Today we are talking with the Executive Director of the ETC Cooperative, Bob Summerwill.
- The ETC Cooperative (ECC) is a 501(c)(3) non profit created to financially support the growth and development of the Ethereum Classic protocol. The ECC has established guidelines for the deployment of its capital across three core investment areas: (1) development; (2) marketing; and (3) community, and has also introduced accountability standards that will be used to monitor the progress of its investment program.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
I loved Lego. Absolutely loved it. First just the plain blocks and later Lego Technic, with gears and motors, and so on. I also started to program when I was 10 years old. My Dad taught himself and brought a computer home from work on evenings and weekends and I was hooked very early. BBC Micro, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and MS-DOS on early PC compatibles.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
In retrospect it was my parents, who were both religious but incredibly inclusive and aware of differences between people but respectful of those differences. They never forced that on me and I am not religious myself, but I was exposed to a lot of different people from an early age. They were engaged citizens. They really encouraged me academically and gave me numerous opportunities to learn and stretch myself. I was never spoilt. I had to earn my own pocket-money and worked after school from around 14 - first paper round, then helping at my Dad’s workplace with computer work - desktop publishing, cataloging.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
I was born in Leeds, in the North of England and lived there until I was 6 when we moved to Bangor in North Wales. Bangor was a very strongly Welsh-speaking area with no love of English people, so I always felt like an outsider. I was bullied a little at school for being “posh” and also because I was successful academically. I think I was likely 17-18 before I really fought back against that, and especially after leaving for University (back in Leeds) at 18. That was the opportunity for me to completely break with that world. Clean slate. I even changed my name. Bob was a bit of a joke nickname given to me at school - after “Bob” in Blackadder. It stuck. I got to leave “Robert” in the past. Not even my parents call me Robert anymore. Managing to overcome was really learning to ignore what other people think and to do what is right for you. You cannot win them all over. And often “it” really isn’t even about you at all. Everybody is playing their own single-player games in their heads, where they are the heroes. Don’t take things too personally. It often is not really about you.
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
Make conscious choices. Think deeply about what you value, what you enjoy. So many people in the world have no answer to “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?” They honestly don’t know, because they gave up on dreaming long ago and settled into something which seemed safe. That is not to say “You can do whatever you like!” - that is not a great strategy either. You will have bills to pay and everyone has to do some things they don’t enjoy, but if that extends to spending your whole working life doing something you don’t really care about, I can guarantee that no leisure time extras are going to fill the void in the middle of your soul which you have created with that bad choice.
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
Kindness and empathy.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
That decentralization is not magic, and is not needed in every situation. Throwing away thousands of years worth of learning about organization structures and the way which human brains work is unwise.That job families other than software engineering have value. That most people don’t care about decentralization or personal data or censorship resistance. They don’t even know how the Internet or mobile phones or any technology works and they don’t care.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
Thick skin. Not taking things personally. Remembering that none of this is really “load-bearing” yet. That the whole of blockchain could be swept from the face of the planet and nothing much would break. Remembering that the most important thing in my life is my family and my beautiful children (I have 3 boys - aged 7, 5 and 9 months).
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
Reading. Mainly non-fiction. History. Geo-political, etc.
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
Probably the time where Vitalik turned up for a Meme Driven Development panel discussion at ETHBerlin in a fox costume, did not speak for about ten minutes and then finally spoke in a very disguised voice, but one which was very obvious to people who knew him. And kept up the silly voice for 30 mins or so!
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind that you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
“Why did you create Bitcoin?”
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
Universal basic income.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) What do you feel makes the Ethereum Classic community unique compared to others?
ETC has been through the fire and is very aware of social threats. There is true decentralization, with no single entity in a privileged position and there is huge room for dissenting opinion and free thought. Sometimes outsiders will “look in” and see toxicity or ramble/disorder, but that is actually the strength of ETC. That is our defense against infiltration or “attacks”.
13) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I have been part of the Ethereum community for 5 years and remain active there, and within the Enterprise Ethereum “strand”. There is unique enthusiasm and optimism there. On the enterprise side, I really admire Corda too. ZCash and OAN are great on governance and transparency.
14) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
Twitter and Discord are my go-tos. Both are very gamable, with it being easy to create sockpuppets. Ultimately I think the solution to these problems will only come when we are able to build truly decentralized versions, leveraging blockchain and decentralized identity solutions, so that there is a non-zero cost for engagement. That you need to build up good reputation to really engage. Read-only is open to all, but accounts with bad reputations get progressively more muted.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Ethereum Classic.
15) What do you feel sets Ethereum Classic apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
Ethereum Classic is one of the very few truly decentralized L1 smart contract platforms, with a focus on security and sustainability, not on throughput. Platforms chasing L1 scalability are, IMHO, on completely the wrong path. It will inevitably lead to centralization in one form or another - undermining the whole value proposition - which is censorship resistance and immutability.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
16) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
For the first time in history we have a new tool which allows humans to coordinate outside of the bounds of all existing hierarchies - corporate or government. It is unstoppable. That has the potential to be a counter-balance to all forms of coercion, and I believe that altruistic humans will use that to build a better world. It is not a “silver bullet”, but it is unique and very powerful. The same tool is also useful within consortia and within legal entities. Public permissionless is only part of the story. The goal is the same at ever micro and macro level - trust minimization - and it allows us to transform zero sum games into positive sum games. That is a truly revolutionary ability.
Don’t ever let people make you feel that you are a powerless pawn in somebody else’s game. We are all super-heroes on the inside. We just need to find the confidence to act.
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