As the mass gets carried away with the hype of blockchain thanks to the ATHs (All-Time-Highs) of Bitcoin, which most assume is synonymous with blockchain, few, at least not the speculators, bother to slow down to answer: how “novel” is the blockchain space? As far as Chris Bates is concerned, there is nothing novel about the blockchain space. Follow me, as this sometimes music composer and performer, most-times cyber-security expert, shares his story about transitioning careers, getting involved in blockchain and emphasizing the dynamic nature of technology.
Being a relatively complicated phenomenon, blockchain has been the subject of diverse definitions, most technical and (deliberately) confusing. “I would assert that a blockchain at its core is simply an immutable digital record that is not kept in one place. However, I would also assert that, in the rush to define what has been portrayed as a ‘new’ space, people have basically been redefining things that already have pre-existing definitions, just to make them appear more novel. I am a cyber-security expert. I do not define myself by the blockchain space. I believe the ‘blockchain space’ is what happens when you had people who don’t want to learn about the internet thinking they can jump on the next big thing. I would say that a person cannot truly understand the blockchain if they do not understand the internet. In the race to create a magic pill of understanding, the space has not slowed down to consider that a ‘magic pill’ understanding is not a ‘true’ understanding.” He goes on to say: “I think everything from 2011 to 2017 was a joke. The entire space was wrapped up in Lambos and parties and nonsense.”
Chris’ words must sound as though he doesn’t want anyone he cares about considering a career in blockchain. Not so. As we will see later, two of his family members are deeply involved in the blockchain space. “If a person is thinking about getting a career in ‘technology’, they need to do their homework constantly. Technology changes quickly. Predictions in technology are useless. It would be foolish to bank a long-term career in anything technology-related, as ‘agility’ is most important.” Like Andreas Antonopolous, who is also of the opinion that there is no safe career, one simply has to continuously develop skills that help them maintain a competitive edge. Skills that are manifold, skills that are valuable, in multiple industries and multiple countries.
Whenever I am invited to speak or give a lecture on blockchain, one of the first issues I seek to address is bursting the erroneous belief that blockchain and cryptocurrency are synonymous. No doubt they are linked, but nothing could be more wrong. I am not alone. Chris says finding people who get anything right about blockchain is harder than lifting a mountain. “People barely get anything RIGHT about blockchain. I don’t mean to sound obtuse, but “blockchain” is one of the most mis/overused words since ‘love’. If you cannot tell by the tone of my responses, there are too many pretenders out there. ‘Blockchain’ technology can be traced back to SETI and BOINC.” Known as SETI@home, a scientific experiment, it is an acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. BOINC is an acronym for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. “World of Warcraft had digital currency that had real-world value AND distributed servers before Bitcoin existed. Bitcoin was a unique combination of pre-existing technologies that did give people ‘better’ access to cryptography as well as simultaneously giving them control over the account in which currency was being transmitted. However, the ability for ‘Bitcoin’ or even ‘blockchain technology’ to be the force that ‘liberates the poor’ of the world has been largely oversold intentionally by people either bad at math or intent on keeping the poor impoverished. Blockchain technology will not liberate the working class. Only people can do that. Blockchain is a tool that MIGHT help along that path, but it is not the silver bullet that zealots have claimed it to be.”
As a cybersecurity expert, Chris was already working with distributed and peer-to-peer systems long before blockchain was ‘discovered’. “I would say that, when it comes to cybersecurity, there are times to centralize and times to decentralize. 100% states are not good, on either end. There are pros and cons to 100% decentralization, as well as the same for 100% centralization. I learned about distributed systems and peer-to-peer computing before blockchain ever existed.”
Last week, when I was setting up my new home printer, all I did was to download the software for running the printer from the web. That’s how easy today’s generation have things. But a decade ago, if you needed software, you had to go around with hard drives and floppy disks. “I was raised on DOS (Disk Operating System) before we had GUI (Graphic User Interfaces). Everything I did with computers was at the operating system level as a child. When GUI came along, I did not realize how much different that was, but it was a revolutionary change to computing. Watching the evolution of technology, and how people use (and misuse) technology has informed where I am today. Humans are in fact always the weakest link in any system.”
Raised in a middle-class family with both of his parents working, Chris’ childhood was triangular. He was either at school or with his grandparents and cousins or doing what kids his age did to pass time. “My mother worked as a Human Resources manager at a telecommunications company and my father worked at an auto manufacturing plant as well as becoming the local Union President. My parents now own and operate an event center in downtown Indianapolis, as well as minister at a local church. Both parents are active gospel musicians and I have been raised with their respect for serving the people of Earth as their faith tells them to do.” Chris isn’t the only one in his family involved in the decentralized space. He says his sister and a cousin are deeply involved in some blockchain-based projects. “My sister works on the Bitland project with us and one of my cousins is working with me on a project about anonymous crime reporting (Z-Tips). I only work with them because of their specific skills, as my sister has about a decade of real estate and property management experience, and my cousin works in the field, in the Combating Human Trafficking Division of the military. I want to work with people who are qualified and if I can find family members that have skills, it makes it even better.”
For someone who treads carefully around blockchain, Chris is particular about the type of projects he gets involved in. “I only work on teams and on projects that I believe have strong promise and a strong team. Period. I can say wholeheartedly that the Z-tips, Biolife, 10XTS, Adhive and Global Peace Train projects all have fantastic teams, goals, and visions. These are projects I work on directly or have advised.” His real goal is that, as he works with these projects, their impact will help save children from poverty. “I don’t know what my impact will be directly but I am trying to make sure people stop allowing poor children to exist anywhere in the world. Any society that has poor children has no wealth.” Although Chris has worked with a wide range of projects, he has a set which is dear to him. “I think anything associated with helping farmers protect their crops and their property is what really gets me interested (Agriledger, 1000EcoFarms/FoodCoin, etc.)” He hopes to leave a legacy. “I am trying to get humans to a different dimension. I want to ultimately be one of the people working on the team that discovers inter-dimensional travel.”
After bagging two bachelors degrees, Chris spent a while searching for that elusive perfect corporate job with little success. “I would not say I am necessarily on the ‘blockchain bandwagon’ 🙂 I first got a degree in psychology in 2007, then got a second degree in telecommunications in 2009. After working blue-collar jobs waiting to land my first big job out of my masters program, I ended up working for an Augmented Reality Gaming company called “Edutainment” that makes games for kids to help them learn how to read. I had learned about Bitcoin but was actually not interested because of the association with Silk Road. Then I learned about Dogecoin and how their community was building wells in rural areas, THAT got me interested in crypto. After doing that for a bit, I transitioned into cybersecurity and the blockchain space simultaneously. I realized that cybersecurity would be the most in-demand job on the planet after the “Heartbleed” attacks. I also saw that blockchain would probably be the next most accessible security technology for enterprise-scale organizations, before the impending wave of quantum computing.”
Rather than giving out fish, it is more sustainable to teach people how to fish. In a bid to give back to society, people may launch one philanthropic activity or the other. Chris believes philanthropy shouldn’t be all about giving or satisfying only today’s needs. “I have changed my views about philanthropy. I try to make everything mutually beneficial and sustainable. If I am dealing with a poor and disenfranchised population, I must treat them as if they are on track to one day becoming empowered, and not as if they will always be impoverished. All of the efforts I mentioned before I see as being towards the larger goal of raising the standards of living for all of humanity. Global Peace Train is a non-profit and some of the Bitland centers are non-profits, however, I do not believe “charity” works long term. I look at all my efforts as bringing ethical, sustainable, semi-autonomous systems that are always in the benefit of the people and the health of the planet. I do not separate my activities as being ‘philanthropic’, as everything is dedicated to the preservation of sentient life, no matter the species.”
We see farther when we stand on the shoulders of elders. Elders, in this context, are simply those who have been there, done that. Chris says he has plenty of mentors, first of whom are his parents. “First my parents have given me access to information and freedom to think. Then I have many mentors along the way from childhood to now that I continuously go to for guidance. Effectively, I find someone that is a specialist in something and let them tell me when I am wrong, how wrong I am, and how I could not be so wrong. If I have a good argument against them, they will tell me. It is always good to have people to let you know when you are wrong.”
Larry Chris Bates is a cybersecurity expert, Chief Security Officer (CSO) and president of BiTland; a company that combines automation with blockchain for real estate operations. It allows people to survey lands and record deeds into its BitShares Blockchain. Through this, governments, parastatals, and individuals can be assisted in resolving land disputes. Chris is also the chief ICO officer of Onename Global, an ecosystem built to reward blockchain users for creating useful contents. He is an advisor at 10XTS, and Adhive USA Community Manager. Amidst all these, he has written several whitepapers and academic papers on blockchain technology. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn.