Innovation and Cryptocurrency: Leemon Baird #481
By: Dave Asprey
April 5, 2018
Have you ever wondered what the algorithm that allows birds to fly in a flock would look like? Well, today’s guest has. Leemon Baird is the inventor of something you may not have heard of, the hashgraph distributed consensus algorithm. He is the Co-founder and CTO of Swirlds Inc. and he has more than 20 years of tech and startup experience.
Leemon has held positions as a Professor of Computer Science at the Air Force Academy and as a senior scientist in a bunch of very cool labs. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and has multiple patents and publications in peer-reviewed journals on topics that are near and dear to Dave Asprey’s heart like computer security, machine learning, and mathematics.
Dave and Leemon draw some interesting and nerdtastic comparisons between cryptocurrencies and our own bodies, through a thing called quorum sensing.
So basically, Leemon is a badass with a big brain. Enjoy the show!
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- What gives Leemon the spark to work on one problem versus another?
“Absolutely just happens. Why do you enjoy playing some games and not others, or why do you enjoy watching some movies and not others? This is just what’s fun for me. It seems to be inborn, I don’t know why. And some problems I find very boring and I really don’t want to think about those problems. And other problems are fascinating and I’ll spend decades trying to solve these math problems or invent algorithms for these things. I don’t know why, it just is.”
- What should the youth of today be paying attention to?
“Well, that’s easy. Everything. But seriously, oh, there’s the famous Heinlein quote, “Specialization is for insects. A human being should be able to do everything.” But this is true. It’s interesting, his list includes a lot of agricultural things that I don’t think are important. But what is important is a lot of different things.”
- “So flocking behavior in birds, or schooling behavior for fish, it looks like you could have a very, very simple algorithm. Basically, each bird says, follow the middle of where everybody else is, but never get too close to anyone. That by itself is enough to give you gorgeous flocking behavior.
I love watching flocks of birds, because it is counterintuitive how they work, it is beautiful. By the way, I got to see bats coming out for the night once, and it’s totally different behavior.”
- “Your heart has a biological pacemaker. But even aside from that, if you put a heart through the blender and put the pieces into a Petri dish, all the little fibers will start twitching totally out of sync, and over time, they will start to synchronize with each other. You put a bunch of fireflies in a dark meadow, and they will all be blinking out of sync. And over time, they will all start syncing with each other.”
- “Have a passion for what you’re doing. Cultivate a passion for what you are doing. It’s almost impossible to be good at something unless you have a passion about it, because you’ve gotta do 10,000 hours of intent work on it, not just doing it. Having a passion also makes life more fun.”
- Does Leemon have a mathematical proof that less than a third of people are evil?
“No. What we have is a mathematical proof that this particular algorithm does all the right things if less than a third of us are evil. Furthermore, there is a math proof going back a long ways that says, any consensus system can be broken if a third of the people are evil. Any system.”