked at some of the things that I’ve been able to sell to people, and oftentimes they’ll come to me and ask me for it! And I was like, Hey, I didn’t even know that this was something that you’d want, but okay! I’ve done it for you, now lets go do it for like 30 other people. And you make a bunch of money! In a sense, that’s the mentality that I would love to instill in my kids and give them that sense that the world’s your oyster! It’s not something to be afraid of, you just need to have certain skills to be able to navigate it. But you don’t need to be beholden to a company because in many ways, that would probably be one of the worst outcomes that I could imagine. Which is that they go to a company and sort of live out their existence in “quiet desperation” to quote Thoreau. That would be the worst possibility for me! I would want them to live and take risks and break things and try something and fail! That’s when you actually learn things! And I gotta tell you! I’ve failed in a bunch of things since the middle of 2017. I’ve tried a bunch of things and was like, Yeah, that’s not gonna work. I was able to fail quickly and learn from it. And other things it was like, Hey, this works! And it works for a certain amount of time. That’s what I would like to instill is: that sense of entrepreneurship, of risk-taking, of this mandate to actually add something to the world, not by doing what someone tells you but by using your own mind and creativity and skills to find some piece of the market that needs something that you can fulfill.
Cedric Youngelman [20:30]: I wonder where you encourage them to spend their time? Do you want them to be programmers and coders? That seems like a way, in my mind, for people to be Bitcoin cashflow sovereign, or something like being a voice, but that’s really hard to do without a skillset or a background or experiences to fall on. Like I don’t want my a 20-year-old influencer on YouTube per say, even though he’s dying to be one of these YouTube stars playing video games and making videos games and showing people how to do it. Or making it entertaining for them. His stars are of today, for him. What would you?
Jimmy Song: I would say that programming is definitely useful, and there are all kinds of other skills that are extremely useful. Like being able to put up a drywall or weld something or fix a car. All those things are just extremely useful skills. And combining them in interesting ways and figuring out holes in the market, needs in the market that you can fulfill, that’s really the main thing to teach, for me, is that ability to find a need in the market that you can fulfill, and then go do it and market it in a proper way so that you get some business. That to me is way more effective than learning a set skill. Like, programming is kind of a unique skill in that it can be fitted towards lots and lots of different things, but most jobs in the economy are not like that! They’re very much cookie-cutter, and it’s like, Oh, we need an accountant, and we need a lawyer, and whatever. All of those things have very specific credentials around them and things like that. I get why they need to exist, but they’re not, at least for me, that creative, or that fulfilling. My kids might think differently! And I’m open to seeing how they see the world! To a degree, to get the best match for your skills and passions and whatever makes money — to get the best fit for that, you need to go out into the market yourself and not go into a cookie-cutter role that they ask for in the marketplace. That would be my main lesson to teach them.
Cedric Youngelman [23:29]: You have a lot of lessons! You’re an educator! It really comes through and it’s very effective! You had a blog post—I think it was in 2019 — My Story of Setting Goals. It’s just one of these things that’s so simple, but in my view, very honest. Because you’re sharing your story and your achievements, and a lot of people are very selfish with those things. They don’t want to share what they were thinking when, and what they accomplished, and the sauce. And inspire others, maybe. You wrote, Back in May of 2017 I had just broken 1,000 followers on Twitter. Now you got something like over 180,000 followers on Twitter. And you outline here, I’m gonna write some goals. And you wrote down some goals in 2017 when you had 1,000 followers. And you wrote down, I want to be a keynote to a conference, travel to five continents and do something Bitcoin related, create my own business and write a book, and you put it on a 5-year horizon which I think is fantastic! It’s what Pierre Rochard talks a little bit about on the show — humans thinking a little bit more longer term. And you banged these things out in 18 months!
Jimmy Song [24:49]: Yeah! And that was an absolute shocker to me! That I was able to do that in 18 months! And if you want some tips on goal setting, there’s a really cool Jordan Peterson goal setting workshop that I use to actually set those goals. And basically he just asks you a bunch of questions and you answer them as honestly as possible, and that’s how I came up with those goals. And yeah, did I think I would achieve them in 18 months? Absolutely not! Did I even think that I was going to be able to achieve them in 5 years? Absolutely not! But it came in large part because goals have that effect where, you notice opportunities that fit your goals because you have them. Because you’re focused on the endpoint, you’re able to see how opportunities that you might have now can fit towards those goals! And I think that’s definitely what happened! About two months after that I went off on my own and started my own business teaching programmers, and a couple months after this I got invited to my first conference and lo and behold they wanted me to keynote the first day! I was the very first speaker on the first day of that conference. And it was a brand new conference, I was like, I haven’t really spoken before but okay! Alright, this is what I wanted! So I ended up doing that. A month after that a friend of mine approached me about writing a book together, and then we explored things, and he wanted to drop out so it ended up being me, and I ended up getting a contract with O’Reilly to write a book. Not The Little Bitcoin book, but the Programming Bitcoin book. That ended up happening. You know, and I got invited to different conferences and I was like, Okay, let’s see where it is. And it ended up that I did travel to five continents! All of those things happened because I was looking for those opportunities and I had some goals in mind! I think goal setting is absolutely crucial if you want to get some things done. I have different goals now. We’ll see how those come to pass! But yeah, I’m a big believer in how much the goals actually focus you towards them. And they almost call out to you and draw you to them like magnets. It’s a worthwhile exercise to do, even if it’s scary emotionally, which it is for most people.
Cedric Youngelman [27:48]: That’s what I was just gonna ask, Was it hard for you to be honest with yourself? A lot of people listening to these workshops, the Jordan Peterson one included — you talked about these magnets. You put the goal out there and it becomes this magnet. But I think it’s hard for a lot of people to be honest with themselves?
Jimmy Song: Yeah! And to admit what they really want! It’s okay to want things — that’s the big thing that I think a lot of people feel guilty about. It’s like, Well I want fame and I want money and I want these things. It’s okay to want those things! If you’re honest about it that’s okay! The thing I’ve found is that oftentimes your perspective on those very things changes as you go closer towards them and you might not want them anymore! You mentioned your son wants to be a YouTube influencer showing people how to plan video games and so on, because that’s what he’s watching right now. I bet you after he finds out what their lives are really like in a few years, his perspective will change. And he’ll say, You know what Dad? Maybe that’s not for me! You have to play video games like 14 hours a day to get really good at it in order to be able to show it, and you have to have really good video skills and speaking skills and I tried public speaking and I’m not very good at it, blah blah blah. So there’s a lot of those kinds of things that can correct your path, and you might not want those things anymore, at which point, you can reset your goals. I feel like when I set those goals I was old enough at least know myself enough to know that those were within reach within five years. Those were things that I could do that were concrete, that weren’t abstract, not knowing ever whether I ever actually reached those goals or not. The actual desire is okay to have. That’s something that you kind of have to give yourself permission to have, and say, Alright, it’s okay for me to want this in five years. I might change — you always leave yourself the out that, Hey, that’s not what I want, and I’m okay with not achieving that particular goal and I can go do something else. I guess that has to do with something like your perception of yourself versus who you really are, because a lot of people want to be somebody that they’re not! Or they perceive themselves to be somebody that they’re not! And being honest with yourself is hard for that reason. This is where having a spouse can be really, really helpful! It certainly was for me! Having her tell me her perspective of me definitely changed my perspective of me, and that helped me to set clear goals and be more honest with myself.
Cedric Youngelman [31:02]: Yeah. Probably the only thing more important in life than finding Bitcoin is finding a partner for life. For sure.
Jimmy Song: I agree!
Cedric Youngelman: You’ve probably taught thousands and tens of thousands of programmers and developers, primarily focused on Bitcoin. What have you learned from teaching all these developers?
Jimmy Song: In my course that I used to run, I’ve taught over 600 people, something like that. The main thing that I learned is that people can learn really fast if they’re motivated. So I learned something about education. If you read my book it’s like a semester’s worth of information, and I literally taught it over a semester at the University of Texas. So I know it can take a long time if you want it to. But I did these seminars in two days, and it was eight hours a day, two days. These people are paying me a lot of money and so they’re very motivated to learn. And amazingly, they got almost all of it in two days! Which was amazing to me that they could! But that’s the power of human effort, and that’s the power of desire and things like that! And I look at the education system today and I’m like, This is completely broken! Because if these people can learn in two days what took me really like a couple of years — the education system is what is wrong! They’re not properly motivated, or it’s not presented the right way, or whatever. There’s plenty of really smart people that can get things really, really quickly! And I’m sure you know of coding boot camps and things like that? It’s six weeks and then they come out of it paid six-figures at a pretty decent company. That’s the path that they’re on, and six weeks of training is all that they need to get to that point where they can do something like that! That’s the first thing that I learned, is that people are very willing to learn if they are motivated to do so! The other thing that I learned is that there’s a lot of people that get motivated by other people. I have pretty much the same material in my book, and you can definitely work through it. The typical length of time it takes for somebody to actually work through the entire book with all of the exercises and everything is a few months. But I’m able to do this in two days! Part of it is me pushing them. Just, I’m gonna go fast and you better keep up, otherwise you’re not gonna get value out of it. But the other part of it is that, there’s sort of like what I would call the CrossFit effect — if you’ve ever been in CrossFit, just the fact that somebody next to you is doing reps that you’re not doing makes you feel terrible! And that motivates you to do the reps, even if you don’t feel like it! And that’s the dynamic in a classroom that I realized really works in everyone’s favor. When you have competition and this sense of keeping up, it can be a very powerful force for learning. So those would be the two things that I’d say I learned about.
Cedric Youngelman [34:40]: What kind of people self-select into a Programming for Bitcoin course? And are they programmers of other sorts, or are they people who are coming to Bitcoin fresh and want a way in?
Jimmy Song: I had a lot of different types of students. The people that I expected were professional programmers that wanted to know about Bitcoin so they could get a job in the Bitcoin industry. So I certainly got some of those. I also got programmers that were sent by companies because they wanted to have some sort of strategy for Bitcoin or blockchain or whatever and they sent them to my course. Alright, I’ll teach them, and then they went back. I also had a bunch of Bitcoin HODLers that knew a little bit about programming that wanted to learn more about the protocol so they could learn more about their investment. I had college students, and I had octogenarians! I had people all over the spectrum. I actually had a few high school students. In fact, I had a 14-year-old girl that won a scholarship — so pretty smart girl — that managed to take the course and keep up with the rest of the class, which absolutely shocked me! It was a whole variety of people and they all had different motivations. This was something that—as a small business person you realize — is that, the market’s gonna come from places to you do not expect. And it’s very important that you pay attention to those things, because if you do then you’ll be able to better serve the market and be able to make more money.
Cedric Youngelman [36:31]: Some of your students have gone on to do amazing things in the Bitcoin space! Do you ever pick up something very quickly about students as you’re teaching them. You maybe sense who’s picking it up or who’s getting it? And this question is kind of phrased in two ways: how much of coding — whether someone’s in your course — how much of it is art versus science? Or a combination, and some people are better at one or the other? Like I could write code and get what you need done, versus maybe Satoshi — and I’m trying to paraphrase what you wrote — wasn’t the best coder ever? But if you look at all the ideas that were intertwined, and the multi-disciplinary background to pull all this together, you would think that the art is unreal!
Jimmy Song: As far as identifying my students, you can always tell as an educator something about the student by the quality of the questions that they ask. Once in a while you’ll just see a student that’s asking these very precise questions, and you’re like, Okay! That person is going places! If they’re asking that, that means they know all of this other stuff. And they have a grasp of it that’s even better than mine. There’s certainly those one-off geniuses that you encounter in class — every educator has met them! And you can always tell, usually by the quality of the question. But there are also others that are more silent and introverted and they get it, but you never identify it until much later. And that I usually find out by what happens afterwards! What companies they get hired by and so on. I think I have students at pretty much every major Bitcoin company that exists! Like, they clearly know something and can do things that I didn’t identify while I was teaching them. There is a lot of that. I would say that the creativity, the art of it, comes from understanding. I think Satoshi could have written a better client, if Satoshi had more programming experience. But the fact that Satoshi got so much of it right is actually more impressive than the parts that he got wrong, because those are sort of the mistakes that you would expect somebody that wasn’t quite as familiar with what you would call enterprise-grade coding, or open source level coding, that you expect from the bigger projects and so on. So I think they’re both very related. It’s great to see — I don’t know, I call them my kids too — when your kids do something really cool.
Cedric Youngelman [39:43]: I listened to a lot of what you spoke about — let’s call them shitcoins or altcoins — and the bets you’ve made. And one thing that you said throughout the conversations that I’ve heard is, you’re not really looking to deify Satoshi. I thought that was really interesting grounding. Satoshi leaving the project—is that sort of like on a deification level?
Jimmy Song: It’s definitely one of the more unexpected things about Bitcoin that people still mythologize about — Satoshi’s anonymity and disappearance. But definitely there’s something about that disappearance that was purposeful, that actually ended up changing the ecosystem quite a bit, because it decentralized it from Satoshi. Satoshi was no longer the point person to make all the decisions. Instead, it became a decentralized project. Nothing else comes close to doing anything like that! And that was a key thing, I think. And anyone that’s observed this space kind of knows what that really means — it’s that, this is not a normal person that would do something like that, because it takes a lot of selflessness. None of those coins have moved, and there’s a lot of them, and we know that Satoshi was a cypherpunk, so there’s little to no chance that those keys aren’t backed up, but there’s a significant amount of virtue inherent in Satoshi to be able to do that! Some people say like, Ah! He got arrested! Now he’s sitting in prison and that’s why it happened.
Cedric Youngelman: Or dead?
Jimmy Song: I don’t know! That might be true. What I can say is that the current state of affairs — what has happened — has worked out for the best of Bitcoin. I think that’s worthy of some consideration in Satoshi’s favor.
Cedric Youngelman [42:19]: It’s 2020. We’ve been through a bunch of Bitcoin cycles. A few to be a little more specific. You’re one of the few sane Bitcoin OGs! Still grounded and still very focused on Bitcoin!
Jimmy Song: I wouldn’t say that! I think there’s plenty of people in the Bitcoin Core development world that came in before me that are still around, that are doing a lot of good things. What I have noticed is that a lot of the non-technical OGs — almost all of them — have more or less left Bitcoin for something else. Usually an altcoin. And completely burned their reputations on them, which is kind of sad! I think the one OG that’s not like that is maybe Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, but that’s about it!
Cedric Youngelman [43:16]: Wow. Do you think there’s something to that? In terms of being able to make money, or counterfeit money? Or that power that they’ve sensed. Or that metaphor of grabbing the throne?
Jimmy Song: I think it is something like that, but if you come at the King, you best not miss. That’s more of less what they’ve tried to do. A lot of the non-technical OGs came in from sort of an investment standpoint, not as sort of like changing the story of the store of value, or something like that. They instead came in thinking, Oh this is a good investment! I picked the winner! I’m going to be able to pick other winners. They get kind of an ego about it. And I think that’s where their downfall is, in thinking that they are bigger than Bitcoin itself. We’ve seen this happen over and over and over again with all of these would-be saviors that are creating their own coin and saying, This is the new thing. We’re going to be Facebook to Bitcoin’s Myspace. Bitcoin is the Model T and I’m a Lambroghini. These are all arguments by analogy and so on. Ultimately, they believe that they can do better than Satoshi did. And that’s the fatal flaw to a large degree. Because the biggest thing that Satoshi did was leave! And give up the throne, if you will. And that’s something these guys aren’t willing to do. In that sense it’s a sad commentary on their motivations. They end up there because — if you’re an investor and you make a lot of money, you’re going to have an ego. That’s just a fact. That’s how you keep score in that world. For a technical person it’s not quite like that. You keep score a different way so you’re not as susceptible to that particular thing, so I suspect that’s why programmers haven’t been as susceptible to that as non-technical OGs have.
Cedric Youngelman [45:50]: I like how you swept a lot of that argument away, or that civil war with, You know hard forks are great, it proves that Bitcoin’s a voluntary system. And you’re free to go! I think that summed that up for me very nicely. I like that a lot. I want to turn to, what do you think is going on in 2020?
Jimmy Song: Well 2020 has been a crazy year. I don’t need to tell any of your listeners that. From a Bitcoin standpoint, Bitcoin crashed with the market, and then it recovered way faster! And the market’s been recovering really fast, so it’s even faster than that. So it’s been kind of a crazy year. I would say the halving was the big event that happened in May, and that was something that everyone anticipated, but the supply shock that came as a result of that hasn’t really worked itself through the market, until about now. It’s starting to be felt. You can see the price rising and so on. That’s definitely something that’s happening. Will it continue down this road and will it end I’m not really sure. It does seem like there’s less of a supply of Bitcoin and a heck of a lot of demand. We know that once it gets to be a frenzy it can go up really fast. That’s what I’m anticipating is, from a store of value standpoint, a lot more people are going to be adopting it.
Cedric Youngelman [47:35]: You made some predictions on Twitter for 2020! You said Bitcoin dominance at 75% at the end of the year. We’re edging towards that. Taproot will be activated without much controversy — I think that sounds like a slam dunk. Bitcoin price will have a bottom to top difference of at least 100% where we got that in multiples, and halving will be the big narrative. Do you have any predictions for 2021?
Jimmy Song: Well I was wrong on the first two I think. It said 65% and I didn’t anticipate all of these DeFi coins coming in, and they diluted the dominance index significantly because there were just so many of them. And Taproot looks like it won’t be activated until next year so I was wrong about that. I expected it to be activated this year which it definitely won’t be. 2021 I’m expecting Taproot to get activated. I suspect that wallets will have a little bit of a hard time implementing all of the goodies that come out of Taproot: Schnorr signatures, aggregated multisig, MuSig and things like that. Those are not that simple, let’s just say that from a technical standpoint. And there’s lot of gotchas, a lot of wallet developers — they do put in a lot of time into their product, but they’re also putting a lot of time into altcoins and things like that. If you want to adopt Schnorr and things, you’re going to really need to focus on Schnorr and not be developing altcoin number 95 or whatever into your product. I see some tension around wallets and Schnorr and adoption and things like that. I think the industry will be adopting it, it’s just a matter of time. Other things: I see the uncertainty continuing from 2020. I know that’s probably not what a lot of people want to hear. That seems to be the case right now. There is a lot of uncertainty around elections and COVID and things like that. If anything, this seems to be — I hate this phrase — but the new normal. In a sense all of that is kind of good for Bitcoin, because it’s the one thing that looks much more stable than everything else, and in my opinion it is more stable than everything else, in a different kind of way.
Cedric Youngelman [50:40]: How do you think the new normal is affecting us? How is it affecting your kids?
Jimmy Song: Well thankfully they’re actually physically going to school, so they’re having a little bit more normal time than I think other kids are. But, oh man, I’m married so it’s not as bad. And I have kids so I get to hang out with them and whatever. But if I were a single person living in a major city I can’t imagine how different life would be for me right now. There’s just nowhere to go out. It’s hard to meet people, and people are all scared and everything else! And if you’re in college or something like that, the campus experience is just completely changed. If you’re in high school, your school experience is very different. Even the people come out of college, they’re coming into a work environment that’s just completely different than what anyone else has had in the past 30 years! The social impact of what’s happened is something that’s going to be felt for a pretty long time. And a lot of it’s going to be permanent, because Google, Twitter, Facebook, they’re all like letting their employees work remotely for at least a year and so on. That’s definitely going to become more normal. There’s probably a lot of other things happening, and who knows what other virus might spark the public imagination in the next 18 months. So all of that is to say, there’s a definite shift in mentality among the populous, so I expect that to have some downstream second order effects, at least.
Cedric Youngelman [52:38]: Sure. You have traveled and lived in a lot of places. You could live anywhere. Why Texas? Should I move to Texas? I’m visiting in a week and a half for Gery Leland’s Dallas BitBlockBoom Barbeque. I’m so excited. What’s with Texas?
Jimmy Song: Yeah! Texas is awesome! First thing, if you’re a US citizen is no state income tax! That’s a major one if you make any money at all, as opposed to like California which can be upwards of 10% just in terms of income taxes. That’s a big deal. It’s also a culture of more free and libertarian thinking, which I like. Which is very different than the coasts which tend to be a lot more nanny statish. I rather have my freedom. It’s a very good cost of living versus what you can make ratio, which is kind of what you want! In San Francisco, you can make a lot of money, but it also costs you an arm and a leg to live there. Kansas City is a very nice place to live but you don’t have that many jobs that pay that well. So you want some combination of both. At least for me, Texas fits the bill.
Cedric Youngelman: Where do you see yourself in 20–21 years. Are you 64–65, are you riding your bicycle in the south of France with your wife? What’s going on?
Jimmy Song: Hopefully I have lots and lots of grandkids. Helping my kids raise my grandkids a little bit. Probably taking vacations with my family to different parts of the world that we think are interesting. Hopefully doing something with Bitcoin that I can leave a legacy with, rather than just living for myself. Yeah something to that effect. Also still working out and power lifting, going climbing and things like that. So I can keep up with my grandkids.
Cedric Youngelman: Nice! This has been awesome Jimmy! I really appreciate it. I’ve enjoyed this chat tremendously. I’ll leave it to you. Any parting words?
Jimmy Song: Well first of all thanks for having me. I can be found on Twitter and Medium and GitHub. I’m also working on a book. It’s basically a Christian argument for Bitcoin which I hope to release in the next couple of months. I’ve been writing it with seven other people. I’m finalizing it now.
Cedric Youngelman: The books have been amazing. The Little Bitcoin Book and Programming Bitcoin. I give The Little Bitcoin Book to everybody. I buy them by the dozen. I love it! I really appreciate it man, this has been dope! I hope I can have you on sometime soon. Thank you so much Jimmy.
Jimmy Song: Peace!