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Jim-Ballingall

Nooor Talks with Jim Ballingall

We know you’ve missed our Nooor talks! So here we are with another interview with one of the most remarkable members of the blockchain industry – Jim Ballingall. Jim is a good friend of Nooor and was one of our speakers during ChainPoint 19. No more details here; continue reading to know who Jim is, what his background is, about his projects, and more!

1. Tell our community about yourself, your professional experience, and how you have entered the blockchain space? 

I am the Executive Director for The Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3). IC3 is by far the world’s leading academic initiative devoted to blockchain research – with seventeen faculty spanning nine campuses at top universities in four countries (UC Berkeley, CMU, Cornell, Cornell Tech, EPFL, ETH-Zurich, the Technion, University College London, and Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). In addition to computer science, its expertise includes finance and technology law. 

I earned a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell and a BS in Engineering Physics from U.C. Berkeley. I also direct the Industry-Academia Partnership, a consortium founded by Cornell with other top universities and leading companies pursuing next-generation computer, networking, and storage solutions, as well as new implementations and applications of AI. 

I began my career as a microelectronics scientist in the aerospace industry focused on compound semiconductors for infrared sensing and RF communications. Our team at GE developed and deployed the PHEMT, a GaAs-based quantum well transistor for 60 GHz ultra-secure inter-satellite communications. The PHEMT is now used widely in the RF front end of smartphones. I held senior executive roles in the silicon CMOS industry for 15 years and then transitioned into cloud computing. Moreover, I was CEO of a Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) provider of supply chain solutions that merged with E2open.

I always worked with universities throughout my career, in fact, the PHEMT cited above came out of work GE did with the University of Illinois and Cornell. My work in blockchain grew out of collaborations with the IAP and the faculty at Cornell.

2. What is your key to success in the IT industry? And what are the most interesting projects you have worked/ are working on? 

I am fortunate to work with many exceptionally talented people. It’s like the old Chinese fortune cookie proverb, and in fact, my Ph.D. thesis advisor at Cornell told me this too (he was not Chinese, nor a maker of fortune cookies – Prof. Lester F. Eastman, another extremely talented person, born in upstate NY) – “Jim, find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life!” Les had found that job as a prof at Cornell.

3. Which blockchain, crypto project you can consider the most promising today? 

There are so many! The Ava project (Ava Labs) came out of IC3, so I am naturally biased towards it. It offers an asset trading platform with a unique consensus protocol called Avalanche (super-fast, scalable, and reliable) that was first presented at the IC3 Spring Retreat in 2018. The company has an amazing team led by Prof. Emin Gün Sirer, who is indisputably one of the top blockchain experts in the world.

4. The buzz around the CBDCs is growing rapidly. What is your idea about this concept? What is the vision for the upcoming 3-5 years? 

CBDC is really a very exciting concept. I believe it will add value to national economies and benefit individual citizens, but I doubt CBDC’s will be deployed in the next 3 years, and I doubt the initial implementations will be based on a blockchain. There are certainly advantages, but really no absolute need for a truly distributed CBDC application on a blockchain; it simply presents too many security vulnerabilities in the near term due to the enormous number of accounts and users – each presenting a possible attack vector. A centralized DB can meet the minimal requirements and more. Our IC3 faculty is working on a white paper to elucidate the options.

5. We are all facing the challenges that the pandemic has exposed. What kind of strategies should companies apply in terms of digital transformation in the post-COVID19 world?

Some of our IC3 researchers are working on options for maintaining privacy for contact tracing. The SwissCovid App is available for download. It uses Bluetooth to share temporary identifiers, which assist in privacy-preserving contact tracing once an individual is diagnosed with COVID-19. It is the result of joint work by the Federal Office for Information Technology and Telecommunications (FOITT), the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich (ETH) including IC3 faculty member Srdjan Čapkun, Lausanne (EPFL), and the Swiss company Ubique.

6. It’s interesting to know your thoughts about how tomorrow’s new technologies will drive change and spur innovation in our world. 

In so many ways! A few years ago, I stood on the US Civil War battlefield of Bull Run in northern Virginia with my family. There were two opposing lines of 4-inch cannons spaced about 200 meters apart – North vs. South. It struck me how primitive the technology of 1865 was when I realized that only 100 years later, we had landed a man on the moon.

7. As a 30-year IT veteran, what will be your advice to new generations? 

In terms of interactions with your fellow humans, please be kind, be gracious, be generous, love others as yourself – even if you disagree strongly with their political views. In your studies, work hard but be well rounded – study physics, math, music, literature, history, religion, not just CS or ECE. Get less involved in social media and more involved in actual social activity – such as extracurricular and volunteer work in the campus community. There is so much more to the world than coding and making money, or winning prestigious awards and titles, or otherwise becoming famous. I know billionaires and eminent scientists – many are quite miserable. Be intellectually curious about technology and the world around you. Be involved in your family, your circle of friends, your community. Make it a better place.

8. What has been a source of inspiration for you to fulfill your initiatives? 

Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ is my inspiration and salvation. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

About IC3

The Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3) is an unrivaled center for interdisciplinary talent that uniquely meets the blockchain community’s urgent need for world-class expertise spanning cryptography, distributed systems, programming languages, game theory, and system security techniques.

IC3’s mission is to bridge the gap between academic research and industry need to distill out the technical challenges of key importance to its sponsors and the community at large and devise performant solutions grounded in science and built to last.

IC3 contributes to three pillars – scholarship, public policy, and code and leadership to the blockchain community.

Nooor talks with David Stancel

Nooor talks with David Stancel

We continue the series of our special Nooor talks with the most outstanding players in the industry. Today our guest is David Stancel, who is the co-founder of Blockchain Slovakia – an NGO focused on education, research, and policy advocacy in the area of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. David also lectures courses on cryptocurrencies at the Slovak University of Technology and the University of Economics in Bratislava. More about himself, his very promising initiatives in crypto and blockchain can be found in our interview. 

1. Tell us about David Stancel before crypto. What was the trigger to enter the blockchain space? 

Well, before crypto I was a student of Economics & International Affairs at Masaryk University. I heard of Bitcoin in 2012 and even though I liked the idea of free, decentralized, and independent money I did not pay that much attention to it at the time. In 2013 I got really excited about Bitcoin and the possibilities it brought so I started to organize first Bitcoin events at my university, and eventually decided to choose it as a topic for my thesis. In my thesis, I wrote about Bitcoin protocol extensions such as Colored Coins and Mastercoin, and even Ethereum which was getting ready for the launch of the mainnet. It was an exciting time and from that point onwards I have been falling into the rabbit hole and exploring the world of cryptocurrencies at full blast!

2. The blockchain space is growing, we see the rise of new use cases every day. What is the most exciting thing about the technology you can consider and what are the biggest challenges we still face today? 

I think that definitely one of the most exciting things, often underrated, is Bitcoin alone. Whether it’s from the technological, economical or even social view — its impact on our society is tremendous and will increase even more in the future. 

Other use cases are definitely within the so-called DeFi space. New cryptographic primitives coupled with open blockchains allow us to create a new financial system that is not based on trust, but on math and open source movement. 

While I  believe there are some other use cases on the blockchain that might increase transparency and efficiency of certain processes, I think that open finance is definitely something that may transform our society the most. 

As for the challenges, we have been facing similar obstacles for the past years — mainly scalability, UX/UI, and lack of awareness and technical understanding on the government level as well as on the user level. Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go. 

3. What is your key to success in the crypto industry and what are the most interesting projects you have worked on? 

I have been mainly just trying to dig deep into the cryptocurrency world, decompose it and connect the dots. It has been my greatest passion and it’s definitely helpful when I can use it to help other people and companies understand how they can utilize these technologies for their benefit.

I have worked on many different projects from the tokenization platform, through blockchain-based app fighting counterfeiting to DeFi apps, and they all were interesting in one way or another. But for me personally, the most interesting part is to educate people because I learn from it a lot. For instance, every single time I give lectures on cryptocurrencies at university, it amazes me that through interaction with students I always find new perspectives and angles to look at crypto and blockchain. In the book I am working on, I have been interviewing some of the smartest minds in the space and that’s been incredibly enriching for me, and I hope the readers will feel that way after reading it too. 

4. Which blockchain, crypto project you can consider the most promising today? 

 For me, it’s definitely Bitcoin and Etheruem. Bitcoin and Lightning Network are getting lots of useful protocol updates that will make it much more useful in the upcoming months. Of course, as Etherreum is going to transition to PoS it is going to face great challenges, yet it looks very promising. 

I really like also some corporate efforts in this area, more precisely the Nightfall protocol by EY that aims to make Ethereum useful for deployments in the public sector, and uses some great cryptographic techniques. 

I also curiously follow the so-called Ethereum Killers many of which launch this year. A number of them look promising f.e. Ava, Near, Solana, etc. but that may not be enough. 

5. We are all facing the challenges that the pandemic has exposed. How is the crypto market affected by the virus in general? What are the specifics in the Slovakian market? 

Covid-19 caused lots of volatility not only on the stock markets but in crypto as well. This was a great opportunity for battle-test antifragility of the infrastructure especially when it comes to the DeFi space. We saw that while the price volatility in crypto is not a big deal and users are already accustomed to that, in DeFi it can cause a chain of events that have tremendous impacts. We saw people losing millions of dollars in MakerDAO collaterals because of the combination of price volatility, congested Ethereum network, and lagging oracles that fed the smart contracts. It will be curious to watch the aftermath of this event playing out on the court in a class action against MakerDAO. 

At the same time, many investors found that their belief that Bitcoin may be a hedge against any kind of economic crisis was flawed, and Bitcoin is too vulnerable mainly because there is a lot of speculative capital in the space. Yet, it is likely that in the aftermath of all the monetary and fiscal stimuli that have been ongoing in many countries, Bitcoin may prove to be a rather safer option for storing capital.

6. How do you think Bitcoin Halving is affecting the crypto market? Do you have any predictions about the price changes for the upcoming months? 

We have been witnessing an interesting trend since halving as institutional investors have been buying up heavily all the “new” bitcoins since halving. This is a positive trend for the Bitcoin price predictions. I believe we will see some serious upward movements in the upcoming months, but I don’t dare to predict the price levels. 

7. As we know now you are working on your book (Coinstory: The Evolution of Bitcoin & Cryptocurrencies), we would like to have some more insights before it becomes a bestseller. 

That’s right, I have been working on it for the past years. My goal with the book is to map all the ideological and technological concepts that preceded the inception of Bitcoin, and that have followed after its creation. So the book will serve as a timeline of all the important things that so far happened and shaped the cryptocurrency world until today (June 2020).

Along the way, I have attended lots of conferences in the past years where I collected data, inspiration, and materials. I have been talking to many of the brightest minds in the space such as Andreas Antonopoulos, Scott Stornetta, Peter Todd, Sergio Lerner, etc. to understand different perspectives that have shaped the crypto world. 

I have been releasing interviews with them continuously in the past months as a sort of complementary material for the book at coinstory.tech. Apart from that, some other complementary materials will include an extensive list of resources on cryptocurrencies that I maintain on Github as well as my course on cryptocurrencies I teach for computer science students at Slovak University of Technology.

I hope that these sources as well the book itself will in the future become more of a collaborative joint effort from the community.

So overall, I believe people interested in the cryptocurrencies will find there a lot of useful data and information that will help them understand the whole space.

8. What has been a source of inspiration for you to fulfill your initiatives? 

I love cryptocurrencies because they are a blend of different fields such as economics, distributed systems, cryptography, and social sciences in the form of open-source code. The whole space is fascinating on so many levels, and it will have a tremendous impact on the way our world works. So it is very easy to keep falling down the rabbit hole and get constantly inspired. Also, it naturally attracts lots of really smart and interesting people, many of which have been really inspiring to me. 

9. What will be the main message you would like to share with the blockchain and crypto community. 

I wish there would be fewer clashes and less in-fighting within the crypto community. The omnipresent conflicts and divisions over minor details, in the community that is connected with the common overarching cause, have been one of the reasons why I started to write my book. I have hoped that it can help understand not only many of the cryptocurrency innovations but also the people and ideas behind them. 

So my message would be to try to strive for more tolerance, heartfulness, and understanding. 

Stay tuned for our next interview

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Artur Kuczmowski answering questions for Nooor Talks

Nooor Talks with Artur Kuczmowski

As we continue our Nooor Talks series, we are excited to talk to Artur Kuczmowski, the Senior Partner at Thompson&Stein, regarding how Poland is getting over the issues resulting from the pandemic, his thoughts on stablecoins, and the biggest challenge of blockchain technology.

Nooor Talks, Artur Kuczmowski, five questions, five answers. Here we go!

1. We are all facing the challenges that the pandemic has exposed. How is the economy of Poland tackling the situation, what actions can be helpful to keep the economy on track? 

Well… Polish government has allocated 1.5 billion zlotys to help entrepreneurs during the current economic slowdown. That’s a great assistance to entrepreneurs. The government focused primarily on protecting job and maintaining liquidity. Entrepreneurs have been exempted from social security tax and can receive a subsidy (of 5 thousand zloty), fully redeemable. What’s more, Polish Development Fund in cooperation with banks created a revolutionary program. Its aim is to help companies maintain liquidity during the coronavirus pandemic. By using data from tax authorities, all data processing has been automated and the application process takes only 48 hours.

2. As you are working with blockchain related projects, please share some insights on the state of the industry in Poland and perhaps Estonia: focus, growth trends, risks. 

Many cryptocurrency exchanges and blockchain companies originate from Poland, which may give the illusion that we are leading in this industry. Well… we are not. However, Polish government is working to introduce a simple joint stock company, which will definitely facilitate the tokenization of companies. The law in Estonia, which I also specialize in, is changing as well. The policy of granting the license to trade cryptocurrency has been tightened. In the future, they want to make sure that companies, which operate in virtual space, are more involved in the Estonian society. This will lead to the disappearance of many blockchain companies from Estonia, but the ones which are the most credible will stay.

3. What can be your personal feedback regarding stablecoins? Can they possibly fix the broken economy of today? 

Personally, I’m a big fan of stablecoins. Last year, we even participated in its emission. But there is always the question of its reliability. We, as a law firm, offer stablecoin audit services to make sure that the number of tokens in circulation actually correspond to their amount expressed in fiat currencies. 

4. The blockchain space is growing, we see the rise of new use cases every day. What is the most exciting thing about the technology you can consider and what are the biggest challenges we still face today? 

From my perspective, the biggest challenge is still the turbulent relationship between traditional banking and entrepreneurs operating in the cryptocurrency industry. Rearrangement of these relations would lead to ensuring credibility of blockchain enterprises by providing them an access to reliable bank accounts. 

From my point of view, credibility is the most exciting thing about the technology. The impossibility of falsifying the information opens up the certainty of economic turnover. 

5. We are happy to see you as a part of our ChainPoint family, thank you very much for sharing your expertise last year at ChainPoint 19 in Armenia. As we are planning for the next conference, it will be great to get feedback on what you liked most about ChainPoint and where it can be improved. Also what are your expectations for the next event?  

I primarily hope that ChainPoint 2020 will take place and we have a chance to meet again. It is a great project which hosts many specialists from all over the world. It is an honor for me to be part of it. In fact, what makes your conference stand out is the participation of government representatives. I have a fondness for the ChainPoint 19, because our cooperation began there. I hope that our law firm Thompson&Stein and Nooor will undertake many new projects together.

Hope you found interesting insights from the interview with Artur Kuczmowski! In addition, stay tuned for the next interviews with the industry leaders, that will raise your awareness on the state of the blockchain and crypto space.

Anton Mozgovoy at ChainPoint

Nooor talks with Anton Mozgovoy

ChainPoint 19 Conference — an international blockchain conference that we at Nooor hosted earlier in October become a platform for people involved in the industry to get acquainted with the ones who strive to make a change and share the ideas of the disruptive nature of the distributed ledger technology as much in masses as possible.

Anton Mozgovoy was one of our speakers during the ChainPoint 19 Conference. Being a really promising young man, an interesting individual, public speaker — he has the exact mindset to become the one that will catch your eye and make you wonder of how you wouldn’t think of the possibilities that the blockchain technology can serve in a synergy with other technologies and the way it possibly can change our world for the better.

Not forget to mention, Anton is currently a Head of a product called Jthereum — software that gives you an opportunity to write and deploy Ethereum smart contracts in Java (kudos to the developers here!), and is one of our lecturers during our educational course — The Blockchain Challenger vol.3!

Nooor talks, 5 Questions, and Anton Mozgovoy. Here we go!

1. How important is education in the blockchain, and what will it take to undergo a complete adoption?

That is a very contradicting question. On one hand, education is a vital part of any emerging technology adoption. On the other hand, mass adoption does not depend on people’s understanding of how blockchain works. After all, most people will resist change or the need to learn new ideas. Therefore, the more subtle the changes they have to make the more likely they will adopt new technology.

That leads us to the point that Blockchain as a consumer-oriented technology still needs to pass through numerous iterations in order to become user friendly.

2. What fascinates you personally about Distributed Ledger Technology in the context of technology, economy and society?

Unfortunately, today the majority of blockchain projects are aimed at raising funds and generating profits with meaningless products. Yet, two main areas of DLT development excites me the most are stable coins and social impact. I wrote articles on both, and you can read more about stable coins and social impact.

To me, the biggest hidden gem about Blockchain is the ability to design technology to help those in need, through joint efforts of the community, solve acute social problems and conduct non-commercial activities in the fields of ecology, health, and education.

3. If I am a 6 y/o how would you explain to me what blockchain is?

To be honest, today’s 6-year olds are so tech-savvy, that probably as they grow up DeFi will feel so natural to them, they won’t even bother. But let me try to explain what is blockchain. Remember the game when each kid writes a word on a paper, and then scrolls it and passes to the next kid so on and so on? So, in the end, we roll up the paper and read those funny gibberish sentences? Well, blockchain is a tool that will allow us to see if anyone changed their word after they already wrote it. If they did — we’ll know who exactly was that and what was the initial word. That is blockchain.

4. In which areas do developers in the community and IT industry still have to accelerate their efforts?

Regulation. The first thing that comes to my mind is regulation. To drive Blockchain adoption, the industry needs to mature. One of the ways to do that is to create a clear and precise regulatory framework. It is a joint effort from both regulators, and industry players.

5. As you were a part of ChainPoint 19 Conference, what can be the feedback about Armenia and its potential to become a leader in the blockchain space?

Blockchain is still an emerging global market. Just recently China has announced a nation-wide Blockchain development program. This move alone will create a massive race between countries. Armenia has a very strong position and an opportunity to be among the Blockchain leading countries. ChainPoint 19 Conference is exactly what Armenia needs to attract not only international leaders but also local great minds.

Many thanks to Anton Mozgovoy for this engaging interview. If you want to read our Nooor talks with other leading representatives of the blockchain industry go here.