Today we are talking with Patrick McCorry who is the co-founder and CEO of PISA Research.
- PISA Research is contributing to the success of off-chain protocols by building an accountable third party watching service for both Ethereum and Bitcoin, whilst also advising other similar projects in terms of protocol design. Alongside this, PISA Research also spends time on building a global technical community, and frequently hosts large-scale developer workshops and events.
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 spent a significant portion of my teenage years skipping school to volunteer habbo hotel’s police department (‘HPD’) as a “security expert” with a habbo wife, playing runescape & svencoop, making awful adobe flash videos and working as a graphic designer for extrememobwars.com.
It was great. I explored my interests via several online communities, something I couldn’t find around me. It wasn’t until I went to university that I really found others who had similar interests to myself.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
Probably my mum.
For a long time I didn’t take school seriously and I frequently just skipped class in favour for doing something on the internet. This was reflected in my grades as I averaged 544 on Key Stage 3 exams which is pretty much a fail / below average.
But I remember one night, my wee mummy told me, in quite a miserable manner, that I should do everything I can to go to university. It was really my only option if I wanted to avoid the deprivation spiral that exists in west belfast.
This might sound strange to most middle-class readers, but IIRC at my college around 7 out of 120 students took up a university offer when we graduated. For the most part, students just attended college to receive a weekly £30 EMA payment.
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 grew up in west belfast, the second most deprived area in Northern Ireland with around 55% of kids living in relative poverty (and low-income families).
In fact, I grew up in the “lower falls road” that is a hot-spot for car jacking and burning (in the video, at 13:00, when the police car rams the stolen car, and then another stolen car rams the police car, that is very close to my old house). On top of that, my mother is an irish muslim working in social care. As a result, she frequently had glass bottles thrown at her and other severe incidents.
The only way to overcome that adversarial environment is simply to find an escape which I did with university, programming and Bitcoin.
There were other tough moments (e.g.Crohn’s disease), but my life isn’t a sad story and I don’t tend to talk about it. I’m blessed with a quirky & great family with a wonderful interwebs community around me. It has only ever been “life go up” for a long time.
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?
Like I told students, young aspiring individuals need to learn how to critically think and evaluate the world around them. They should not conform to expected social standards and instead break-free to pursue their interests. The only way to innovate is to challenge the status quo. On top of this for the system builders, design systems that align incentives and nudge participants into the direction they care about. For me, my personal (and later financial) interests were aligned to build tangible technical skills that let me escape. For others, it will comes down to their circumstances.
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)?
Determination via self-doubt & risk taking via ignorance.
I’m not the brightest, smartest or even most articulate in a room. But due to a lack of self-confidence when I was growing up, I pushed myself to over-excel in whatever undertaking I did with the mindset that I was “playing catch up” with colleagues.
A few examples include graduating 1st in my class at school (AAB) and university (something ridiculous like 90% overall whereas the 2nd highest grade was close to 80%). It is a very strange mentality to have, knowing that you have no other option to succeed and doubting your ability to achieve it due to an unfair playing field.
On the other hand, I was ignorant to believe I never really had anything to lose, so I have always pursued my self-interest over immediate gain. Thanks to that attitude in 2013, I decided to pursue a PhD in Bitcoin over a graduate software engineering job. When everyone else thought Bitcoin was a weird internet money that shouldn’t be taken seriously, I loved it. Of course, the rest is history now.
I guess in a way, with building up PISA Research and quitting a professorship, I’m just as ignorant (and risk-taking). Only history will tell me if it was a good bet.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
One opinion I hold is that decentralisation is a myth & overhyped.
What makes Bitcoin great is self-enforcing financial accountability (‘miners lose money if they produce invalid blocks’), its weak identity nature (‘anyone can mine via PoW or transact’) and self-custody (‘I can independently verify ownership of an asset and only I can spend it’).
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?
I dunno. I really need to find a good method.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
I’m pretty boring. I like to eat out or play openra/ages of empires with my girlfriend.
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?
Blockchains.com at devcon4. It was peak crypto-crazy for me. Girl hologram on stage of talking about a new blockchain city. lolwtf.
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 you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
Why did he not finish the casino game in bitcoin core?
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
- No more stupid tax laws around crypto-assets or stupid laws around open-source (FCA in the UK wants to force AML/KCL for open-source software, wtf).
- Legalise privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies for business use. i.e. just like communication privacy in the 90s, it is essential for global e-commerce use.
- United Ireland.
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) Project aside, what are some other crypto/blockchain communities that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I help out with workonblockchain.com with monthly developer training bootcamps. They are free and help onboard new developers to the space.
I also admire both the bitcoin and ethereum community. The former as I was lucky to learn how all of this works thanks to many great bitcoiners in #bitcoin-wizards back in 2013 and the latter for ambitiously (sometimes a bit too reckless) building a playground for a host of new ideas/innovations.
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?
Twitter. I never really liked reddit or bitcointalkforum. I’d like a method to mute words in pictures, so I can make sure IOTA or BSV never shows up in my newsfeed.
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?
I believe we are slowly, but surely, re-inventing a global permissionless open-source financial system.
A system that prioritises self-custody of assets and constraining the power of central authorities. At its center is the user, who has absolute and self-enforcing power to verify all actions performed by the central authority. If that authority cheats or violates the protocol, for whatever reason, then the user can swiftly hold them financially accountable for their actions.
The system is slowly evolving, empowerment of the individual, as we enter a new world of global uncertainties.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding PISA Research.
15) What do you feel makes PISA Research unique and valuable for the space?
We are spearheading the vision of financially accountable and cryptographically-constrained third party service providers.
If we deviate from the service level agreement (and more generally, the agreed protocol), then the user can hold us financially accountable to our actions. That is the very soul that makes cryptocurrencies great and we hope to empower the individual with the services offered by our startup.
To begin with, we are going to offer taking care of the entire transaction-stack (relaying transactions, bumping fees, handling re-orgs) for the dapp developer in a financially accountable manner (refund if quality of service fails).
But at the same time, we are world-leading experts in off-chain protocols. Some upcoming projects we would like to pursue involve building out the off-chain stack to make it as easy as installing a wordpress plugin to run a plasma-like instance.
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?
Number go up. lol sorry that is a joke.
Cryptocurrencies is re-inventing the financial system via a grassroots movement. Bitcoin has been around for 10 years and Ethereum for 5 years. It is still early days, but the fundamentals have been proven to work. With the raft of builders/developers/researchers/startups/etc pushing forward the field, it is just stupid to bet against it.
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