Today we are talking to Jon Rice who is the co-founder and former Managing Editor at CryptoBriefing, and current Managing Editor at Cointelegraph Magazine.
- Cointelegraph Magazine is a new publication with a fresh approach to the news from the emerging world of blockchain, and is contributed to by prominent Cointelegraph authors as well as those you’ve yet to meet.
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 cars. I used to invent games with Matchbox cars, take them to school and build courses for them. My parents have insisted for years that my first word was ‘Lamborghini’, though I’m still not sure whether to believe them.
Later that became an obsession with motor sports, especially Formula One and rallying. The first famous person I ever met was Martin Brundle, who was underrated in F1 but went on to win Le Mans.
And I couldn’t wait to get my own car – it was an epically terrible thing, that car, a beat-to-shit Talbot Alpine that someone gave to a friend of mine in a pub because they were too drunk to drive home. I bought it from him the next day for £100, and painted a giant marijuana leaf on the hood. I’d never smoked but I was into reggae at the time, and the stereo system I installed cost twice as much as the car. Then I had to buy another equally terrible Alpine for parts, to try and keep one of the two running…
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
Robert Heinlein stood out among the Golden Age science fiction authors – his work was strongly libertarian-leaning, and though I didn’t completely understand the allegories at the time they resonated with me very strongly. He seemed to care about individual rights while celebrating the social contract, which many modern libertarians appear to have forgotten is still compatible with the philosophy of individual freedom.
He was a novelist who could write strong female leads (I discovered later that he styled many of them after his wife). Even his machines were real characters… and his cats! A bunch of my cats are named after characters from his books. I believe I rather liked the idea that sentience wasn’t restricted to humans (I was also a huge Asimov fan) and I have always loved speculative fiction as a genre because it allows the author to play with politics and social issues in a way that doesn’t have to be too preachy. One of my favorite books is still The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress which is a futuristic metaphor for the American Revolutionary war against the British.
And Douglas Adams – I must have read Hitchhiker’s a hundred times. I feel extremely grateful that he explained my utter Galactic meaningless when I was still open to such grand ideas. I realized I was an atheist when I was seven years old, and Adams gave me context for my realization as I was listening to the original radio series. Attending a Church of England school, where one teacher used to hit me across the knuckles every day for refusing to say the Lord’s Prayer, I found a lot of comfort in knowing that someone else saw the world the way I did. Mostly harmless.
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 a tiny kid. Quite literally the smallest kid in a large school – and I’m including the girls. I used to get the crap beaten out of me fairly regularly. Actually, extremely regularly. I had a smart mouth and my best defense against bullying was always being smarter and funnier than the assholes, which irritated them even more. But in reality I was very afraid of some of these people – they were a *lot* bigger, often older, usually in numbers.
But that’s also when I learned that you can take control, if you’re willing to lose control. You have to be willing to go further in your defense than they are willing to go with their spurious aggression. Think of it as going all-in on a bluff in poker – your opponent has to believe that the stakes aren’t worth it. I started fighting back, and 90% of the time I just got my ass kicked. The other 10% of the time, when I got the upper hand, I would just keep at it. Keep punching until someone dragged me off them.
It’s not a pretty lesson, or very sophisticated, but it’s true: if someone attacks you with superior force, you fight back knowing you will probably lose – but that if you win, they will always fear the extent of future reprisals. Maybe it’s the one thing I share with Donald Trump. In fact, with organized crime in general.
But like most kids who learn that lesson, I think I was able to move past it after High School. It wasn’t necessary once I wasn’t physically defending myself. Unfortunately, some people seem to go through their entire lives failing to appreciate that adults resolve their differences through meaningful discourse, not petty insults and retribution for past grievances. And somehow those people often end up in leadership positions.
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?
Your choices come with consequences. Good or bad. Don’t blame others for the bad ones, and do take credit for the good ones. Free will is too important to waste.
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)?
I really don’t have a great sense of my limitations until I try something. Which is fantastic, because it means I’m not afraid of trying. And then I often find I can do enough to get by, and sometimes enough to succeed. (But sometimes I find very, very significant limitations… which is why I will never sing Bohemian Rhapsody in public again.)
I got my first job as a copywriter because I had no idea that advertising was so competitive. I was happy to take on the role of Creative Director because I had no idea how hard it is to manage creative people. I learned basic web design because surely, it can’t be that tough? And went into publishing because I had no concept of the hours or cost involved in running a decentralized media outlet.
Basically, my ignorance has saved me on multiple occasions. If I’d had any clue in 2017 how hard it would be to launch Crypto Briefing, and how much it would take out of me, I wouldn’t have done it. I’d have been too scared. And I wouldn’t be writing this, now.
Fear is a powerful demotivator, and sometimes the more you know the more fearful you are.
Although I read and admire books like The New Business Road Test by John Mullins, or Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet, I feel pretty strongly that over-planning kills creativity. Process follows passion, not the other way around.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
Bitcoin is killing innovation. This is not an anti-Bitcoin sentiment, I love Bitcoin, it simply means that the institutional capital inflow to the sector is currently primarily focused on supporting the narrative of Bitcoin as digital gold and a store of value.
Comparing Bitcoin to many of the blockchain projects out there is ridiculous. They shouldn’t be correlated assets. The total value of the S&P 500 on Jan 31st 2020 was $26.72 trillion – and the largest company was Apple, at ~$1.3 trillion market cap. So Apple dominance was less than 5%. Bitcoin, on the other hand, maintains 60%+ dominance over its market.
There is obviously a huge difference in business models between Apple and, say, American Airlines. But I’d argue that there’s an equally strong diversity of projects in the digital asset sphere. How is Bitcoin like Decentraland? Or Basic Attention Token? You could argue that they all use virtual currencies… but the S&P 500 is denominated in dollars. The medium of exchange shouldn’t matter – the fundamental strengths should.
While a lot of people hated the ICO/IEO model, I really believe that founders who created projects in good faith have taken a lot of heat for the direct correlation in price between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
This market will probably only mature when Bitcoin and other crypto assets decorrelate – that’s when investors will truly be assessing them on their merits. It’s definitely one of the things that my co-founder at Crypto Briefing, Han Kao, recognized – I hope that one day people realize the value of the work he and his team have put into assessing the fundamental strengths of crypto projects, which they’ve done with a similar degree of rigor to that applied by analysts when assessing large public companies.
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?
Sauna training. I crank my sauna up to 165 degrees, throw one of my hard trance mixes on, and throw punches for 45 minutes. I’m too exhausted to feel stress after that.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
We have twelve cats, three dogs, and three miniature cows – so spending time with the critters is always on the agenda.
I’m not DJ’ing much anymore, because I haven’t had time to learn how to mix properly with my new equipment – I’m proper Old School, learned on Technics 1210s and found it really hard to give them up – but I still build an occasional studio mix.
Photography… I’m not very good, but I really enjoy it. And travel, though I’ve become less adventurous as I’ve gotten older. I seem to lie on the beach a lot more these days.
I do intend to keep running around Death Valley in a Darth Vader outfit next July – I’ve taken a couple of years off, but the desert is calling and I must go.
Crypto has been a bit of a hobby-killer. It’s 24/7 and 365, so you’re either immersed or you’re on the sidelines, at least in media. There isn’t as much room for other activities as I’d like.
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?
Crypto Twitter, I guess. Sometimes it doesn’t feel funny at all. Just a toxic spew of vitriol and shilling. Other times I see exceptional creativity and humor. Just depends on the account, and the day. Peter McCormack can be hilarious one day, and a vicious troll the next… actually, a lot of us can. Maybe it’s just a release valve.
I think crypto would be poorer without the wit of the crowd.
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.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
Crypto Policy: increase access to early-stage funding, but also dramatically increase the penalties and detection mechanisms for fraudulent actors.
Economic Policy: immediately begin the shift from a waste-based economy to a green economy. Review all federal spending through a ‘green lens’ and require all companies with a certain revenue, maybe $100M, to implement stringent green standards. We don’t have any leeway with this anymore. It’s an issue of survival. We love to cite economic competition as a reason to ignore the issue, but this isn’t about nations competing with each other; we’re a species competing against nature – and nature will win unless we get our shit together.
Social Good Policy: require all future Presidents to pass an IQ test. And to commit to a vow of Twitter silence. And to, you know, actually *do* the things that are in the U.S. Constitution already.
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) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I’m very interested in the way tokenized economies can run incentivization and participation experiments at scale. The two great economic constructs of the Twentieth Century, capitalism and communism, have failed us – but it took decades to figure out how, and why.
So I look at a community that’s self-governing in a positive way – let’s say Decred with its Politeia governance system, for example – and I admire that the experiment is proceeding rapidly and without the kind of harm to others that philosopher-economists have inadvertently caused in the past.
I think we’ll eventually find that like most things, the problem is excess. We took communism to a logical point of failure (governmental centralization resulting in nepotism and corruption) and we’ve done the same with capitalism (centralized corpocracies that stifle innovation and increase income inequality).
Maybe one of the communities building a decentralized protocol, possibly with a small degree of centralized structure, will find a better balance. Those are the communities I’m especially interested in examining.
Probably not BSV though.
13) 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?
I’m a somewhat reluctant convert to Twitter.
Maybe if the platform removed the ability to delete tweets, people would think twice about sending hateful messages out into the world. Perhaps Jack Dorsey could allow us three strikes per month, after that everything we publish is committed to a blockchain…
14) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
Yes, because I don’t expect one project to rule them all. As humans we are tribal, whether we like it or not – being part of a community is important to us. The community of ‘humans’ will probably continue to be too big to comprehend until we meet aliens. So we’ll keep sub-dividing ourselves into smaller tribes until then.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Cointelegraph Magazine.
15) What do you feel sets Cointelegraph Magazine apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
Free rein. Nothing is off-limits. We intend to present work that’s unafraid, unconstrained, and that provides genuine thought-leadership. We’re working to broaden the discourse around blockchain and to include participants from other industries and with diverse experiences of life.
I think Breaker paved the way for this, and I see that Ben Schiller (ex-Breaker) is now leading an op-ed column at CoinDesk – he’ll undoubtedly do a great job there.
Nakamoto.com seems to have withered, which is a shame, so I hope to give some of the people who may have written there an opportunity too. Sometimes founders tell their own stories best.
In general, I think that our focus on people and their stories will resonate beyond the crypto world. As I said in my introduction to Cointelegraph Magazine, “People make the products that shape our lives”. I hope that helping our readers get to know those people better will be good for the entire industry.
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?
Keep up to date with Jon and Cointelegraph Magazine on: