JUST IN: Pi Network’s Founders interviewed by Tyler Gallagher; featured in the Authority Magazine

The Authority Magazine, a Medium publication, is committed to partaking or sharing of in-depth stories, and fascinating interviews, featuring individuals who are experts in Business, Mainstream society, Health, Social Effect, and Tech.

The magazine’s publication of September 20th has featured the Pi Network’s Founders Dr Nicolas Kokkalis and Dr Chengdiao Fan who were jointly interviewed by Tyler Gallagher on the topic “5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry.” 

You can read from the original HERE .

Dr Chengdiao Fan & Dr Nicolas Kokkalis of Pi Network On The 5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry

An Interview With Tyler Gallagher

Many early cryptocurrencies have seen a consolidation of power and value into the hands of very few, and early adopters are greatly advantaged. In order to fulfill the promise of a fair and open peer-to-peer decentralized financial system, the cryptocurrency industry needs to see widely distributed tokens across broad networks. The extreme concentration of wealth and power goes directly against the concept of decentralization.

Aspart of my series about the “5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Chengdiao Fan and Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis.

Dr. Chengdiao Fan brings her expertise in human behavior, social computing and human computer interaction to her role as a Founder and Head of Product of Pi Network. With a Ph.D. in Anthropological Sciences from Stanford University, Dr. Fan’s previous work includes designing software systems to improve productivity, scaling social communications, and surfacing untapped social capital for consumers.[irp]

A lifelong technologist, Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis is a Founder and Head of Technology at Pi Network. Dr. Kokkalis has an extensive background in blockchain technology and types of software that enable large groups of people online to achieve common goals. In his early Ph.D. work, he created a framework for writing “smart contracts” on fault tolerant distributed systems before blockchain and Ethereum were introduced. As part of his postdoc, he also introduced and taught CS359B, the Decentralized Applications on Blockchain class in Stanford’s Computer Science department.

“Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more.”

Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan and Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

Our academic career and personal interests are what truly led to the creation of Pi Network, a massive, open community powered by the world’s most widely distributed cryptocurrency that delivers accessibility and enables a robust ecosystem for members, merchants and developers. We both received our Ph.D.s from Stanford University where we got to know each other and collaborate for over a decade on multiple projects. Before Pi, we designed software systems to improve productivity, scaled social communications, and surface untapped social capital.

We are strong and long-term believers in the technical, financial and social potential of cryptocurrencies, but frustrated by their current limitations — which is what motivated us to create Pi Network. We are committed to bringing the power of blockchain to more people by improving the current experience and building value for everyone. We are doing this by employing a user-centric design philosophy that turns the development process of new blockchains upside down: Launch in Beta; invite members to the network; iterate the protocol together with the members; decentralize the resulting design.

Can you tell us the story of how you got first involved in blockchain and the cryptocurrency industry?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan:

I finished my Ph.D. in Anthropological Sciences from Stanford University, with expertise in human behavior and human population studies. My research interests later focused on human-computer interaction and social computing — specifically, how we use technology to positively impact human behavior and societies. I became excited about blockchain technology due to the merging of decentralization with an economic instrument. This technological marvel can mobilize individuals all over the world to participate and be rewarded for their contributions. Just as the internet enabled the world to be more connected through information exchanges, blockchain and cryptocurrencies enable closer and more frequent collaborations with value exchanges. My hope for Pi is the establishment of an inclusive ecosystem for global citizens to unleash and capture their own value, and in turn create value for society and the world.

Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

I have been a technologist all my life; as a young undergraduate, I designed and built a novel computer motherboard from scratch in the lab. I have always been interested in distributed systems and was a user in one of the first Bitcoin exchanges. In my early Ph.D. work, I created a framework for writing “smart contracts” on fault tolerant distributed systems, before blockchain and Ethereum came to exist, and published it as my MS thesis. My Ph.D. thesis at Stanford University focused on Crowdsourcing and Social Computing. I later became a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Stanford Computer Science department, where I introduced and taught CS359B, the Decentralized Applications on Blockchain class, in Stanford’s Computer Science department. That’s where I encountered firsthand the difficulty of getting the technological advances of blockchain into the hands of everyday people. I believe today technology can empower people more than ever. Through studying a similar subject matter we knew we wanted a blockchain that could solve all of the problems traditional blockchain could not.

Can you share a story of a time when things went south for you? What kept you going and helped you to overcome those times?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan:

One of the greatest challenges we have faced so far has been solving the problem of scalable KYC (“Know Your Customer”) for a massive and widely distributed network. There was no affordable KYC alternative that was scalable to the size of Pi Network, which now numbers 35M and counting. It was a priority for us to tackle this challenge; KYC ensures that a user is who they say they are and is a crucial process for identifying user risk and whether the user can meet the institution’s requirements to use their services. We need KYC to ensure compliance with law and Pi Network policies — each member is allowed one account and only real human beings can participate in the ecosystem.[irp]

We faced this challenge head-on by developing our own Pi KYC solution. By combining cutting-edge machine automation with innovative crowdsourced human verification through peer-vetted and verified individuals, the Pi KYC solution provides a novel and scalable way to KYC. While the machine automation portion of the system tackles tasks such as image processing and fake ID detection, human verification individuals check the redacted data of other members and are sourced from the KYC’ed members of the community itself. Beyond preventing spam accounts and keeping out bad actors, Pi KYC helps the network to comply with regulations while frictionlessly growing its thriving community.

What kept us motivated and focused while solving this challenge was the mission and vision of Pi, which we hold at the core of all of our decisions. This multi-pronged KYC solution is a perfect representation of how the entire Pi ecosystem works: a native, decentralized community where labor is exchanged, and real utility created, for Pi tokens and no fiat is involved. A home-grown KYC solution is the best way for Pi Network to deliver on the promise of fairness, inclusivity and accessibility.

In your experience, what are the top strategies that blockchain companies should consider to have a stronger competitive edge?

Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

This will vary greatly depending on the company, their product, and the gap or problem that they are trying to solve. Many companies in this industry have been able to achieve great short-term success but may struggle with long-term stable growth. Factors such as the nascency of the industry, ‘hype’ and excitement surrounding certain projects, companies and trends, and a strong economy have made this possible. Yet, as these factors shift and market sentiment changes, those companies can face challenges.

Companies looking for long-term success in this industry need to take the time and patience to build a product or service that truly adds value to the space, educate the crypto-curious, and help the crypto-enthusiasts shift their focus from short-term returns to long-term success, which entails sometimes making seemingly counter-intuitive decisions. Being clear on their value proposition and creating true utility is key to building a strong foundation and being highly competitive in the long-term.

What are the 3 things that most excite you about the blockchain industry in general? Why?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan:

The idea that we are revolutionizing the monetary system.

The ability to align interests at a massive scale, and then incentive and mobilize people to achieve something great collectively.

The fact that blockchain is giving rise to new innovative applications and experiences online as we move more firmly into a Web3 world.

Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

The idea that smart money is now embedded with financial functions.

The possibility of the world as one large community will create useful case studies.

The fact that we are at the very beginnings of this revolution. Similar to the advent of the internet, which few people understood at first, but now can’t live without.

What are the 3 things that worry you about the blockchain industry? Why?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan and Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

Token distribution: While one major property of blockchain is decentralization, the attention to “decentralization” has been mostly focused on the technical aspect — run on a distributed system, less to the distribution itself, barrier to entry or the value capturing mechanism. Only a wide distribution of tokens can effectively help bootstrap a utility-based ecosystem and help us hit the inflection point where blockchain empowered systems can have mass adoption. Eighty percent of Pi tokens are given to the community and network. Everyone can mine Pi without paying any fiat money by making diverse contributions to the network. Pi tries to achieve and maintain a wide distribution through its mining mechanism and ecosystem building.[irp]

Accessibility: Accessibility is affected by financial, technical and knowledge barriers to entry, use and participation, and affects the distribution. To achieve accessibility, we need to come up with solutions to tackle those barriers in every step of people’s involvement in the network, including cost to mine or obtain tokens, user-friendly and intuitive interfaces, user education and community building. Energy-light mining on the mobile phone app for free has allowed Pi to grow to over 35 million community members with our cryptocurrency in hand while making their contribution to the network.

Simplicity in developer experience + user access: Blockchain technology doesn’t have to be complicated. Our Javascript software development kit (SDK) integrates with the blockchain and various APIs provide basic functionalities for apps. No crypto/blockchain experience is necessary for any developers to provide their services to a large vibrant crypto-enabled community.

Ok, thank you for all of that.

Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share “5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry”? If you can please share a story or example for each.

Dr. Chengdiao Fan & Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis:

Many early cryptocurrencies have seen a consolidation of power and value into the hands of very few, and early adopters are greatly advantaged. In order to fulfill the promise of a fair and open peer-to-peer decentralized financial system, the cryptocurrency industry needs to see widely distributed tokens across broad networks. The extreme concentration of wealth and power goes directly against the concept of decentralization.

Cryptocurrencies are not currently widely used as a medium of exchange, due to many factors. Among them are price volatility and lack of utility. Creating a utilities-based ecosystem, where cryptocurrency can be widely used and regularly exchanged for goods and services through apps, will help solve this, and bring use to crypto beyond a store of value.

Computationally-complex mining protocols, like Proof of Work, require huge amounts of energy. Cryptocurrencies reliant on such protocols burn a tremendous amount of electricity and therefore place a great burden on the environment. The industry should look to minimize its negative environmental impact by using less energy-intensive consensus protocols.

The novelty of blockchain technology and decentralized networks exposes challenges to the world with regulations still tailored for traditional businesses and to the industry overall as many projects, good and bad, explore its direction. Stricter adherence to current policies and regulations, and greater clarity on future regulations, would greatly benefit the industry.

In order for the cryptocurrency industry to impact lives across the globe, it needs to be far more accessible. This includes lower barriers to entry, broader education about the industry and technology, and more accessible and user-friendly design.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Dr. Chengdiao Fan and Dr. Nicolas Kokkalis: Readers can further follow our journey on our website minepi.com, on the Pi App or on one of our social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you so much for this. This was very enlightening!

SOURCE: Authority Magazine

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