Preview: BTCTKVR Podcast Season 10

The Bitcoin Takeover Podcast keeps on keeping it real with season 10. This time around, we have 16 guests whose topics of expertise push the boundaries of Bitcoin maximalism by presenting what everyone’s favorite internet currency can do outside of the narrow “digital gold” framework. It’s so blasphemous that Saifedean would choke on his steak if he listened to it!

Each one of the 12 episodes is an exploration of lesser known rabbit holes that teach us about what Bitcoin can become in the future thanks to momentarily-unpopular but seemingly-emerging use cases: from privacy-friendly DeFi on top of the Lightning Network and NFTs on the Counterparty layer to improving CoinJoins to make bitcoin transactions truly fungible, it’s all there for your enjoyment.

The structure is seemingly-chaotic, but oddly symmetrical and characteristically rich in critical thinking: the first four episodes are about Bitcoin’s more mature approach to DeFi and NFTs, the next four are about Bitcoin privacy, the upcoming one bridges the two realms with a little bit of rational analysis of what scams are, and the grand finale consists of a hard-hitting succession of interviews with Rare Pepe scientists.

Yes, there is a lot of Counterparty shilling – because the protocol hosts the most valuable and historically-relevant NFTs, which were born back in the bear market of 2014. You know, long before ETH even existed and back in the day when NFTs were only known as “tokens”. Even if you didn’t pay much attention to it, 2021 has been the year when Counterparty came back from the dead to start producing the dankest tokenized memes while bringing transaction fees to Bitcoin miners and making digital artists rich enough to buy fast cars and lavish mansions.

If the first meme that comes to your mind after reading the above is Carlos Matos’ prophetic “that’s a scam!” moment, then rest assured: season 10 also offers you a debate on the nature of scamminess and what happens when the scams get built on Bitcoin. The special guest of this one is none other than Toximus Decimus Meridius himself, Giacomo Zucco: the man whose 2018 speech from the Baltic Honeybadger conference did to Bitcoin maximalism what Elvis Presley has done to rock n roll.

It’s important to ask ourselves to which extent we’re achieving progress or if we inevitably end up scamming ourselves, as many use cases are making their way back on the most secure network which uses the hardest money. Some of the same people who call out ICOs and NFTs for being fraudulent (and even sell “toxic maximalist” hats) will launch similar products and services on Bitcoin layers and sidechains. This begs the relevant question: is the scam in the practice itself, or in the network which propagates it?

If you’re a fan of sarcastic internet frogs that depict all sorts of phenomena from popular culture, then you’ll most likely feel delighted by the selection of guests and topics. Furthermore, if you’re concerned about Bitcoin’s limited privacy and ever-extending KYC/AML policies, then you’ll also find at least four episodes that will make you feel better about the progress that’s being made. And if you long for the good old days when Bitcoin Uncensored was the biggest podcast around and a $100 price swing was a big deal, you’ll also find a recording with a certain fake Socrates who uses MS Paint and refers to his listeners as “party people”.

In a realm that’s filled with smugness and like-mindedness, the Bitcoin Takeover podcast builds bridges between various subcultures of bitcoiners in order to paint a panoramic picture of where this magic internet money project is at and where it might be heading. So don’t expect to find too much LARPing and regurgitation of popular talking points, prepare yourself to disagree, and always be ready to learn something new to expand your horizons.

The maximalist thesis to which Bitcoin Takeover adheres isn’t that the project is already perfect and everything else is a scam. On the contrary, it’s about maximizing Bitcoin’s potential by bringing all interesting use cases to the network that’s most secure and issues/transacts the world’s hardest form of money.

So we should always be on the look-out for new and exciting technologies, as their more mature and refined embodiment will easily get included on top of the Lightning network or on some sidechain, statechain, or even drivechain. When we say that Bitcoin will eat up all alts, the statement shouldn’t only refer to their investors and market caps – but also to their interesting technologies and use cases.

As always, the episodes are available across all streaming platforms: Spotify, Apple, Google, Breaker, PodcastIndex, Sphinx, and pretty much every service which grabs the RSS feed. However, my recommendation is that you open in Tor browser: this way, you’ll listen for free without requiring any kind of registration and you benefit from the greatest amount of privacy. The show’s sponsors are fine with not knowing who listens to the podcast, so I’m not interested in collecting any data about who you might be.

Speaking of sponsors, thanks to the appreciation that Joshua Scigala and Adam Ficsor (Nopara73) have expressed for the project, both Vaultoro and Wasabi wallet are back for another round. Nik Oraevskiy also seems to like Bitcoin Takeover’s grand master plan, so Bitcoin Reserve has also joined the party. Now you have the complete picture: a place from where you can buy bitcoin for fiat, a wallet which helps you mix those coins to get better transaction privacy, and an exchange that lets you trade with hard money (bitcoin, gold, and silver) to maximize your purchasing power during all market cycles. Hope you’ll like their musical presentation during the episodes, as I wrote and recorded an original song for each one of the companies.

Last but not least, we need to address this season’s graphics: for the second time in a row, I’m vandalizing a Renaissance painting by Rafael. This time around, it’s The Parnassus: a fresco from the Palace of Vatican, which represents poetry. Because, you know, Rare Pepes and Spells of Genesis are also poetic to some extent.

The early 16th century fresco depicts Apollo playing the lira next to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. But in the BTCTKVR version, it’s me entertaining the crowd while being inspired by a Bitcoin-headed lady.

In Rafael’s painting, you can also see 9 muses, 9 ancient poets, and 9 contemporary poets. In the BTCTKVR version, you can see (clockwise, from the bottom to the top): Karo Zagorus (@btcdragonlord), Alex Nita (@BitcoinTom21), 8-bit Britney Spears (aka “Bitney”), Ben (@coinspawner), Joshua Scigala (JScigala), Duck Avenger (@griptoshi), Vic (@vicariousdrama), Decentralized Dad (@DecentralizedD1), Lex, Pob (@kryptokatt), Lady Picasso (@art_and_nfts), Lily (@lilyxbtc), Mir (@mir_btc), Eugenia (@BitcoinLady99), Bekka (@BitcoinBekka_), Track Bender (@trackbender), Beggi Jonsson (@BeggiJonsson), Cipherhoodlum (@Cipherhoodlum), David St-Onge (@DavidStOnge), Skateboarder Pleb (@Janitols), Volodya (@Voodolodya), Nik Oraevskiy (@BTCReserveHQ), and Adam Ficsor (@Nopara73).

Though I’m the one who added the heads to the painting, I must thank Mihnea Niță and Golshid from Vaultoro for providing me early assistance with the graphics. Also, thanks to everyone who contributed with suggestions and feedback.

Without further ado, here’s a presentation of each episode:

S10 E1: In this season premiere, Eric Martindale and George Burke talk about their Portal DeFi project and why they’re building it as a layer 3 on top of the Lightning network. It’s a really interesting conversation about how Bitcoin’s second layer is capable of making Ethereum obsolete. Oh, and did I mention that George runs the world’s oldest Bitcoin meetup and Eric has made significant contributions to Blockstream’s Elements project?

S10 E2: If you’re a fan of Rare Pepes, then you’re going to love this episode. Theo Goodman is an OG frog meme “scientist” who is responsible for some of the most memorable art pieces in the entire NFT world. He created his iconic works on Bitcoin’s Counterparty protocol and feels only slightly amused about the fact that these digital collectibles may just end up paying for a significant chunk of Bitcoin’s security budget via on-chain transaction fees.

S10 E3: Speaking of Counterparty NFTs secured by the Bitcoin blockchain, this episode features three of the biggest names in the field: SaruTobi creator and ZEBEDEE co-founder Christian Moss (aka MandelDuck), Spells of Genesis mastermind Shaban Shaame, and Bitcoin Dungeon master Koji Higashi. It’s the first four-way discussion in the history of the podcast, which highlights the origins of Bitcoin NFTs. Halfway into the episode, Christian also presents Pieter Wuille’s take on how Counterparty NFTs can potentially impact Bitcoin’s security.

S10 E4: When we recorded this interview, Juan Galt told me that he had put his Bitcoin consultancy gig on pause to go full-time Rare Pepe card collector and trader. This episode reflects a little bit of the euphoria that we had at the peak of 2021’s bull cycle, but also provides useful information on why some NFTs have historical significance and will most likely never go out of style.

S10 E5: Lucas Ontivero is Nopara73’s first employee at Wasabi wallet. He’s so OG that when he initially joined the project, it was still called Hidden wallet. In this episode, he tells the story about why privacy matters to Bitcoin and how we’re going to see significant advancements thanks to the development of WabiSabi. Our conversation starts out slowly, but gets more intense as it progresses. We even discuss controversial views about potentially hard forking privacy into Bitcoin.

S10 E6: My initial plan for this season was to interview only lesser known European Bitcoin-only services that do an excellent job but usually end up flying under the radar due to the American-centric media bias. So when I reached out to Nik Oraevskiy, he was keen on joining the show to talk about what it’s like to lead a principled Bitcoin-only exchange in Europe. For roughly 78 minutes, we spoke about some of the most pressing issues in the Bitcoin space (including El Salvador’s custody situation). After we stopped recording, Bitcoin Reserve expressed interest in sponsoring Bitcoin Takeover. Hunky dory!

S10 E7: Yuval Kogman (also known as nothingmuch) is a coder and privacy professional whom I first met in November 2021, during my visit at Wasabi wallet HQ. I quickly became intrigued by his role in optimizing the WabiSabi CoinJoin protocol and I knew I wanted to have him on the Bitcoin Takeover podcast. Yuval is so committed to making Bitcoin private that he’s working on a separate experimental WabiSabi implementation which brings some extra features that he finds essential. He also gives an interesting answer to the question: “If Bitcoin was to undergo an emergency hard fork to fix a critical bug, would you support also adding Confidential Transactions?”.

S10 E8: Ever used Tor? It’s pretty good for online privacy, but it has some known issues and limitations. Thankfully, there’s a lot of ongoing research which concerns IP address and data transmission obfuscation, and Harry Halpin finds himself at the avant-garde of the cypherpunk mission with Nym: a decentralized project which uses mixnets. Harry has been so good at pitching Nym, that he was even able to leverage geopolitics in order to convince the European Commission to finance Nym – they wouldn’t want to let the USA control the internet and surveillance, right? This episode will serve as a pretty good crash course on cypherpunk privacy projects and how you can hide your identity on the internet.

S10 E9: After talking about DeFi and tokens on a Bitcoin podcast, it seemed about right to make a confession to Giacomo Zucco, the maximalist priest himself. But as a proponent of RGB Spectrum (a layer 3 project which does all the tokenization stuff from Counterparty), he was extra forgiving and provided some nuance to the debate. Giacomo even went as far as ranking token-issuing platforms according to their degree of scamminess. If you listen carefully, you can even hear about the shitcoin that first attracted Giacomo Zucco in 2013.

S10 E10: Joe Looney and Shawn Leary are the kind of people who literally memed their wealth into existence. As Rare Pepe scientists, they created one of the world’s most impressive networks of green frog drawers. They were there when the project started, and in the process they created the proper infrastructure to take Pepe to the Moon: the Rare Pepe Directory, Rare Pepe Wallet, and even Free Port (the easiest way to mint Bitcoin NFTs). If you want to learn more about the significance and history of Rare Pepes, you gotta listen to Joe and Shawn.

S10 E11: When I first interviewed JScrilla in S3 E11 of the Bitcoin Takeover podcast, he was best known in the community for his “Sound Money” album. He did say something about selling the music on Counterparty, but few people listened. Two years later, his DJ Pepe cards are evaluated at $10.000 a piece and people mostly know him for the frog memes he draws – even though he is just as active with his music. In this episode, we talk about how and why he created the Fake Rare movement.

S10 Special: The plan for Chris DeRose’s third appearance on the Bitcoin Takeover podcast was to allow him to host the episode. But when the moment to record finally came, he hadn’t prepared any topics. So we backtracked from his early involvement in Counterparty (which precedes the Bitcoin Uncensored podcast), joked about how he once again was ahead of his time, and then ended up debating to which extent the NFT mania is a case of elite behavior being adopted by the lower classes to irreversibly destroy the meaning of value. As always, it’s a fun but very intellectually-stimulating conversation.

Vlad Costea

I'm here for the freedom, censorship-resistance, and unconfiscatability. What about you?

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